Construction Income and Deductions


Contractors, subcontractors, and workers must pay taxes on income received for all work, including side jobs and work that is paid for with cash. This includes work in exchange for credit on a bill. It also includes work that is done in exchange for goods or services in a barter exchange. You are required to report your income even if a Form 1099 or a W-2 is not issued to you.

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Rental Property Income and Deductions

Rental Income

In the simplest terms, rental income is any payment received for the use or occupation of property. Most landlords operate on a cash basis. That means they count payments as income in the period they are received and deduct expenses in the period they are paid.

Landlords also need to be aware of other forms of rental income that may need to be declared. Rental income may also include:

  • Advance rent payments
  • Early-termination fees on lease agreements
  • Expenses paid by tenant for the landlord (These may also be deductible as rental expenses.)
  • Property or services received in lieu of money (This is based on the fair market value of the property or services.)
  • Lease payments with option to buy (These payments are usually counted at rental income. If the tenant buys the property, payments received after the sale date are generally counted as part of the selling price.)
  • Payments for renting a portion of your home may or may not be taxable income depending on certain thresholds. See IRS Publication 527, Residential Rental Property.

Security deposits are not counted as income if they are to be refunded at the end of a lease period per an agreement. Landlords sometimes retain portions of security deposits because tenants don’t live up to the terms of a lease. Any funds withheld from a deposit are counted as income in the year they are retained. Deposits used as final lease payments are considered advance rents and counted as income in the period they are received.

Rental Expenses

Landlords can deduct the ordinary and necessary expenses for managing, conserving, and maintaining their rental property. Ordinary expenses are those that are common and generally accepted in the business. Necessary expenses are those that are deemed appropriate, such as interest, taxes, advertising, maintenance, utilities and insurance.  

Other deductible expenses may include:

  • Expenses incurred from the time a property is made available for rent and is actually rented.
  • Some or all of the original investment in the rental property may be recovered through depreciation using Form 4562, Depreciation and Amortization. Subsequent improvements may also be depreciated.
  • The cost of repairs may also be deductible. This may include the cost of labor and materials. However, landlords cannot deduct the value of their own labor.

Improvements that add to the value of a property or prolong its useful life are considered capital expenses and generally must be depreciated. Discussion about whether an expense is an improvement or a repair is included in Publication 946, How to Depreciate Property.

Expenses may be deductible on rental property also used for personal use, but only on a proportional basis. Landlords are permitted to use any reasonable method for calculating what portion of a property should be considered rental. Using square footage is a common method and frequently the most accurate.

Some property is rented out at times and used for personal use other times, such as a beach house. In this case, deductible expenses must be calculated based on the number of days the property is used for each purpose. Deductible rental expenses can not exceed gross rental income for property used for both personal use and as a rental in a given year.

Expenses incurred while property is vacant but available for rent may be deductible. Lost rental income while a property is vacant is not deductible.

Information on other rental expenses and reporting requirements is available in Publication 527.

Reporting Capital Gains

Almost everything you own and use for personal purposes, pleasure, business or investment is a capital asset, including:

Your home

Household furnishings

Stocks or bonds

Coin or stamp collections

Gems and jewelry

Gold, silver or any other metal, and

Business property

Understanding Basis

The difference between the amount for which you sell the capital asset and your basis, which is usually what you paid for it, is a capital gain or a capital loss. You have a capital gain if you sell the asset for more than your basis. You have a capital loss if you sell the asset for less than your basis.

Your basis is generally your cost plus improvements. You must keep accurate records that show your basis. Your records should show the purchase price, including commissions; increases to basis, such as the cost of improvements; and decreases to basis, such as depreciation, non-dividend distributions on stock, and stock splits.

While all capital gains are taxable and must be reported on your tax return, only capital losses on investment or business property are deductible. Losses on sales of personal
property are not deductible. More information about increases and decreases to basis can be found in Publication 551, Basis of Assets.

Schedule D

Capital gains and deductible capital losses are reported on Form 1040, Schedule D, Capital Gains and Losses, and then transferred to line 13 of Form 1040, U.S. Individual Income Tax Return. Capital gains and losses are classified as long-term or short term. If you hold the asset for more than one year, your capital gain or loss is long-term. If you hold the asset one year or less, your capital gain or loss is short-term. To figure the holding period, begin counting on the day after you received the property and include the day you disposed of the property.

