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Note: For 2018 to 2025, the deduction for miscellaneous itemized deductions subject to the 2-percent floor, including hobby expenses, has been suspended, and cannot be claimed as an itemized deduction on Schedule A of IRS Form 1040. You will generally not be able to deduct your expenses from a hobby. You may still be able to claim certain itemized deductions (e.g., home mortgage interest, real estate tax) on Schedule A, provided you itemize deductions.

What Is It?

If you receive income from a hobby (a not-for-profit activity), it is taxable, but you can only deduct your expenses related to that hobby to the extent of the income. Moreover, because the deduction is a miscellaneous itemized deduction taken on your Schedule A, it will be subject to an adjusted gross income limitation. Any losses realized from a hobby are considered personal losses and thus not deductible, while losses from for-profit activities are generally fully deductible. For this reason, the IRS will look closely at an activity you claim to be for-profit if that activity continuously shows losses.

What Is a "For-Profit" Activity?

If an activity you are engaged in shows a profit for a minimum of three out of the last five years, this activity will be presumed by the IRS to be engaged in for-profit.

Caution: If the activity is related to the breeding, racing, showing, or training of horses, you must show a profit in two out of the last seven years to be presumed to be in a for-profit activity.

Is the "For-Profit Test" Automatic?

No. The fact that you make a profit on an activity for the minimum three out of five years (or two out of seven for horse-related activities) does not automatically mean the IRS will treat the activity as engaged in for profit. In some cases, the IRS may claim the activity is still a hobby. In making a determination between profit and not-for-profit activity designation, the IRS will look at questions and issues such as the following:

  • Do you run the activity like a business (keeping records, setting up a business bank account, and the like)?
  • How much time do you spend on the activity?
  • How much personal pleasure or recreation does the activity provide you?
  • Do you expect that the assets related to the activity will increase in value?
  • What is your overall financial status? For example, if you have income, especially a lot of income, from other sources, it may lead the IRS to the assumption that this activity is not for profit.
  • Have you made a profit before in similar activities?
  • What degree of expertise related to the activity do you have?
  • Do you hire experts in the field to advise you in the activity?
  • Is it normal to have losses for a number of years in the start-up phase of the type of activity/business you are engaged in?

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What If The IRS Disallows Your Claim of For-Profit Activity?

If the activity suffers losses in the first number of years you are engaged in it, the IRS may not allow you to deduct them, claiming they are nondeductible hobby losses. In such a case, you can file an election on a Form 5213 to delay the determination of whether the activity is for-profit or a hobby. If you do so, the determination is delayed until after the fourth taxable year (sixth, for horse-related activities) after the year you began engaging in the activity.

Example(s): Suppose you began buying and selling sports memorabilia in 2016 and have suffered losses in each year since. You file a Form 5213 election to delay the determination of whether this activity is for-profit or a hobby. The determination won't be made until after 2020. If you then can show that you made a profit in at least three of the five years (2016-2020), the presumption that your activity is for-profit will apply.

Caution: By filing a Form 5213, you automatically agree that the statute of limitations on issues related to the activity is extended for two years, which means the IRS may be able to collect additional taxes (if it disallows the losses as hobby losses) for two additional years.

Caution: Recognize that if you do file a Form 5213 delay of determination, the following may occur:

  • You are almost guaranteeing that the IRS will look extremely closely at your tax returns related to this issue
  • There is a good chance the IRS will reach the same determination they originally did, or would have, reached — that the losses are nondeductible hobby losses Accordingly, before filing a Form 5213, consult with your accountant and/or tax attorney.

How Long Do You Have to Elect The Delay?

You can file a Form 5213 anytime within three years of the due date for filing your tax return for the year the activity began. For example, if you started to buy and sell sports memorabilia in 2016, you would have until April 15, 2020 to file a Form 5213.

Caution: If you receive a notice from the IRS disallowing a loss deduction you took because it has determined your activity is a hobby, you have 60 days from your receipt of the notice to file a Form 5213 (although this 60-day period does not extend the three-year period described previously).

How Do You Handle Deductions For an Activity That Is Not-For-Profit?

Note: For 2018 to 2025, the deduction for miscellaneous itemized deductions subject to the 2-percent floor, including hobby expenses, has been suspended, and cannot be claimed as an itemized deduction on Schedule A of IRS Form 1040. You will generally not be able to deduct your expenses from a hobby. You may still be able to claim certain itemized deductions (e.g., home mortgage interest, real estate tax) on Schedule A, provided you itemize deductions.

If, either due to your decision or because the IRS later challenges your return, the IRS determines your activity is not engaged in for profit, then you deduct expenses related to the activity as follows:

  • First, you deduct (against income you received from the activity) expenses that would be deductible whether or not the activity is for-profit (e.g., home mortgage interest payments and taxes)
  • Next, if income still remains, you can deduct operating expenses, such as utilities, advertising, and maintenance
  • If assets in the activity are depreciable, you can deduct depreciation up to the amount of any remaining income
  • Any remaining expenses in excess of the above deductions are considered personal losses and therefore are not deductible

Caution: Prior to 2018, because these deductions had to be taken as miscellaneous itemized deductions on your Schedule A, Form 1040, they were subject to the 2 percent adjusted gross income floor and, as a result, were further limited. For 2018 to 2025, the deduction for miscellaneous itemized deductions subject to the 2-percent floor, including hobby expenses, has been suspended, and cannot be claimed as an itemized deduction on Schedule A. You will generally not be able to deduct your expenses from a hobby. You may still be able to claim certain itemized deductions (e.g., home mortgage interest, real estate tax) on Schedule A, provided you itemize deductions.

 

 

This material was prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of The Retirement Group or FSC Financial Corp. This information should not be construed as investment advice. Neither the named Representatives nor Broker/Dealer gives tax or legal advice. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however, we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If other expert assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. Please consult your Financial Advisor for further information or call 800-900-5867.

 

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