Do you make money from a hobby? Know these tax tips

Jul 15, 2019

This article was first published by the IRS and has been reproduced with permission. Subscribe to IRS tax tips here.

Many people enjoy hobbies that are also a source of income. From painting and pottery, to scrapbooking and soap-making, these activities can be sources of both fun and finances. Taxpayers who make money from a hobby must report that income on their tax return.

However, the rules for how to report the income and expenses depend on whether the activity is a hobby or a business.

There are special rules and limits for deductions taxpayers can claim for hobbies. Here are five things to consider:

1) If the activity is a business or a hobby

If someone has a business, they operate the business to make a profit. In contrast, people engage in a hobby for sport or recreation, not to make a profit. Taxpayers should consider nine factors when determining whether their activity is a business or a hobby. They should base their determination on all the facts and circumstances of their activity.

2) Allowable hobby deductions

Taxpayers can only deduct ordinary and necessary hobby expenses:

  • Ordinary expense is common and accepted for the activity.
  • Necessary expense is appropriate for the activity.

3) Limits on hobby expenses

Taxpayers can generally only deduct hobby expenses up to the amount of hobby income. If hobby expenses are more than its income, taxpayers have a loss from the activity. However, a hobby loss can’t be deducted from other income.

4) How to deduct hobby expenses

Taxpayers must itemize deductions on their tax return to deduct hobby expenses. Taxpayers can look into this now to determine if they will itemize their deductions when they file their 2019 tax return next year. Expenses may fall into three types of deductions, and special rules apply to each type.

5) Use IRS Free File

Hobby rules can be complex. IRS Free File can make filing a tax return easier.


More Information:

Publication 334, Tax Guide for Small Business

Publication 525, Taxable and Nontaxable Income

Publication 529, Miscellaneous Deductions

Publication 535, Business Expenses

Publication 17, Your Federal Income Tax

About Schedule C, Profit or Loss from Business

Estimated Taxes

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