Tax Savings from a Home Office

With more and more people expected to be self-employed and working from home, knowing the ins and outs of the home office deduction can make all the difference between a refund – or an audit.

Following are a number of helpful tips to help home-business-owners (and their advisors) be sure they’re getting everything back that they can.

Business-only
One of the most important things to be sure of before you try to claim the deduction is that some part of the home has to be exclusively and regularly used as the principal place of business. A mixed-use area, like a kitchen, won’t qualify.

The simplified option
Self-employed folks with an office in their home don’t need to do a lot of calculations and add up all their home-office-related expenses – the IRS now offers a simplified option based on the size of the office: You take a standard deduction of $5 per square foot of workspace, up to 300 square feet.

You can go with individual expenses or the simplified option, whichever is larger, and you can change from year to year.

Common deductions
Some of the business owner’s heating, electric and utility bills can be deducted, and phone, Internet and other information services may qualify, too. Note that separate Internet connections and phone numbers can help keep track of expenses.

An office isn’t an office without office supplies — which is why computers, printers, toner, paper, paper clips, staplers, staples, staple removers and other critical equipment may also qualify.

Furniture and upgrades to the home itself, if related to the office, may also be deductible.

Leaving home
Many of those with home offices will find themselves travelling for business purposes – even if it’s just driving across town to a client. Parking, tolls and mileage (at 54 cents a mile for business-related travel) may all be deductible, to say nothing of airfare and hotel rooms.

Record-keeping
The IRS recommends keeping expense records for at least three years after filing. Among the records home-business-owners should be holding onto are cancelled checks, bank statements, vendor invoices, bills, receipts and mileage logs.

More information on having a home office is available in IRS Publication 587.

originally written BY DANIEL HOOD for accountingtoday.com

Year-End Tax-Planning for Businesses & Business Owners for 2015

As the end of the year approaches, it is a good time to think of planning moves that will help lower your tax bill for this year and possibly the next. Factors that compound the challenge include turbulence in the stock market, overall economic uncertainty, and Congress’s failure to act on a number of important tax breaks that expired at the end of 2014. Some of these tax breaks ultimately may be retroactively reinstated and extended, as they were last year, but Congress may not decide the fate of these tax breaks until the very end of 2015 (or later).

For businesses, tax breaks that expired at the end of last year and may be retroactively reinstated and extended include: 50% bonus first-year depreciation for most new machinery, equipment and software; the $500,000 annual expensing limitation; the research tax credit; and the 15-year write-off for qualified leasehold improvements, qualified restaurant buildings and improvements, and qualified retail improvements.

  • Businesses should buy machinery and equipment before year end and, under the generally applicable “half-year convention,” thereby secure a half-year’ worth of depreciation deductions in 2015
  • Although the business property expensing option is greatly reduced in 2015 (unless retroactively changed by legislation), making expenditures that qualify for this option can still get you thousands of dollars of current deductions that you wouldn’t otherwise For tax years beginning in 2015, the expensing limit is $25,000, and the investment-based reduction in the dollar limitation starts to take effect when property placed in service in the tax year exceeds $200,000.
  • Businesses may be able to take advantage of the “de minimis safe harbor election” (also known as the book-tax conformity election) to expense the costs of inexpensive assets and materials and supplies, assuming the costs don’t have to be capitalized under the Code Sec. 263A uniform capitalization (UNICAP) rules. To qualify for the election, the cost of a unit of property can’t exceed $5,000 if the taxpayer has an applicable financial statement (AFS; e.g., a certified audited financial statement along with an independent CPA’s report). If there’s no AFS, the cost of a unit of property can’t exceed $500. Where the UNICAP rules aren’t an issue, purchase such qualifying items before the end of 2015.
  • A corporation should consider accelerating income from 2016 to 2015 if it will be in a higher bracket next year. Conversely, it should consider deferring income until 2016 if it will be in a higher bracket this year.
  • A corporation should consider deferring income until next year if doing so will preserve the corporation’s qualification for the small corporation AMT exemption for 2015. Note that there is never a reason to accelerate income for purposes of the small corporation AMT exemption because if a corporation doesn’t qualify for the exemption for any given tax year, it will not qualify for the exemption for any later tax year.
  • A corporation (other than a “large” corporation) that anticipates a small net operating loss (NOL) for 2015 (and substantial net income in 2016) may find it worthwhile to accelerate just enough of its 2016 income (or to defer just enough of its 2015 deductions) to create a small amount of net income for This will permit the corporation to base its 2016 estimated tax installments on the relatively small amount of income shown on its 2015 return, rather than having to pay estimated taxes based on 100% of its much larger 2016 taxable income.
  • If your business qualifies for the domestic production activities deduction (DPAD) for its 2015 tax year, consider whether the 50%-of-W-2 wages limitation on that deduction If it does, consider ways to increase 2015 W-2 income, e.g., by bonuses to owner-shareholders whose compensation is allocable to domestic production gross receipts. Note that the limitation applies to amounts paid with respect to employment in calendar year 2015, even if the business has a fiscal year.
  • To reduce 2015 taxable income, if you are a debtor, consider deferring a debt-cancellation event until 2016.
  • To reduce 2015 taxable income, consider disposing of a passive activity in 2015 if doing so will allow you to deduct suspended passive activity losses.
  • If you own an interest in a partnership or S corporation, consider whether you need to increase your basis in the entity so you can deduct a loss from it for this year.

These are just some of the year-end steps that can be taken to save taxes. Again, by contacting us, we can tailor a particular plan that will work best for you. We also will need to stay in close touch in the event that Congress revives expired tax breaks to assure that you don’t miss out on any resuscitated tax-saving opportunities.