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Office in Home – SO COVID19

Office in Home – SO COVID19

The Internet’s TaxMama®, Eva Rosenberg, explains how to handle your taxes while working from home.

Are you going stir crazy – climbing the walls – wishing you could go back to being stuck in traffic, or anything! Just to get out of the house and out among people?

You’re not alone – in being alone.

But how are you supposed to handle all this at-home-ness for your tax return?

For those of you in business for yourselves, it’s easy. Just read Chapter 7 of Small Business Taxes Made Easy – and all your answers are right there.

This information is equally important if you are the owner/shareholder of your own corporation – C or S corp. You are able to set up payroll and appropriate reimbursements for you to be working at home – as well as for your employees. (We’ll talk about employees in just a moment. Yes, it’s important.)

Be sure to follow the guidelines in the chapter to identify ALL the places that you use exclusively for business. And I mean exclusively. If you’re using the living room to work in during the day  – and in the evening, the family takes over that space – you’ve lost the office in home deduction. So pick a room, or a part of a room, and partition it off as your office area. Even if the partition is imaginary, like the Les Nessman used to have in his idiosyncratic office at WKRP in Cincinnati. Take pictures of all the areas you’re using exclusively.

OK, let’s talk about employees.

The short answer to employees claiming an office in home deduction this year is there is no deduction!

Yup. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) took away your right to deduct ANY of your job-related expenses. For some people, that was a significant tax increase. (Think about people with high union dues, outside salespeople and consultants. Some of my clients, over the years, had $50,000 or more of expenses they would no longer be able to deduct.

So why are we here?

First let’s deal with those of you who are business-owners and have employees on your payroll. YOU have the power to set up an “accountable plan” to reimburse your employees for having to work from home. They can submit an expense report with utilities and supplies and communications costs. When you issue reimbursement checks, you get the deduction for the costs. The employee doesn’t have to add it to wages. You can also pay the costs to upgrade their Internet connectivity to a better, more secure line and/or VPN. You can pay for new monitors and/or computers or other equipment they need to work from home.

It might even be possible to pay them rent for the exclusive use of certain areas of their home. That rent would not be added to their payroll. But it would be taxable income – on the Schedule E rental schedule. And they might even be able to take some office-in-home-type deductions on that Schedule E – mortgage interest, property taxes, depreciation.

Those of you who are someone else’s employees. You need to speak up to your employer and ask to be put on an accountable plan like the one I outlined. If you don’t ask, it might not happen for you at all.

Is it possible that Congress will reverse itself, and this year, restore the employee business expense deductions?

I would hope. But none of the discussions have included this provision. Alas.

Learn more about how to improve your business – or your clients’ businesses. I am teaching a 12-part series of courses at CCH CPELink, based on the first 12 chapters of the book. Please join me – and invite your clients.

They will understand why they need to consult you to rebalance their tax and business plan each year.

The latest edition of  my book,  Small Business Taxes Made Easy contains complete updates about the business considerations, from the PATH Act of 2015, up to and including the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement Act (SECURE Act) of 2019; and the Taxpayer Certainty and Disaster Tax Relief Act (TCDTRA) of 2019.  The new book, in print, Kindle and audio is available now!

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Office in Home – SO COVID19
Author

Known as TaxMama®, Eva Rosenberg’s frankness, sense of humor and casual, chatty delivery makes her a welcome talk show guest and speaker around the country. An Enrolled Agent, licensed by the IRS and the U.S. Treasury Department, Eva is the publisher of TaxMama.com, and the author of Ask TaxMama® on her website. Her TaxQuips podcasts also keep people entertained and informed.