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The requirements of the home office deduction are strict. To qualify, your home office must be used exclusively and regularly for business. In addition, it must be either:
Exclusive and regular business use. You don't necessarily have to use a portion of your home as an office; it could be a showroom, lab, or storage area. However, you must use it regularly, not just occasionally. Exclusive use means that the business part of the home may not be used for any personal, family, or investment activities, or for any other business activities that don't meet the home office requirements.
There is an exception to the "exclusive use" requirement if your home is the only fixed location of a retail or wholesale business. In that case, you can deduct expenses that pertain to the use of part of your home for the storage of inventory or product samples.
There is also an exception to this exclusive use requirement for those who operate a child care business in their home. The portion of the home that is used regularly for day care qualifies as a "home office," even if it is also used for personal and family living space. However, day care operators face an additional time restriction they may only deduct expenses for the actual time the day care center was open.
Principal place of business. In addition to the exclusive and regular use tests, you must meet one of the following requirements:
The "principal place of business" definition is significantly easier to meet than it once was. A home office will qualify as the principal place of business if: (a) the office is used by the taxpayer to conduct administrative or management activities of a trade or business, and (b) there is no other fixed location where the taxpayer conducts substantial administrative or management activities of the trade or business.
The test looks at "administrative" and "managerial" activities. So, you can meet the test even if you perform substantial non-administrative or non-managerial activities outside your home. Administrative or managerial activities include: billing for services, keeping books and records, ordering supplies, and scheduling appointments.
In addition, the following activities will not stop you from taking a home office deduction, assuming you meet the other tests:
Paying others to perform administrative activities outside of your home (for example, you hire a bookkeeper to do your payroll and she works from her office).
Doing occasional administrative activities at a fixed location outside your home (for example, you make the work schedules for the week from your home office, but you make an adjustment while at your retail store when an employee phones in sick).
It doesn't matter if you have suitable space to conduct administrative or management activities outside your home, as long as you don't make use of it for that purpose. For example, you have a room at your restaurant that could function as an office, but you do not use it for that purpose. Also, the fact that you may conduct management activities in a non-fixed location, such as a car or hotel room, will not cause you to lose the deduction.
Meeting patients, clients, or customers. Even if you don't meet the "administrative and managerial" test, you can satisfy the "principal place of business" requirement if you conduct business with patients, clients, or customers in your home in the normal course of your business. Doctors, dentists, attorneys, and other professionals who maintain offices in their homes generally will meet this requirement.
You must meet both of the following requirements:
Are you eligible as an employee? If you or your spouse is an employee, including an employee/shareholder of a small corporation, you must be using your home for the convenience of your employer in order to qualify for the home office deduction. If your employer provides you with office space elsewhere, you probably can't take the home office deduction because your home would not be considered your principal place of business.
The IRS specifically prohibits you from taking the home office deduction if you rent all or part of your home to your employer and then use the rented portion to work in as an employee.
If you don't qualify. Even if you don't meet these strict requirements, you can still deduct certain expenses that are directly related to your business activities.