The ability to have a business based around a hobby you are passionate about is a common dream. But what happens if you wake up from that dream to the IRS saying that your hobby still doesn’t count as a business, it’s only a hobby?
To be considered a business by the IRS the venture must be considered to be engaged in for a profit. If the new business is profitable the dream continues. If the business consistently generates losses though, the IRS may deem the venture is not being engaged in for a profit, and is therefore considered to be a hobby.
If the new enterprise is considered a hobby you will be unable to deduct any losses on your tax returns. By contrast, if it isn’t affected by the hobby loss rules, all otherwise allowable expenses are deductible on Schedule C, even if they exceed income from the enterprise.
Note: Before 2018, deductible hobby expenses had to be claimed as miscellaneous itemized deductions subject to a 2%-of-AGI “floor.” However, because miscellaneous deductions aren’t allowed from 2018 through 2025, deductible hobby expenses are effectively wiped out from 2018 through 2025.
Avoiding a hobby designation
There are two ways to avoid the hobby loss rules:
- Show a profit in at least three out of five consecutive years (two out of seven years for breeding, training, showing or racing horses).
- Run the venture in such a way as to show that you intend to turn it into a profit-maker, rather than operate it as a mere hobby. The IRS regs themselves say that the hobby loss rules won’t apply if the facts and circumstances show that you have a profit-making objective.
How can you prove you have a profit-making objective? You should run the venture in a businesslike manner. The IRS and the courts will look at the following factors:
- How you run the activity,
- Your expertise in the area (and your advisors’ expertise),
- The time and effort you expend in the enterprise,
- Whether there’s an expectation that the assets used in the activity will rise in value,
- Your success in carrying on other activities,
- Your history of income or loss in the activity,
- The amount of any occasional profits earned,
- Your financial status, and
- Whether the activity involves elements of personal pleasure or recreation.
Recent court case
In one U.S. Tax Court case, a married couple’s miniature donkey breeding activity was found to be conducted with a profit motive. The IRS had earlier determined it was a hobby and the couple was liable for taxes and penalties for the two tax years in which they claimed losses of more than $130,000. However, the court found the couple had a business plan, kept separate records and conducted the activity in a businesslike manner. The court stated they were “engaged in the breeding activity with an actual and honest objective of making a profit.” (TC Memo 2021-140)
For advice on determining if your business may be considered a hobby, how to avoid a tax challenge, and any other questions you have regarding your hobby or business, please contact your Rudler, PSC advisor at 859-331-1717.
RUDLER, PSC CPAs and Business Advisors
This week's Rudler Review is presented by Becca Thorman, CPA, CVA and John Wood CPA, CVA.
If you would like to discuss your particular situation, contact Becca or John at 859-331-1717.
As part of Rudler, PSC's commitment to true proactive client partnerships, we have encouraged our professionals to specialize in their areas of interest, providing clients with specialized knowledge and strategic relationships. Be sure to receive future Rudler Reviews for advice from our experts, sign up today !