You may have to make estimated tax payments if you have a taxable capital gain. Refer to Publication 505, Tax Withholding and Estimated Tax, for additional information.

Other Rules

Home –– If you sell your residence, you may be able to exclude from income any gain up to a limit of $250,000 ($500,000 on a joint return in most cases). To exclude the gain, you must have owned and lived in the property as your main home for at least 2 years during the 5-year period ending on the date of sale. Generally, you cannot exclude gain on the sale of your home if, during the 2-year period ending on the date of the sale, you sold another home at a gain and excluded all or part of that gain. If you cannot exclude gain, you must include it in income. To determine the maximum dollar limit you can exclude and for additional information, refer to Publication 523, Selling Your Home. You cannot deduct a loss on the sale of your home.

Property outside U.S. –– U.S. citizens who sell property located outside the United States must also report gains from these sales, unless the property is exempt by U.S. law. Reporting is required whether you reside inside or outside the United States and whether or not you receive a Form 1099 from the payer.

Installment sales –– If you sold property (other than publicly traded stocks or securities) at a gain and will receive any payments in a year after the year of sale, you generally must report the sale on the installment method using Form 6252, Installment Sale Income.  You can elect out of the installment method by reporting the entire gain in the year of sale.

Investment Transactions –– Gains from sales and trades of stocks, bonds, or certain commodities are usually reported to you on Form 1099-B, Proceeds From Broker and Barter Exchange Transactions, or an equivalent statement.  Your basis, the sales price, and the resulting capital gain or loss is entered on Form 1040, Schedule D, Capital Gains and Losses. 

Gains from the sale of business property are reported on Form 4797, Sales of Business Property and flow to Form 1040, Schedule D.  See Publication 544, Sales and Other Dispositions of Assets for additional information on the sale of business property.

Capital gain distributions from mutual funds are reported to you on Form 1099-DIV, Dividends and Distributions.  Capital gain distributions are taxed as long-term capital gains regardless of how long you have owned the shares in the mutual funds.  If capital gain distributions are automatically reinvested, the reinvested amount is the basis of the additional shares purchased.

For additional information about reporting gains from investments see Publication 17, Your Federal Income Tax; Publication 550, Investment Income and Expenses; and Publication 564, Mutual Fund Distributions. Answers to Frequently Asked Questions about capital gains may also be


Farm Income and Deductions

Income Sources

Farmers may receive income from many sources, but the most common source is the sale of livestock, produce, grains, and other products raised or bought for resale. The entire amount a farmer receives, including money and the fair market value of any property or services, is reported on IRS Schedule F, Profit or Loss From Farming.

Bartering is another income source for farmers. Bartering occurs when farm products are traded for other farm products, property, someone else’s labor or personal items. For example, if a farmer helps another farmer build a barn and receives a cow for his work, the recipient of the cow must report its fair market value as ordinary income. If the farmer uses this cow for business purposes, he may be able to claim depreciation over its useful life as well as deduct the expenses incurred for the cow. However, if the cow is for personal use, no depreciation or expenses for the cow would be deductible.
Other income sources include:

  • Cooperative distributions
  • Agricultural program payments
  • Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) loans
  • Crop insurance proceeds and federal crop disaster payments
  • Custom hire (machine work) income

Deductible Expenses

The ordinary and necessary costs of operating a farm for profit are deductible business expenses.  An ordinary expense is an expense that is common and accepted in the business. A necessary expense is one that is appropriate for the business.

Among the deductible expenses are amounts paid to farm labor. If a farmer pays his child to do farm work and a true employer-employee relationship exists, reasonable wages or other compensation paid to the child is deductible. The wages are included in the child’s income, and the child may have to file an income tax return. These wages may also be subject to social security and Medicare taxes if the child is age 18 or older.

Another deductible expense is depreciation. Farmers can depreciate most types of tangible property –– except land –– such as buildings, machinery, equipment, vehicles, certain livestock and furniture. Farmers can also depreciate certain intangible property, such as copyrights, patents, and computer software. To be depreciable, the property must

  • Be property the farmer owns
  • Be used in the farmer’s business or income-producing activity
  • Have a determinable life
  • Have a useful life that extends substantially beyond the year placed in service

Some expenses paid during the tax year may be partly personal and partly business.  Examples include gasoline, oil, fuel, water, rent, electricity, telephone, automobile upkeep, repairs, insurance, interest and taxes. Farmers must allocate these expenses between their business and personal parts. Generally, the personal part of these expenses is not deductible.

