Are You Eligible to Deduct Home Office Expenses?
Just because you have a home office space doesn’t mean you can deduct expenses associated with it.
Home Office Requirements
The eligibility requirements for deducting home office expenses differ depending upon if you are an employee or if you are self-employed. For example, as an employee, having a home office must be for your employer’s convenience and not just your own. The IRS even has a “Convenience of Employer Test” in which an employee’s home office is deemed to be for an employer’s convenience only if it is:
- a condition of employment
- necessary for the employer’s business to properly function, or
- needed to allow the employee to properly perform his or her duties.
Most likely, you won’t pass the employer convenience test if you have another office provided by your employer but like to take work home with you. However, you would pass the test if your employer doesn’t provide you with an office, or if there is some valid business reason why you must work at home.
If you’re self-employed, generally your home office must be your principal place of business, but there are a few exceptions.
Whether you’re an employee or self-employed, the space must be used regularly (not just occasionally) and exclusively for business purposes. If, for example, your home office is also a family room, guest room or where your kids do their homework, the space is NOT a home office in the eyes of the IRS.
How Does the Home Office Deduction Affect Taxes?
The home office deduction can be a nice tax break – especially for self-employed people because you save not only on regular income tax but that pesky 15.3% self-employment tax as well! How the deduction works – the first step is figuring out the square footage of your home office, then you divide that number by the total square footage of your home. The result is a percentage. You may be able to deduct that percentage of your mortgage interest, property taxes, home owner’s insurance, utilities and certain other expenses, as well as the depreciation allocable to the office space.
In the last couple of years, the IRS has created a simpler “safe harbor” deduction in lieu of calculating, allocating and substantiating actual expenses. The safe harbor deduction is capped at $1,500 per year, based on $5 per square foot up to a maximum of 300 square feet.
For employees and S-corporation shareholders, home office expenses are a less beneficial miscellaneous 2% itemized deduction. This means you’ll get a tax break only if these expenses plus your other miscellaneous itemized expenses exceed 2% of your adjusted gross income (AGI).
Finally, be aware that we’ve covered only a few of the rules and limits here. If you think you may be eligible for the home office deduction, contact us for more information.