business strategy

Home Office Deductions

“Safe harbor” option may be easier, but number crunching is still worth it for many

 

Key Takeaways:

  • The IRS simplified option for home office deductions five years ago and million or taxpayers are taking advantage. Just be careful if you do.

  • This option can significantly reduce paperwork.

  • However, the annual limit is $1,500, and those with higher home office expenses may still be better off slogging through the detailed Form 8829.



According to the IRS, more than 3.4 million taxpayers claimed deductions totaling just over $9.6 billion for business use of a home, commonly referred to as the “home office deduction.”

Introduced in tax year 2013, the optional deduction is designed to reduce the paperwork and recordkeeping burden for small businesses. The optional deduction is capped at $1,500 per year, based on $5 a square foot for up to 300 square feet.

Back in 2013, the IRS announced a new, simplified method for claiming home office deductions. According to the IRS, this safe harbor method is an alternative to the existing requirement of calculation, allocation and substantiation of actual expenses, including mortgage payments and depreciation that is done in Form 8829.

Moreover, there is an annual limitation of $1,500 under this new method, thus making this a viable option for those with offices in apartments or smaller homes. Still, there is merit to understanding this option now and evaluating the best course for your business deductions.

Which method is best for me?

Before we look at the new option, let’s run through the existing method. The existing method involves several steps before you can arrive at the total for a home office deduction.

Step 1: Figure the percentage of your home used for business
Divide the total square footage of your home that you use for business by the square footage of your entire house. That percentage is what you’ll need for Step 3 below.

Step 2: Sum up all the expenses
This step involves the most paperwork. You need to list the various expenses such as rent and utilities or—in the case of ownership—mortgage interest, real estate taxes, insurance, repairs, utilities and the big one—depreciation. Lines 36 to 41 on Form 8829 involve going back and forth between the instructions several times to arrive at appropriate depreciation numbers.

Step 3: Apply the percentage from Step 1 to Step 2
You will use the percentage from Step 1 to figure the business part of the expenses for operating your entire home.

Now the new safe harbor option lets you claim a flat deduction of $5 per square foot of the home office, up to 300 square feet. That means if you use this method and have a home office of more than 300 square feet, you will be able to claim a maximum deduction of $1,500.

Some of the benefits of this method are:

  • You drastically reduce paperwork and compliance burden.

  • If you itemize deductions and use the safe harbor method, those expenses related to your home, such as mortgage interest and real estate taxes, can be itemized without allocating them between personal and business expenses.

  • You can choose either method from year to year depending on which one is beneficial in a particular year. A change from using the safe harbor method in one year to actual expenses in a succeeding taxable year or vice versa is not a change in your method of accounting and does not require the consent of the IRS.

Some of the limitations of this method are:

  • You are limited to claiming $1,500 per year irrespective of actual expenses incurred on the home office.

  • If you have a loss and cannot claim the entire deduction of $1,500 in a year, you cannot carry forward the home office expense to the following year. This would be possible if you claim actual expenses. Moreover, if you choose the safe harbor method, you cannot set off office expense carried forward from an earlier year.


The definition of what qualifies as a home office has not changed. In short, the home office

  • Must be used as your principal place of business.

  • It must be used “regularly and exclusively” for business

  • It cannot double as a place that you use for business as well as for personal purposes.

If you’re a professional, you may face various scenarios. You might be working from home for the most part of your practice, or you might be working from an office location but sometimes doing work at home. Each scenario is dealt with differently from a home office deduction point of view.

  • Home as your principal place of business: If you work from home for the most part of your business or practice, that is, you perform all important activities at this place and spend relatively more time there, then your home would be your principal place of business. In such a case, you can claim a deduction for the portion of your home that you use regularly and exclusively for your business.

  • Business at office location while doing some work at home: If you have separate office premises for conducting your business, then that would be your principal place of business. You cannot claim a deduction for use of your home during weekends or after office hours.

However, there is an important exception for professionals who also use their home for client meetings.

If you meet or deal with clients or customers in your home in the normal course of your business, even though you also carry on business at another location, you can deduct your expenses for the part of your home used exclusively and regularly for business if you meet both of these tests:

  • You physically meet with patients, clients or customers on your premises.

  • Their use of your home is substantial and integral to the conduct of your business.

The part of your home that you use exclusively and regularly to meet clients or customers does not have to be your principal place of business. Using your home for occasional meetings and telephone calls will not qualify you to deduct expenses for the business use of your home.

