08 Feb IRS Form 1040 Schedule C: Profit or Loss from Business
IRS Form 1040 Schedule C: Profit or Loss from Business can be a tough form to work through. Tread lightly and seek guidance.
The sole proprietorship or single member Limited Liability Corporation (LLC) is in my opinion the easiest type of business entity to set up and begin operating from an income tax reporting perspective. It is not separate from its owner with the income and expenses reported on IRS Form 1040 Schedule C.
Some people have instant success with a venture that is profitable from the very beginning. However it is more common to be unprofitable in the first 24 to 36 months of operation.
If you are loosing money it is important to remember that you MUST REPORT A PROFIT IN 2 OUT OF THE PREVIOUS 5 TAX YEARS TO AVOID BEING CONSIDERED BY THE IRS TO BE REALLY ENGAGED IN A HOBBY.
The difference between a business and a hobby from the IRS’ perspective is addressed in more detail here.
Losses can be limited basically in three different ways:
1. By the amount of your investment or basis limitation;
2. By the amount you have at risk or at-risk limitation; and
3. By the passive activity loss limitation.
Basis limitations do not apply to sole proprietors as they would with an S corporation shareholder or partner in a partnership. A sole proprietorship is predominantly financed by the proprietors own assets. Two obstacles must be overcome before a Schedule C loss is deductible as addressed in this particular order:
1. The at-risk limitations of IRC Sec. 465; and
2. The passive activity loss limitations of IRC Sec. 469.
The at-risk limitations apply before any loss is limited due to lack of material participation which is a threshold criteria of a passive activity. The proprietor’s at-risk limitation is calculated on IRS Form 6198.
If a taxpayer cannot verify a material-participation level with respect to the Schedule C activity, then being at-risk for the loss is essentially immaterial. The at-risk concept is one that looks at the source of funds for the business. Usually sole proprietors would not be at-risk when:
• The business was financed with non-recourse loans – except for holding real property;
• A valid guarantee or stop-loss agreement is in force; or
• Amounts borrowed for use in the business are from a person with an interest in the business, other than a creditor, or who is related to a person having an interest in the business under IRC Sec. 465(b)(3)(C).
New business owners generally begin using the cash method of accounting. An existing business may qualify to change its accounting method by filing IRS Form 3115 – Application for Change in Accounting Method with its tax return under the automatic consent procedures.
When changing from an accrual to a cash method of accounting usually a negative IRC Sec. 481(a) adjustment is deducted in the year of the change and a positive IRC Sec. 481(a) adjustment is generally reported in income over a four-year period.
Office-in-home deduction items are detailed separately on IRS Form 8829 Expenses for Business Use of Your Home rather than on the expense lines for rent, utilities, interest, etc.
Proper deduction of vehicle expenses includes a decision for utilizing the cents-per-mile deduction or the actual method. Both methods require maintaining a mileage log and an understanding
of which miles are business miles.
Additionally, an understanding of depreciation methods available, which includes knowing the weight of the vehicle, are important. IRC Sec. 179 deductions are limited to income, but regular depreciation, including bonus depreciation, can actually assist in creating or increasing an net operating loss (NOL).
For more on IRS Form 1040 Schedule C: Profit or Loss from Business contact me.