Establishing Profit Motive for Business Activities

If you reported losses from one or more business activities, we would like to remind you that the IRS has rules that limit the deductibility of expenses and losses from a hobby or activity not engaged in for profit.


If the IRS determines that an activity is not profit-driven, deductions from the activity are limited to the amount of income the activity generates. Losses from such activities cannot be used to offset other income, such as salary or investments.

 

You must be prepared to show that an activity that generates deductions is a business from which you intend to profit. It is not necessary that the activity actually earns a profit, so long as a profit is one of the motives for participating in the activity.

 

The IRS assumes that an activity is carried on for profit if it makes a profit during at least three of the last five tax years, including the current year, or at least two of the last seven years for activities that consist primarily of breeding, showing, training or racing horses. Otherwise, the IRS applies non-exclusive tests and factors to the surrounding facts to judge whether activities are more like a business with a profit motive, or are for personal satisfaction.

 

To make sure you are properly claiming all of the deductions available to you, and to strengthen your position in the event of an IRS audit, it is important to consider all the facts and circumstances surrounding activities the IRS is likely to challenge.