You and your tax advisor can make a decision regarding which method to choose, depending on a few pointers:

  • Do a back-of-the-envelope calculation of your home office expenses under both methods. Calculate the deduction under the safe harbor method by multiplying the area of your home office by $5 (limited to $1,500). If that is significantly less than the amount you claimed as a deduction in your most recent tax return, it might make sense to go through the trouble of filling out Form 8829.

  • If you have a loss from your business and would like to carry forward the home office expense, choose the actual expense method. If you have home office expenses from an earlier year that you would like to set off, use the actual expense method.

Conclusion

Claiming home office deductions is widely believed to be a common cause for an IRS audit. At the same time, genuine use of your home for business purposes can hand you a valuable deduction. The new method can significantly reduce paperwork and compliance burden for those with small home offices. But those with bigger spaces may want to choose the actual expense method. Cumbersome as it may seem, it might well be worth the effort.

DISCLAIMER: The views expressed in this article do not necessarily express the views of our firm and should not be construed as professional tax advice.

Robert J. Pyle, CFP®, CFA is president of Diversified Asset Management, Inc. (DAMI). DAMI is licensed as an investment adviser with the State of Colorado Division of Securities, and its investment advisory representatives are licensed by the State of Colorado. DAMI will only transact business in other states to the extent DAMI has made the requisite notice filings or obtained the necessary licensing in such state. No follow up or individualized responses to persons in other jurisdictions that involve either rendering or attempting to render personalized investment advice for compensation will be made absent compliance with applicable legal requirements, or an applicable exemption or exclusion. It does not constitute investment or tax advice. To contact Robert, call 303-440-2906 or e-mail info@diversifiedassetmanagement.com.

 

The views, opinion, information and content provided here are solely those of the respective authors, and may not represent the views or opinions of Diversified Asset Management, Inc.  The selection of any posts or articles should not be regarded as an explicit or implicit endorsement or recommendation of any such posts or articles, or services provided or referenced and statements made by the authors of such posts or articles.  Diversified Asset Management, Inc. cannot guarantee the accuracy or currency of any such third party information or content, and does not undertake to verify or update such information or content. Any such information or other content should not be construed as investment, legal, accounting or tax advice.

Smarter Business Exit Strategies

Too many business succession plans don’t work out as planned, but smart owners can get back on track and stay that way for the long-term.


Key Takeaways:

  • Most business owners create unnecessary risks for their families, employees and clients by failing to fund business succession plans.

  • Every business owner should establish a clear vision for his or her transition and look for ways to improve after-tax returns.

  • Business owners can reduce the costs of succession plans by 50 percent by using pre-tax dollars to pay for insurance.

 

Many successful entrepreneurs, especially Boomers, may be thinking that now is the right time to exit their businesses. Unfortunately, business transitions don’t usually go as smoothly as expected. The failure rate of succession plans is now at eyebrow-raising levels. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

What motivates most business owners to think about a business succession plan?

Scary stories about failed companies motivate business owners to consider implementing a business succession plan. Despite the obvious need, few plans are actually designed, drafted and funded properly. High professional fees and insurance costs often take the blame when business owners are asked why they did not implement a succession plan.

Why do so many succession plans miss the mark?

Most business succession plans fail. According to Harvard Business Review, only 30 percent of the businesses make it to Generation Two and a mere 3 percent survive to generate profits in Generation Three. Estate planning experts such as Perry Cochell, Rodney Zeeb and George Hester came up with similarly disappointing numbers. Given this dismal success record for family business transitions, it is no wonder that 65 percent of family wealth is lost by the second generation and 90 percent by the third generation. By the third generation, more than 90 percent of estate value is lost despite the efforts of well-meaning advisors. It does NOT have to be this way.

What is the biggest problem business owners face when they try to implement succession plans?

Unless a business succession plan addresses tax issues, company owners can lose much of their wealth to taxes on income, capital gains, IRD, gifts, estates and other taxes. In most successful businesses, the company will generate taxable cash flow that exceeds what is needed to fund the owner’s lifestyle. This extra cash flow is usually taxed at the highest top marginal state and federal income tax rates. When the after-tax proceeds are invested, the growth is subject to the highest capital gains rates. Ultimately, when the remaining assets are passed to family members or successor managers, there could be a 40 percent gift or estate tax applied.

How can owners and their advisors solve this tax problem?

Every business owner should establish a clear vision for his or her transition and look for ways to improve after-tax returns. Tax-efficient planning strategies are needed to guide decisions about daily operations and business exit strategies. An astute advisor can help you find ways to fund business succession agreements in ways that generate current income tax deductions while allowing the business to generate tax-free income for the business owner and/or successors.