For example, a farmer paid $1,500 for electricity during the tax year. He used one-third of the electricity for personal purposes and two-thirds for farming. Under these circumstances, two-thirds of the electricity expense, or $1,000, is deductible as a farm business expense. Records must be maintained to document the business portion of the expense. 

Information about other deductible expenses and reporting requirements can be found in IRS Publication 225, Farmer’s Tax Guide.

Deducting Travel, Entertainment and Gift Expenses

The Internal Revenue Service reminds taxpayers that there are specific guidelines to be followed when deducting travel, entertainment and gift expenses.In order to educate taxpayers regarding their filing obligations, this fact sheet, the eighth in a series, explains the rules for deducting these expenses. Travel, entertainment and gift expenses account for just part of the overstated adjustments, deductions, exemptions and credits that add up to $30 billion per year in unpaid taxes, according to IRS estimates.

In general, taxpayers may deduct ordinary and necessary business-related expenses for traveling away from home, entertaining clients and customers and giving gifts to customers, employees and others with whom they have a business association. An ordinary expense is an expense that is common and accepted in the taxpayer’s trade or business. A necessary expense is one that is appropriate for the business.

Taxpayers who deduct these expenses must exclude personal expenses when computing their deductions and must have documentation for the expense, including statement of the business purpose, names of the persons being entertained, date and location. In addition, generally only 50 percent of business meal and entertainment expenses can be deducted.


Taxpayers who travel away from home on business may deduct related expenses, including the cost of reaching their destination, the cost of lodging and meals and other ordinary and necessary expenses. Taxpayers are considered “traveling away from home” if their duties require them to be away from home substantially longer than an ordinary day’s work and they need to sleep or rest to meet the demands of their work. The actual cost of meals and incidental expenses may be deducted or the taxpayer may use a standard meal allowance and reduced recordkeeping requirements. Regardless of the method used, meal deductions are generally limited to 50 percent as stated earlier.  Only actual costs for lodging may be claimed as an expense and receipts must be kept for documentation. Expenses must be reasonable and appropriate; deductions for extravagant expenses are not allowable. More information is available in Publication 463, Travel, Entertainment, Gift, and Car Expenses.


Expenses for entertaining clients, customers or employees may be deducted if they are both ordinary and necessary and meet one of the following tests:

  • Directly-related test: The main purpose of the entertainment activity is the conduct of business, business was actually conducted during the activity and the taxpayer had more than a general expectation of getting income or some other specific business benefit at some future time.
  • Associated test: The entertainment was associated with the active conduct of the taxpayer’s trade or business and occurred directly before or after a substantial business discussion.

Publication 463 provides more extensive explanation of these tests as well as other limitations and requirements for deducting entertainment expenses.


Taxpayers may deduct some or all of the cost of gifts given in the course of their trade or business. In general, the deduction is limited to $25 for gifts given directly or indirectly to any one person during the tax year. More discussion of the rules and limitations can be found in Publication 463.


Tax Return Preparer Fraud

Return preparer fraud generally involves the preparation and filing of false income tax returns by preparers who claim inflated personal or business expenses, false deductions, unallowable credits or excessive exemptions on returns prepared for their clients. This includes inflated requests for the special one-time refund of the long-distance telephone tax. Preparers may also manipulate income figures to obtain tax credits, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit, fraudulently.

In some situations, the client (taxpayer) may not have knowledge of the false expenses, deductions, exemptions and/or credits shown on their tax returns. However, when the IRS detects the false return, the taxpayer — not the return preparer — must pay the additional taxes and interest and may be subject to penalties.

The IRS Return Preparer Program focuses on enhancing compliance in the return-preparer community by investigating and referring criminal activity by return preparers to the Department of Justice for prosecution and/or asserting appropriate civil penalties against unscrupulous return preparers.

