How to Boost Your Home Office Deduction

July 5, 2011 by Jan Roberg
Filed under: Small Business, Tax Deductions 

Photo by Biking Nikon of Flickr.com

If you’ve claimed a home office deduction on your tax return, you’re familiar with the form—they ask you for the square footage of your home office and then they ask for the square footage of your home. Let’s say that your home is 2,000 square feet and your home office is 100 square feet, then your home office percentage is 5%. If your home operating expenses were $10,000 then you’d get to claim $500 for your home office deduction before claiming depreciation (because $500 is 5% of$10,000).
But did you know that if the rooms in your home are roughly the same size that you can figure the percentage based upon the number of rooms in your house? Say you had 8 rooms in your house, a kitchen, living room, dining room, family room, three bedrooms and your office. That would change your percentage to 12.5%, and now your deduction would be $1250—that’s more than double the difference.
Now if your home is like mine, your rooms aren’t all the same size and you can’t use the ‘number of rooms’ formula. But—the ‘number of rooms’ formula does help those of us who must use the regular square footage formula. You see, when you use the ‘number of rooms’ formula, you’re leaving out things like hallways, staircases, and bathrooms. When you’re determining the square footage for your whole home, you are allowed to deduct the following items from your total square footage:
o Hallways
o Staircases
o Bathrooms
o Crawlspaces
o Space occupied by heating and air conditioning units, and water heaters
o Foyers
o Outside walls
By reducing your overall square footage, you increase the percentage that you can use for your home office expense. Using the office mentioned above, let’s say the taxpayer measures out his stairs, foyer, hallways, etc. and finds that it reduces his overall square footage by 500 feet. Now his percentage would be 6.67% raising his deduction to by $167 to $667.
This might not seem like a huge savings, and certainly it will vary depending upon the size of your home and your expenses. The important thing here is that its extra tax savings to you without spending any additional cash. You’ve done nothing extra except re-measure your house.
Let’s add depreciation into the mix. Let’s say, for this same house, the owner’s purchased it for $250,000. $50,000 of that was attributed to the cost of the land so we’re depreciating $200,000. If 5% of the home were depreciated, the deduction would be $256 (200,000 x 5% x 2.54% depreciation rate). By increasing the percentage used to 6.67%, then the depreciation would be $342, an increase of $86.
So now, by doing nothing more than re-measuring your house, you’ve increased your home office deduction by $253 and, if you’re self employed and in the 25% tax bracket, you’ve just saved yourself $101 in taxes.
This is one of those cases where everyone’s results will be different, but the example that I used was pretty conservative. It’s highly likely that you can save even more than this example does, especially if your expenses are higher or your home office is larger to begin with.
You always want to take advantage of any tax issue that puts money in your pocket without you putting money out. Re-measuring your home for the home office deduction is like a little gift from the IRS to help you save money on your taxes.

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