What are some other ways to reduce taxes?

There are many tax-advantaged business succession techniques that give business owners a competitive edge. Qualified plans provide tax deductions in the current years, but they are not typically as tax-efficient for funding a buy-sell. More advanced planning strategies involving Section 79 and Section 162 plans can provide tax-free payments for the retiring executive or death benefits for family members, but limit the tax deductions when the plans are funded. There are very few options when owners seek up-front tax deductions, tax-free growth and tax-free payments to themselves and/or their heirs.

Bottom line

Advanced planning strategies allow business owners to fund business continuity plans more cost-effectively. Business owners should work with advisors who can design a plan that can convert extra taxable income into tax-free cash flow for retirement and/or the tax-free purchase of equity from the business owner’s estate.

Once the plan has been designed, experienced attorneys will draft legal documents to facilitate the tax-efficient plan funding. This integration of design, drafting and funding helps ensure effective implementation of the strategy as well as proper realization of benefits under a variety of scenarios. An experienced advisor should be able to help you quantify how planning costs are just a small fraction of the expected benefits. More important, these financial benefits bring peace of mind to the business owner, the owner’s family and to key executives. Great clarity and confidence results from having a business continuity plan that has been designed properly, drafted effectively and funded tax-efficiently.

Robert J. Pyle, CFP®, CFA is president of Diversified Asset Management, Inc. (DAMI). DAMI is licensed as an investment adviser with the State of Colorado Division of Securities, and its investment advisory representatives are licensed by the State of Colorado. DAMI will only transact business in other states to the extent DAMI has made the requisite notice filings or obtained the necessary licensing in such state. No follow up or individualized responses to persons in other jurisdictions that involve either rendering or attempting to render personalized investment advice for compensation will be made absent compliance with applicable legal requirements, or an applicable exemption or exclusion. It does not constitute investment or tax advice. To contact Robert, call 303-440-2906 or e-mail info@diversifiedassetmanagement.com.

 

The views, opinion, information and content provided here are solely those of the respective authors, and may not represent the views or opinions of Diversified Asset Management, Inc.  The selection of any posts or articles should not be regarded as an explicit or implicit endorsement or recommendation of any such posts or articles, or services provided or referenced and statements made by the authors of such posts or articles.  Diversified Asset Management, Inc. cannot guarantee the accuracy or currency of any such third party information or content, and does not undertake to verify or update such information or content. Any such information or other content should not be construed as investment, legal, accounting or tax advice.

Why You Need a ‘Business Plan’ for Your Family

When business owners start a new venture or seek out funding, they always create a detailed business plan first. But chances are, most parents have never once thought about creating a similar type of plan for their most important asset: their families.

 

Your family may not be a business, but clearly it can be a good idea to foster it like good business owners do with their companies. By taking steps to formally identify your family’s values and goals, as well as to assess the quality of the relationships you have with each other, you can start to strengthen existing bonds—and repair any bridges that are in bad shape. By actively working together toward family goals, you can instill greater resiliency, competency and life skills in your children.

 

Here’s why it’s so important to create family plans along the lines of highly successful business plans—along with actionable advice for creating these plans in your own life.

Click Here to Read More:

Why You Need a ‘Business Plan’ for Your Family

Robert J. Pyle, CFP®, CFA is president of Diversified Asset Management, Inc. (DAMI). DAMI is licensed as an investment adviser with the State of Colorado Division of Securities, and its investment advisory representatives are licensed by the State of Colorado. DAMI will only transact business in other states to the extent DAMI has made the requisite notice filings or obtained the necessary licensing in such state. No follow up or individualized responses to persons in other jurisdictions that involve either rendering or attempting to render personalized investment advice for compensation will be made absent compliance with applicable legal requirements, or an applicable exemption or exclusion. It does not constitute investment or tax advice. To contact Robert, call 303-440-2906 or e-mail info@diversifiedassetmanagement.com.

The views, opinion, information and content provided here are solely those of the respective authors, and may not represent the views or opinions of Diversified Asset Management, Inc.  The selection of any posts or articles should not be regarded as an explicit or implicit endorsement or recommendation of any such posts or articles, or services provided or referenced and statements made by the authors of such posts or articles.  Diversified Asset Management, Inc. cannot guarantee the accuracy or currency of any such third party information or content, and does not undertake to verify or update such information or content. Any such information or other content should not be construed as investment, legal, accounting or tax advice.