Taking the home office deduction

By Michelle Clouse

Special to The Conway Daily Sun
If you regularly use your home to conduct business, you may be eligible for the home office deduction.
Contrary to what some people may think, the home office deduction does not set off red flags with the IRS or make an individual more prone to being audited. This deduction allows a taxpayer to deduct home-related expenses based on the amount of area in the home that is dedicated to operating a business. These expenses include mortgage interest or rent, real estate taxes, utilities, maintenance costs, homeowners or renters insurance, and maintenance expenses.
Other types of expenses including alarm systems and casualty losses can be deducted, as well.
Depreciation of your home is allowed based on the business use.
In order to qualify for the deduction, the space in the home or apartment must be used both exclusively and regularly for conducting a trade or business.
In essence, this means the space cannot be commingled with non-business personal use. However, two or more separate business activities can be conducted in the space, and all qualify for the deduction.
For example, an architect or lawyer regularly meeting clients in their home and conducting other aspects of their jobs would qualify for the deduction.
The deduction is most often used by self-employed individuals, but employees can claim the deduction if they regularly work from home as a convenience to their employer, though there are limitations that many times makes the employee's home office deduction meaningless.
Two methods are used to calculate the amount of allowable deduction. The first method uses actual expenses and the business use percentage to calculate the deduction. The percentage is based on the amount of square footage used in the home. For example, if the total area of the home is 2,000 square feet and the area used exclusively for business is 300 square feet, the business use percentage is 15 percent. The total amount of the deduction will be 15 percent of the allowable expenses mentioned above.
Under this method, the portion of the home related expenses used for the home office deduction cannot also be used as part of the itemized deductions on Schedule A. Itemized deductions such as property taxes and mortgage interest should be reduced by the amount claimed as home office use. It should be noted that the home office deduction reduces both the taxpayer's income tax and self-employment tax while itemized deductions only reduce the taxpayer's income tax.
The second method was introduced in 2013 and is called the simplified method. This method allows a $5-per-square-foot deduction up to 300 square feet without the need to track and maintain a record of actual expenses. The total amount that can be claimed as a deduction is $1,500. While the actual expense method may create a larger deduction in some cases, the simplified method lessens the record-keeping burden, and there is no reduction to the Schedule A deductions. The two methods can be interchanged so that a taxpayer can choose to use the actual expenses method in one year and use the simplified method the next.
Using the home office deduction can help offset personal expenses needed to operate your business. If the home office deduction seems like something that might benefit your specific tax situation, please contact your trusted financial or tax adviser to discuss your options.
Michelle Clouse is a staff accountant at Gamwell, Caputo, Kelsch & Co., PLLC in Conway and can be reached at (603) 447-3356. She welcomes any article feedback or questions for future article consideration.

Jason Robie: Marketing Mastery

By Jason Robie

What does it take to sell a home in a buyer's market? A fresh coat of paint? A kitchen overhaul? Lowering your asking price or offering incentives? From cosmetic to strategic, smart sellers can take advantage of a few simple tips to get the most out of their properties. Here are six strategies from the professionals to help you convert your "For Sale" into a "Sold."

1. Curb appeal. We're working our way through early fall here in the Northeast and tip-toeing our way towards winter. Though they may be obvious, cosmetic upgrades like painting and planting can truly go a long way to making a lasting — and positive — first impression of your home. Once they step inside the door, make sure your home is clean, clean, clean. Make sure there is no foul odors and no clutter as the first impression of the inside is nearly as important as the actual curb appeal. Make it count.

2. Big fixes. If your budget allows, invest in bigger improvements. Focus on "make or break" rooms like bathrooms and kitchens. If you have watched any home improvement shows in the past few years, you have heard them say: "Kitchens and baths sell homes." Our clients in the valley are no different. People want an open spacious place to cook (with plenty of storage) and a bathroom they are not ashamed of. If your budget is limited, think about smaller home improvements in these areas that could help close the deal. Better lighting, updated vanity or cabinets (even just the doors) and better organized or expanded closets and shelving are just a few of these ideas.

