From scrapbooking to glass blowing, many Americans enjoy hobbies that are also a source of income. A taxpayer must report income on their tax return even if it is made from a hobby.
However, the rules for how to report the income and expenses depend on whether the activity is a hobby or a business. There are special rules and limits for deductions taxpayers can claim for hobbies. Here are five things to consider:
Determine if the activity is a business or a hobby. If someone has a business, they operate the business to make a profit. In contrast, people engage in a hobby for sport or recreation, not to make a profit. Taxpayers should consider nine factorswhen determining whether their activity is a business or a hobby, and base their determination on all the facts and circumstances of their activity. For more about ‘not-for-profit’ rules, see Publication 535, Business Expenses.
Allowable hobby deductions. Taxpayers can usually deduct ordinary and necessary hobby expenses within certain limits:
Ordinary expense is common and accepted for the activity.
Necessary expense is appropriate for the activity.
Limits on hobby expenses. Taxpayers can generally only deduct hobby expenses up to the amount of hobby income. If hobby expenses are more than its income, taxpayers have a loss from the activity. However, a hobby loss can’t be deducted from other income.
How to deduct hobby expenses. Taxpayers must itemize deductions on their tax return to deduct hobby expenses. Expenses may fall into three types of deductions, and special rules apply to each type. See Publication 535 for the rules about how to claim them on Schedule A, Itemized Deductions.
Use IRS Free File. Hobby rules can be complex, and IRS Free File can make filing a tax return easier.
The IRS is partnering with state tax agencies, the tax industry and groups across the country to host the second annual National Tax Security Awareness Week. The goal is to encourage all taxpayers to take steps to protect their tax data and identities.
This week begins Monday, Nov. 27 and coincides with two annual events when criminals are especially active – the online holiday shopping season and the 2018 tax filing season.
With the number of data breaches at record levels, these are issues that pose a threat to individuals and businesses. The IRS will offer simple steps taxpayers can take to protect themselves from cybercriminals. This event is part of the Security Summit, part of ongoing collaborative effort to combat tax-related identity theft.
During National Tax Security Awareness Week, the IRS will focus on key steps people can follow to protect their tax data:
Keep personal data safe. Be vigilant with personal information. While taxpayers are shopping for gifts, criminals are shopping for sensitive data including credit cards, financial accounts, and Social Security numbers. Taxpayers should use strong, unique passwords for each online account and avoid routinely carrying a Social Security card. Avoid unsecured Wi-Fi in public locations while holiday shopping.
Avoid phishing emails by data thieves. Learn to recognize and avoid phishing emails, threatening phone calls, and texts from thieves. People should never click on links or download attachments from unknown or suspicious email addresses. Remember that the IRS doesn't initiate spontaneous contact with taxpayers by email or phone to request personal or financial information.
Take steps to protect data after a breach. There are specific things that data theft victims can do after a criminal steals their information. This includes using credit monitoring services, putting a freeze on accounts and resetting passwords.
Avoid the W-2 scam. Employers can take steps to protect their employees’ data from the growing W-2 email scam. Employers and payroll offices should educate employees about how to recognize an email from a thief who wants to gain access to sensitive employee data so they do not respond to these scam emails.
Beware of scams against employers. Just like individuals, businesses may have their identities stolen. Small businesses and large businesses alike should protect their employer identification numbers. For 2018, the IRS is also asking that employers provide additional information to help verify the legitimacy of their tax return. Such information includes filing history, payment history and parent company information. In the case of a sole proprietorship, the IRS might ask for a driver’s license number.
In 2017, many taxpayers use their phones and computers to provide services and sell goods. This includes the use of sites and apps to rent a home to travelers, sell crafts, or to provide car rides. Taxpayers who do this may be involved in the sharing economy. Participating in the sharing economy may affect a person’s taxes. These taxpayers can visit the Sharing Economy Tax Center on the IRS website to find resources that can help them meet their tax obligations.
Here are six things taxpayers should know about how the sharing economy might affect their taxes:
Taxes. Sharing economy activity is generally taxable. This includes:
A side business.
Cash payments received.
Income stated on a Form 1099 or Form W-2.
Deductions. Some taxpayers can deduct their business expenses. For example, a taxpayer who uses a car for business use often qualifies to claim the standard mileage rate.
Rentals. Special rules apply to a taxpayer who rents out a home or apartment, but who also lives in it during the year. Publication 527, Residential Rental Property (Including Rental of Vacation Homes), has more information about these rules. Taxpayers can also use the Interactive Tax Assistant Tool. This tool is titled Is My Residential Rental Income Taxable and/or Are My Expenses Deductible? It walks taxpayers through a series of questions to determine if their rental income is taxable.
Estimated Payments. Taxpayers can pay as they go, so they don’t owe. One way that taxpayers can cover the tax they owe is to make estimated tax payments during the year. These payments can help cover their tax obligation. Taxpayers use Form 1040-ESto figure these payments.
Withholding. Taxpayers involved in the sharing economy as an employee might want to review their withholding from that job and any other jobs they might have. They can often avoid making estimated tax payments by having more tax withheld from their regular paychecks. These taxpayers can file Form W-4 with their employer to request additional withholding. They can also use the Withholding Calculator on IRS.gov. This tool helps determine if they are having too much or too little tax withheld from their income.
IRS Tax Tip 2017 With 10 million taxpayers a year facing estimated tax penalties, the IRS offers some simple tips to help prevent a surprise at tax time.
People pay taxes on income through withholding on their paycheck or through estimated tax payments. Taxpayers who pay enough tax throughout the year can avoid a large tax bill and penalties when they file their return.
Taxpayers should make estimated tax payments if:
The tax withheld from their income does not cover their tax for the year.
They have income without withholdings. Some examples are interest, dividends, alimony, self-employment income, capital gains, prizes or awards.
Here are five actions taxpayers can take to avoid a large bill and estimated tax penalties when they file their return. They can:
Use Form 1040-ES. Individuals, sole proprietors, partners and S corporation shareholders can use this form to figure estimated tax. This form helps someone calculate their expected income, taxes, deductions and credits for the year. They can then figure their estimated tax payments.
Use the Withholding Calculator on IRS.gov. This tool helps users figure how much money their employer should withhold from their pay so they don’t have too much or too little tax withheld. The results from the calculator can also help them fill out their Form W-4. Taxpayers whose income isn’t paid evenly throughout the year, can check Publication 505 instead of the calculator.
Have more tax withheld. Taxpayers with a regular paycheck can have more tax withheld from it. To do this, they must fill out a new Form W-4 and give it to their employer. This is a good option for taxpayers who participate in a sharing economyactivity as a side job or part-time business.
Use estimated payments to pay other taxes.Self-employed individuals can make estimated tax payments to pay both income tax and self-employment tax. Self-employment tax includes Social Security and Medicare.
Use Form W-4P. Generally, pension and annuity plans withhold tax from retirees’ payments. Recipients of these payments can adjust their withholding using Form W-4P and give it to their payer.