There are mixed results for employees and self-employed individuals who are working from home because of COVID-19 safety concerns.
If you’re an employee who telecommutes — that is, you work at home, and communicate with your employer mainly by telephone, videoconferencing, email, etc. — you should become familiar with the strict rules that govern whether you can deduct your home office expenses.
Unfortunately, employee home office expenses aren’t currently deductible, even if your employer requires you to work from home during the pandemic. Employee business expense deductions (including the expenses an employee incurs to maintain a home office) are miscellaneous itemized deductions and are not allowed from 2018 through 2025 as part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.
However, if you’re self-employed and work out of an office in your home, you can be eligible to claim home office deductions for your related expenses if you satisfy the strict rules.
You can deduct your expenses if you pass any of these three tests:
- Principal place of business. You’re entitled to deductions if you use your home office, exclusively and regularly, as your principal place of business. Your home office is your principal place of business if it satisfies one of two tests. You satisfy the “management or administrative activities test” if you use your home office for administrative or management activities of your business, and you meet certain other requirements. You meet the “relative importance test” if your home office is the most important place where you conduct business, compared with all the other locations where you conduct that business.
- Meeting place. You’re entitled to home office deductions if you use your home office, exclusively and regularly, to meet or deal with patients, clients, or customers. The patients, clients, or customers must physically come to the office.
- Separate structure. You’re entitled to home office deductions for a home office, used exclusively and regularly for business, that’s located in a separate unattached structure on the same property as your home. For example, this could be in an unattached garage, artist’s studio, or workshop.
You may also be able to deduct the expenses of certain storage space for storing inventory or product samples. If you’re in the business of selling products at retail or wholesale, and if your home is your sole fixed business location, you can deduct home expenses allocable to space that you use to store inventory or product samples.
The amount of your home office deductions is subject to limitations based on the income attributable to your use of the office, your residence-based deductions that aren’t dependent on the use of your home for business (such as mortgage interest and real estate taxes), and your business deductions that aren’t attributable to your use of the home office. But any home office expenses that can’t be deducted because of these limitations can be carried over and deducted in later years.
Selling the home
Be aware that if you sell — at a profit — a home that contains (or contained) a home office, there may be tax implications.
Pin down the best tax treatment
Proper planning can be the key to claiming the maximum deduction for your home office expenses. Reach out to a KraftCPAs advisor to properly plan and file for your specific situation.