Basic Tax Tips about Hobbies

NewsMillions of people enjoy hobbies that are also a source of income. Some examples include stamp and coin collecting, craft making, and horsemanship.

You must report on your tax return the income you earn from a hobby. The rules for how you report the income and expenses depend on whether the activity is a hobby or a business. There are special rules and limits for deductions you can claim for a hobby. Here are five tax tips you should know about hobbies:

1. Is it a Business or a Hobby?  A key feature of a business is that you do it to make a profit. You often engage in a hobby for sport or recreation, not to make a profit. You should consider these factors when you determine whether your activity is a hobby. Make sure to base your determination on all the facts and circumstances of your situation.

Question: How do you distinguish between a business and a hobby?


In making the distinction between a hobby or business activity, all facts and circumstances with respect to the activity are taken into account.  No one factor alone is decisive.  The most common factors which should normally be considered to establish that the activity is a business engaged in making a profit are the following:

  • Whether you carry on the activity in a businesslike manner.
  • Whether the time and effort you put into the activity indicate you intend to make it profitable.
  • Whether you depend on income from the activity for your livelihood.
  • Whether your losses are due to circumstances beyond your control (or are normal in the startup phase of your type of business).
  • Whether you change your methods of operation in an attempt to improve profitability.
  • Whether you, or your advisors, have the knowledge needed to carry on the activity as a successful business.
  • Whether you were successful in making a profit in similar activities in the past.
  • Whether the activity makes a profit in some years, and how much profit it makes.
  • Whether you can expect to make a future profit from the appreciation of the assets used in the activity.

Additional information on this topic is available in section 1.183-2 (b) of the Federal Tax Regulations.

2. Allowable Hobby Deductions.  Within certain limits, you can usually deduct ordinary and necessary hobby expenses. An ordinary expense is one that is common and accepted for the activity. A necessary expense is one that is appropriate for the activity.

3. Limits on Hobby Expenses.  Generally, you can only deduct your hobby expenses up to the amount of hobby income. If your hobby expenses are more than your hobby income, you have a loss from the activity. You can’t deduct the loss from your other income.

4. How to Deduct Hobby Expenses.  You must itemize deductions on your tax return in order to deduct hobby expenses. Your expenses may fall into three types of deductions, and special rules apply to each type. See of Publication 535 for the rules about how you claim them on Schedule A, Itemized Deductions.

For more about ‘not-for-profit’ rules see Publication 535, Business Expenses or contact our office.

Excerpt from IRS Summertime Tax Tip 2014-15

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