While most preparers provide excellent service to their clients, the IRS urges taxpayers to be very careful when choosing a tax preparer. Taxpayers should be as careful as they would be in choosing a doctor or a lawyer. It is important to know that even if someone else prepares a tax return, the taxpayer is ultimately responsible for all the information on the tax return.

Helpful Hints When Choosing a Return Preparer

  • Be careful with tax preparers who claim they can obtain larger refunds than other preparers.
  • Avoid preparers who base their fee on a percentage of the amount of the refund.
  • Stay away from preparers who claim that many, if not most, phone customers can get hundreds of dollars or more back under the telephone tax refund program.
  • Use a reputable tax professional who signs your tax return and provides you with a copy for your records.
  • Consider whether the individual or firm will be around to answer questions about the preparation of your tax return months, or even years, after the return has been filed.
  • Review your return before you sign it and ask questions on entries you don’t understand.
  • No matter who prepares your tax return, you (the taxpayer) are ultimately responsible for all of the information on your tax return. Therefore, never sign a blank tax form.
  • Find out the person’s credentials. Only attorneys, CPAs and enrolled agents can represent taxpayers before the IRS in all matters including audits, collection and appeals. Other return preparers may only represent taxpayers for audits of returns they actually prepared.
  • Find out if the preparer is affiliated with a professional organization that provides its members with continuing education and resources and holds them to a code of ethics.
  • Ask questions. Do you know anyone who has used the tax professional? Were they satisfied with the service they received?

Reputable preparers will ask to see your receipts and will ask you multiple questions to determine your qualifications for expenses, deductions and other items. By doing so, they are trying to help you avoid penalties, interest or additional taxes that could result from an IRS examination.  

Further, tax evasion is a risky crime, a felony, punishable by five years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine.

Criminal Investigation Statistical Information on Return Preparer Fraud


FY 2006

FY 2005

FY 2004

Investigations Initiated




Prosecution Recommendations












Incarceration Rate*   




Avg. Months to Serve




*Incarceration may include prison time, home confinement, electronic monitoring or a combination.

Criminal and Civil Legal Actions

Some return preparers have been convicted of, or have pleaded guilty to, felony charges.

Additionally, the courts have issued 175 permanent injunctions against abusive tax scheme promoters and abusive return preparers since 2003. The following case summaries are excerpts from public record documents on file in the court records in the judicial district in which the legal actions were filed.

California Tax Preparers Sentenced to Prison Terms for Operating Tax Fraud Schemes

On Oct. 6, 2006, in San Diego, Calif., Susan E. O’Brien, a professional tax preparer who operated “The O’Brien Group,” was sentenced to ten years and five months in prison and ordered to pay $113,179 in restitution. She was convicted on May 2, 2006, for tax evasion, defrauding the United States and aiding and assisting in the filing of fraudulent tax returns. Co-defendants Robert Richard Evans and William Dean Cook were also sentenced to prison terms of 78 and 24 months, respectively. In July 2003, O’Brien, Evans, Cook and five others were charged in a 78 count indictment with various tax crimes related to tax years 1996-2002. According to the indictment and trial evidence, O’Brien prepared numerous income tax returns that claimed false business deductions and Evans promoted, sold and managed domestic trusts used by clients to hide their income and assets from the IRS. O’Brien also was convicted of evading the payment of tax on her own income. The tax evasion scheme resulted in a tax loss to the United States  of more than $1 million.

Two Sentenced for Preparing False Tax Returns

On Sept. 20, 2006, in Monroe, La., Eddie Ferrand and William Kennedy were sentenced for aiding and assisting in the preparation of false income tax returns and conspiracy. Ferrand was sentenced to 60 months in prison to be followed by three years supervised release. Ferrand was also ordered to pay $255,890 in restitution to the IRS and a $900 assessment. Kennedy was sentenced to 27 months in prison to be followed by three years supervised release. Kennedy was also ordered to pay $39,020 in restitution to the IRS and an $800 assessment. According to the indictment, Ferrand, as the owner and operator of Mr. Ed’s Tax Service, hired, trained and supervised tax preparers employed at Mr. Ed’s, including co-defendant Kennedy. Ferrand, Kennedy and other co-defendants prepared income tax returns and amended prior year returns by inflating Schedule A deductions and creating false Schedule C businesses in order to increase taxpayer’s refund. The defendants prepared more than three thousand returns expanding over 26 states and generating refunds in excess of $6 million.

