Tax Tips for Businesses

Business or Hobby? Answer Has Implications for Deductions

 

FS-2007-18, April 2007

The Internal Revenue Service reminds taxpayers to follow appropriate guidelines when determining whether an activity is a business or a hobby, an activity not engaged in for profit.

In order to educate taxpayers regarding their filing obligations, this fact sheet, the eleventh in a series, explains the rules for determining if an activity qualifies as a business and what limitations apply if the activity is not a business. Incorrect deduction of hobby expenses account for a portion of the overstated adjustments, deductions, exemptions and credits that add up to $30 billion per year in unpaid taxes, according to IRS estimates.

In general, taxpayers may deduct ordinary and necessary expenses for conducting a trade or business. An ordinary expense is an expense that is common and accepted in the taxpayer’s trade or business. A necessary expense is one that is appropriate for the business. Generally, an activity qualifies as a business if it is carried on with the reasonable expectation of earning a profit.

In order to make this determination, taxpayers should consider the following factors:

  • Does the time and effort put into the activity indicate an intention to make a profit?
  • Does the taxpayer depend on income from the activity?
  • If there are losses, are they due to circumstances beyond the taxpayer’s control or did they occur in the start-up phase of the business?
  • Has the taxpayer changed methods of operation to improve profitability?
  • Does the taxpayer or his/her advisors have the knowledge needed to carry on the activity as a successful business?
  • Has the taxpayer made a profit in similar activities in the past?
  • Does the activity make a profit in some years?
  • Can the taxpayer expect to make a profit in the future from the appreciation of assets used in the activity?

The IRS presumes that an activity is carried on for profit if it makes a profit during at least three of the last five tax years, including the current year — at least two of the last seven years for activities that consist primarily of breeding, showing, training or racing horses.

If an activity is not for profit, losses from that activity may not be used to offset other income. An activity produces a loss when related expenses exceed income. The limit on not-for-profit losses applies to individuals, partnerships, estates, trusts, and S corporations. It does not apply to corporations other than S corporations.

Deductions for hobby activities are claimed as itemized deductions on Schedule A (Form 1040). These deductions must be taken in the following order and only to the extent stated in each of three categories:

  • Deductions that a taxpayer may take for personal as well as business activities, such as home mortgage interest and taxes, may be taken in full.
  • Deductions that don’t result in an adjustment to basis, such as advertising, insurance premiums and wages, may be taken next, to the extent gross income for the activity is more than the deductions from the first category.
  • Business deductions that reduce the basis of property, such as depreciation and amortization, are taken last, but only to the extent gross income for the activity is more than the deductions taken in the first two categories.

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  • Further information is available just by contacting us.

 


Business Taxes

 
The form of business you operate determines what taxes you must pay and how you pay them. The following are the four general types of business taxes.

Income Tax

All businesses except partnerships must file an annual income tax return. Partnerships file an information return. The form you use depends on how your business is organized. We can help you identify which returns you must file based on the business entity established.

The federal income tax is a pay-as-you-go tax. You must pay the tax as you earn or receive income during the year. An employee usually has income tax withheld from his or her pay. If you do not pay your tax through withholding, or do not pay enough tax that way, you might have to pay estimated tax. If you are not required to make estimated tax payments, you may pay any tax due when you file your return. For additional information, please contact us.

Estimated tax

Generally, you must pay taxes on income, including self-employment tax (discussed next), by making regular payments of estimated tax during the year. For additional information, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Self-Employment Tax

Self-employment tax (SE tax) is a social security and Medicare tax primarily for individuals who work for themselves. Your payments of SE tax contribute to your coverage under the social security system. Social security coverage provides you with retirement benefits, disability benefits, survivor benefits, and hospital insurance (Medicare) benefits.

Generally, you must pay SE tax and file Schedule SE (Form 1040) if either of the following applies.

  • If your net earnings from self-employment were $400 or more.
  • If you work for a church or a qualified church-controlled organization (other than as a minister or member of a religious order) that elected an exemption from social security and Medicare taxes, you are subject to SE tax if you receive $108.28 or more in wages from the church or organization.

Note: There are Special Rules and Exceptions for aliens, fishing crew members, notary public, State or local government employees, foreign government or international organization employees, etc. Contact us for additional information.

Employment Taxes

When you have employees, you as the employer have certain employment tax responsibilities that you must pay and forms you must file. Employment taxes include the following:

  • Social security and Medicare taxes
  • Federal income tax withholding
  • Federal unemployment (FUTA) tax

Excise Tax

This section describes the excise taxes you may have to pay and the forms you have to file if you do any of the following.

  • Manufacture or sell certain products.
  • Operate certain kinds of businesses.
  • Use various kinds of equipment, facilities, or products.
  • Receive payment for certain services.

Form 720 - The federal excise taxes consist of several broad categories of taxes, including the following.

  • Environmental taxes.
  • Communications and air transportation taxes.
  • Fuel taxes.
  • Tax on the first retail sale of heavy trucks, trailers, and tractors.
  • Manufacturers taxes on the sale or use of a variety of different articles

There is a federal excise tax on certain trucks, truck tractors, and buses used on public highways. The tax applies to vehicles having a taxable gross weight of 55,000 pounds or more. .

If you are in the business of accepting wagers or conducting a wagering pool or lottery, you may be liable for the federal excise tax on wagering. Contact us to help figure the tax on the wagering winnings you receive.

Occupational Tax and Registration Return for Wagering, to register for any wagering activity and to pay the federal occupational tax on wagering.
Excise Tax has several general excise tax programs. One of the major components of the excise program is motor fuel. For additional information, please contact us.