A question I get a lot this time of year is, “If I didn’t make any money do I even need to report it on my taxes??” And my answer is YES! Here’s why:
1. If you put money into starting a new business you can deduct the startup expenses. There can be a lot of costs to get a business off the ground. It is important to keep track of all of these expenses so they can offset income later.
2. Certain losses, such as those from rental properties, can offset other types of income. For example, if you have a rental condo that lost $5,000 and you have a job where you get $40,000 on a W-2, your income would net out to $35,000.
3. Sometimes businesses can generate what we call net operating losses. This is when the business’s deductions are bigger than it’s income. While it stinks to lose money in business, these losses can be applied to other years and offset income- or even generate tax refunds!
4. Investment losses – up to $3,000 in capital losses can offset other income (similar to the rental property example above). If you have more than $3,000 in capital losses you can carry them forward until they are used up.
The key to taking advantages of these money losing situations is to have good documentation, and the help of a knowledgeable CPA. Contact me for a free consultation!
What’s the difference between a hobby and a business? According to the IRS, it is whether or not you are trying to make a profit. If you are not trying to make a profit and just want to write off the cost of your hobby, then you are subject to the “hobby loss rules.”
Business losses (when expenses are greater than income) can offset other income on your tax return. The general rule is that your business must make a profit in at least three out of the last five tax years. Otherwise, the IRS is allowed to re-characterize it as a hobby. The reason this is a problem is because losses from hobbies can only be deducted up to the amount of income and only as a miscellaneous itemized deduction on Schedule A. This difference in treatment can significantly affect the amount of tax you pay.
The IRS provides this list to help you determine if you are in business or just enjoying your hobby:
Does the time and effort put into the activity indicate an intention to make a profit?
Do you depend on income from the activity?
If there are losses, are they due to circumstances beyond your control or did they occur in the start-up phase of the business?
Have you changed methods of operation to improve profitability?
Do you have the knowledge needed to carry on the activity as a successful business?
Have you made a profit in similar activities in the past?
Does the activity make a profit in some years?
Do you expect to make a profit in the future from the appreciation of assets used in the activity?
If you are not sure if your business is just a hobby contact me for an evaluation.