Home Office Tax Deductions: Do You Qualify?

By Jody McMaster · March 08, 2024 · 7 minute read

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Home Office Tax Deductions: Do You Qualify?

Millions of employees work from home at least part time. They’ve carved out dedicated office space and plopped laptops on kitchen counters and in closets. They almost never can declare the home office tax deduction.

Millions of self-employed people have also created workspaces at home. If they use that part of their home exclusively and regularly for conducting business, and the home is the principal place of business, they may be able to deduct office-related business expenses.

Why the difference? The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act nearly doubled the standard deduction and eliminated many itemized deductions, including unreimbursed employee expenses, from 2018 to 2025.

Read on to learn whether or not you may qualify for the home office tax deduction.

What Is a Home Office Tax Deduction?

The home office tax deduction is available to self-employed people — independent contractors, sole proprietors, members of a business partnership, freelancers, and gig workers who require an office — who use part of their home, owned or rented, as a place of work regularly and exclusively.

“Home” can be a house, condo, apartment, mobile home, boat, or similar property, and includes structures on the property like an unattached garage, studio, barn, or greenhouse.

Eligible taxpayers can take a simplified deduction of up to $1,500 or go the detailed route and deduct office furniture, homeowners or renters insurance, internet, utilities needed for the business, repairs, and maintenance that affect the office, home depreciation, rent, mortgage interest, and many other things from taxable income.

After all, reducing taxable income is particularly important for the highly taxed self-employed (viewed by the IRS as both employee and employer.)

An employee who also has a side gig — like driving for Uber or dog walking — can deduct certain expenses from their self-employment income if they run the business out of their home.

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Am I Eligible for a Home Office Deduction?

People who receive a W-2 form from their employer almost never qualify.

In general, a self-employed person who receives one or more IRS 1099-NEC tax forms may take the home office tax deduction.

Both of these must apply:

•   You use the business part of your home exclusively and regularly for business purposes.

•   The business part of your home is your main place of business; the place where you deal with patients or customers in the normal course of your business; or a structure not attached to the home that you use in connection with your business.

Regular and Exclusive Use

You must use a portion of the home for business needs on a regular basis. The real trick is to meet the IRS standard for the exclusive use of a home office. An at-home worker may spend nine hours a day, five days a week in a home office, yet is not supposed to take the home office deduction if the space is shared with a spouse or doubles as a gym or a child’s homework spot.

There are two exceptions to the IRS exclusive-use rules for home businesses.

•   Daycare providers. Individuals offering daycare from home likely qualify for the home office tax deduction. Part of the home is used as a daycare facility for children, people with physical or mental disabilities, or people who are 65 and older. (If you run a daycare, your business-use percentage must be reduced because the space is available for personal use part of the time.)

•   Storage of business products. If a home-based businessperson uses a portion of the home to store inventory or product samples, it’s OK to use that area for personal use as well. The home must be the only fixed location of the business or trade.

Principal Place of Business

Part of your home may qualify as your principal place of business “if you use it for the administrative or management activities of your trade or business and have no other fixed location where you conduct substantial administrative or management activities for that trade or business,” the IRS says.

Can You Qualify for a Home Office Deduction as an Employee?

Employees may only take the deduction if they maintain a home office for the “convenience of their employer,” meaning the home office is a condition of employment, necessary for the employer’s business to function, or needed to allow the employee to perform their duties.

Because your home must be your principal place of business in order to take the home office deduction, most employees who work part-time at home won’t qualify.

Can I Run More Than One Business in the Same Space?

If you have more than one Schedule C business, you can claim the same home office space, but you’ll have to split the expenses between the businesses. You cannot deduct the home office expenses multiple times.

How to Calculate the Home Office Tax Deduction

The deduction is most commonly based on square footage or the percentage of a home used as the home office.

The Simplified Method

If your office is 300 square feet or under, Uncle Sam allows you to deduct $5 per square foot, up to 300 square feet, for a maximum $1,500 tax deduction.

The Real Expense Method

The regular method looks at the percentage of the home used for business purposes. If your home office is 480 square feet and the home has 2,400 square feet, the percentage used for the home office tax deduction is 20%.

You may deduct 20% of indirect business expenses like utilities, cellphone, cable, homeowners or renters insurance, property tax, HOA fees, and cleaning service.

Direct expenses for the home office, such as painting, furniture, office supplies, and repairs, are 100% deductible.

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Things to Look Out for Before Applying for the Home Office Tax Deduction

If you’re an employee with side gigs or just self-employed, it might be a good idea to consult a tax pro when filing.

To avoid raising red flags, you may want to make sure your business expenses are reasonable, accurate, and well-documented. The IRS uses both automated and manual methods of examining self-employed workers’ tax returns. And in 2020, the agency created a Fraud Enforcement Office, part of its Small Business/Self-Employed Division. Among the filers in its sights are self-employed people.

The IRS conducts audits by mail or in-person to review records. The interview may be at an IRS office or at the tax filer’s home.

A final note: Taking all the deductions you’re entitled to and being informed about the different types of taxes is smart.

If you’re self-employed, you generally must pay a Social Security and Medicare tax of 15.3% of net earnings. Wage-earners pay 7.65% of gross income into Social Security and Medicare via payroll-tax withholding, matched by the employer.

So self-employed people often feel the burn at tax time. It’s smart to look for deductions and write off those home business expenses if you’re able to.

To shelter income and invest for retirement, you might want to set up a SEP IRA if you’re a self-employed professional with no employees.

Recommended: First-Time Homebuyers Guide

The Takeaway

If you’re an employee working remotely, the home office tax deduction is not for you, right now, anyway.

If you’re self-employed, the home office deduction could be helpful at tax time. To qualify for the home office deduction, you must use a portion of your house, apartment, or condominium (or any other type of home) for your business on a regular basis, and it generally must be the principal location of your business. This is something to keep in mind if you’re in the market for a new home, since writing off a portion of your home expenses could help offset some of the costs of homeownership.

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How much can I get written off for my home office?

Using the simplified method of calculating the home office deduction, you can write off up to $1,500. Using the regular method, you’ll need to determine the percentage of your home being used for business purposes. You may then be able to deduct that percentage of certain indirect expenses (like utilities, cellphone, cable, homeowners or renters insurance, property tax, HOA fees, and cleaning services). Direct expenses for the home office, such as painting, furniture, office supplies, and repairs, are generally 100% deductible.

Can I make a claim for a home office tax deduction without receipts?

The simplified method does not require detailed records of expenses. If using the regular method, you should be prepared to defend your deduction in the event of an IRS audit.

The IRS says the law requires you to keep all records you used to prepare your tax return for at least three years from the date the return was filed.

What qualifies as a home office deduction?

Things like insurance, utilities, repairs, maintenance, equipment, and rent may qualify as tax deductions.

Photo credit: iStock/Marija Zlatkovic

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