Is This Activity A Business Or A Hobby?

In order for an expense to be tax deductible, you must incur it for a business, and not for a hobby.

It you want to deduct an expense, the IRS will apply a Facts and Circumstances Test to answer the question “Is this activity a business, or a hobby?” If it’s a hobby, it’s not deductible. If you can show the IRS your intention to make a profit, you have a business. It’s up to you to be able to prove it. If you have any fun at the activity you want to declare a business, you may have a problem. You need facts and circumstances that support your intent to make a profit.

How the IRS answers the question “What is a business?” relates to several court rulings.

A professor, in his spare time, gave motivational speeches. He didn’t make a lot of money. In fact, he lost money. In his audit, the IRS ruled that his expenses weren’t deductible because speaking was a hobby-he enjoyed doing it. The Professor said, “You’re kidding me. I can’t enjoy what I do?” The court reversed the IRS’ decision and ruled in the professor’s favor.

Another man bought a piece of property that didn’t turn a profit for 26 years. The IRS wanted to deem his expenses a hobby loss. But the service had a problem. In year 27, the landowner sold his property for $3,000,000 more than he paid for it. When the owner went to court his attorney said, “Isn’t the intent of a business to make a profit?” Since clearly he had made a profit, he won.

If you lose money for an extended period of time, and you intend to make a profit, you can still deduct your expenses. Many people believe that if you’re a sole proprietor, you must make money in at least two of five years, or you will send a red flag to the IRS. This is a myth. You can lose money for many years without sending a red flag to the IRS.

There are many activities that support your intent to make a profit. Here are a few:

  • 9Keep clear records of expenses and their purposes
  • 9Generate income
  • 9Incorporate your business
  • 9Hire an employee
Whether or not you make money, if you can show the service you intended to make a profit, you can successfully deduct your expenses.

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