In 2020, the number of people working from home offices grew along with the number of coronavirus cases. Now, as the year comes to an end and workers begin taking stock of their taxes, many wonder if that home office can bring some return in the form of deductions.
In other words, is there at least one silver lining from our detestable coronavirus cloud?
Alas, not for most.
If your sole source of income came from a traditional job—the type that yields a W-2 form at year’s end—you’re out of luck. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 eliminated the home office deduction for employees who work from home for an employer.
Only those who are self-employed—“whether it’s freelancers, business owners, law firm partners or others,” notes the Denver Business Journal—can earn the deduction.
Some other rules:
- You must use the office “regularly and “exclusively.” “There doesn’t have to be a wall that cordons it off – if you have an area that is designated as your home office and nothing else is done in that area, you have an exclusive area,” Trish Evenstad, president of Evenstad Tax and Financial Services Inc., told S. News & World Report. “It may be just your desk and 5 feet around it in your basement. But if it’s your kitchen table and your family eats dinner there too, you just lost the deduction.”
- The amount of the deduction depends on the size of the office. For example, if the office is 20% of your home’s size, you can deduct 20% of homeowner’s association and condo fees, utilities, mortgage interest, homeowner’s or renter’s insurance, etc. You can also deduct 100% of certain expenses specific to your home office, such as the cost of paint.
- If you prefer a more simplified approach, you can use another formula: Multiply each square foot of the office by $5, up to a maximum deduction of $1,500. This will likely result in a lower deduction, however, than the percentage approach noted above.
- If your business took a loss in 2020, you aren’t allowed the home office deduction, but you may be able to use it in the next year that you become profitable.