From collecting stamps and woodworking to crafting and quilting, people have all kinds of hobbies – and most of these hobbies will never turn a profit. For hobbies that do earn income, people should know that they must report it on their tax return. They should also be mindful that their hobby might be a business.
Determining whether they should classify the activity as a hobby or a business can be confusing, but the bottom line is that a business operates to make a profit. People pursue hobbies for sport or recreation, not profit. There are a few other things people should consider when determining if their project is a hobby or business. No single consideration is the deciding factor, but taxpayers should review all of them when determining whether their activities are a business.
Here are the things taxpayers should evaluate to decide whether they have a hobby or a business:
• Whether the taxpayer carries out the activity in a businesslike manner and maintains complete and accurate books and records.
• Whether the time and effort the taxpayer puts into the activity show they intend to make it profitable.
• Whether they depend on income from the activity for their livelihood.
• Whether any losses are due to circumstances beyond the taxpayer’s control or are normal for the startup phase of their type of business.
• Whether they change methods of operation to improve profitability.
• Whether the taxpayer and their advisors have the knowledge needed to carry out the activity as a successful business.
• Whether the taxpayer was 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 the taxpayers can expect to make a future profit from the appreciation of the assets used in the activity.
Publication 17, Your Federal Income Tax
Publication 525, Taxable and Nontaxable Income
Publication 535, Business Expenses
Publication 334, Tax Guide for Small Business, For Individuals Who Use Schedule C