3. The internet. There are countless tools available to assist you in gauging your property value and even those that will include the home improvements you have made. Using online resources allows you to engage in a dialogue with your real estate broker and can assist you in setting the right price for your home. You can also do your own competitive market analysis on properties similar to your home that are either currently on the market or that have recently sold. Your broker can likely help you with the latter.

4. Transparency. No, this doesn't mean installing glass walls on the exterior of your home. Getting a preliminary professional home inspection and sharing it with potential buyers will go a long way towards helping them understand your home's condition. It will also reinforce your position as a trustworthy and responsible seller. You should also be clear about recent improvements you have made, and provide estimates on other optional upgrades — especially any for which you would be willing to foot the bill. Much like buying a used car, people's biggest fear is that something will go wrong as soon as they drive off the lot (or take possession of their new home). You can put a lot of a buyer's fears to rest by being up front and providing this professional service.

5. Go the extra mile. You can have your home pre-inspected and follow up by actually doing the necessary repairs. Allow potential buyers to see the report and receipts for the work. This goes along well with the point from above, but this is taking it a step further and potentially eliminate any of the objections that might arise from needed repairs. Unless someone is in the market for a fixer-upper, they will typically want to simply move in and settle. If they feel they will need to make repairs and upgrades after the closing and it will delay their ability to enjoy their new home, they could just move on.

6. Be realistic. Selling in a buyer's market takes skill, strategy and patience. In most of the country, increased inventory has given buyers the opportunity to be more selective in the home they want and the price they are willing to pay. Properly priced homes are selling and your sales associate will work with you to determine what that price should be. There are certainly folks out there that are looking for the next "screaming deal," but we are seeing that there are even more people that are willing to pay a fair price and are simply excited about the number of choices they have.

People will always be buying and selling homes. Families grow, jobs move, kids go off to college, etc. With interest rates down and inventory high, this is a great time to be in the market as a Buyer. Your job as a seller is to make sure that when they come across your home, they can see themselves living there and you have made it easy for them to say "yes" and add that final finishing touch: a "sold" sign.


Jason Robie: Pre-fall prevention

By Jason Robie

I spent an entire night this past week, with (among other things) awful cramps and an apparent touch of the 24-hour flu. Apparently, it's the season for germs. After recovering, literally 24 hours later, I developed an unprecedented appreciation for the ability to have a bowl of cereal and a cup of coffee. If you have ever "thrown out" your back, you know the simple joys of moving around without pain once the spasms subside. Appreciating our health, among other things, should never be overlooked.

As we roll forward towards the holidays (yes, I said it) I always tend to have a soft spot for Thanksgiving. Turkey, pumpkin pie and mom's steamed pudding aside, Thanksgiving reminds us of the importance of taking a quick time-out to appreciate all that we have. Since the kids just went back to school and September is quickly coming to a close, it's time to shift our thinking towards the upcoming ski season and the inevitable "challenging" weather that comes along with it.

Charming renovated 1816 cape

A renovated 1816 center chimney cape located at 39 Old Portland Road in Freedom on 2 acres with a 1998 open concept addition that flows easily from the original house and doubles the square footage. The addition can be used as a home business with its own entrance an artist studio or a massive master bedroom.

Four-season lodge in Hart's Location

As you depart the slopes of Attitash Ski Resort and head west into the scenic White Mountains you'll soon find yourself at 1071 US Route 302 in Hart's Location, home to an upscale, tree-sheltered, four-season lodge in the heart of Crawford Notch. Treasured by the current owners for nearly three decades as their base camp for mountain adventures on the slopes of Attitash, Bretton Woods, and the areas great cycling roads, they are now looking to pass the keys onto the next generation of mountain enthusiasts.