Minnesota Tax Preparer Sentenced for Filing False Tax Returns

On March 23, 2006, in Minneapolis, Minn., Richard Reiss was sentenced to 41 months in prison for aiding and assisting in the preparation of 84 false tax returns. Reiss was also ordered to pay a $7,500 criminal fine and $198,958 in back taxes. Reiss prepared tax returns for more than 30 clients and claimed fraudulent and false deductions such as unreimbursed employee business expenses, mileage expenses, meals and entertainment, charitable contributions, medical expenses and tax preparation fees, and business losses resulting from business expenses that were fabricated or inflated. In total, he overstated expenses and deductions for numerous clients by more than $1 million, which resulted in tax losses of about $198,000.

Tax Preparer Who Used Bogus Business Losses to Wipe Out Clients’ Income Taxes Sentenced to 11 Years in Prison

On Feb. 21, 2006, in Los Angeles, Calif., James Earl Wynn was sentenced to 11 years in federal prison following his April 22, 2005 conviction of 24 counts of aiding and advising in the preparation of false income tax returns. Evidence presented in court showed that Wynn solicited his clients by telling them that he operated a number of businesses in which they could invest. Wynn told his clients that if the businesses turned a loss, the clients could claim the loss on their tax return. As part of this arrangement, Wynn offered to prepare the clients’ tax returns charging his clients a percentage of their tax refunds in addition to a return preparation fee. Wynn did not tell his clients that many of the businesses listed on their tax returns did not exist at all. None of the businesses listed on their tax returns as part of the tax fraud scheme ever existed as a partnership, ever filed a partnership tax return or ever sustained the losses claimed on the taxpayers’ returns. Wynn caused more than 2,000 tax returns to be filed with the IRS claiming more than $75 million in false partnership losses. The tax loss to the government exceeded $10 million. On July 18, 2005, Linda M. Hall, who once worked for Wynn, was sentenced to 70 months imprisonment and was ordered to pay restitution of $6,339,023.

Rockford Tax Preparer Sentenced to 56 Months in Federal Prison for Preparing False Tax Returns

On Feb. 13, 2006, in Rockford, Ill., John H. Bell was sentenced to 56 months in prison, followed by one year supervised release, for preparing false federal income tax returns for others and for filing a false federal income tax return for himself. According to the indictment, Bell, the owner of Bell’s Income Tax Service and of Real Estate Investors (REI) #2462, Inc., prepared false income tax returns for others. In order to support the returns, Bell attached W-2s to the returns that falsely stated the amounts of income the taxpayers received from REI and falsely stated the REI had withheld federal income tax from the taxpayers when, in fact, no such taxes had been withheld by Bell or his corporation. The indictment also charged that Bell filed an income tax return for himself that falsely stated that $8,360 in federal income tax had been withheld from him, when no federal income tax had been withheld by REI. As a result of his own false return, Bell wrongfully attempted to obtain a refund of $8,701.

Former City of Houston Employee Sentenced to Prison

On Jan. 27, 2006, in Houston, Tex., Jerome Harris was sentenced to 57 months in prison followed by one year supervised release. The judge further ordered that, effective immediately, Harris be prohibited from preparing tax returns or assisting tax payers in audits. Harris was convicted of 21 counts of willfully preparing fraudulent income tax returns for his clients in September 2005. Harris, a full time employee for the City of Houston, also owned and operated Jay’s Bookkeeping and Tax Service, located at his residence. It was found that Harris had prepared hundreds of false tax returns for the 1995 through 2000 tax years, resulting in claims for fraudulent tax refunds by his clients totaling almost $1.3 million.

Michigan Man Sentenced For Preparing Tax Returns in Violation of Court Order

On Feb. 16, 2006, in Grand Rapids, Mich., Robert L. Mosher, of Cedar Springs, Mich., was sentenced to 105 days in prison for contempt of court after violating injunctions that barred him from preparing tax returns for customers. Two injunctions were obtained after the Justice Department sued Mosher in 2003 for promoting a tax scheme involving sham trusts and preparing fraudulent returns understating customers’ tax liabilities. Mosher continued to prepare income tax returns after these orders were entered.

Federal Court Permanently Shuts Down Louisiana Tax Preparer

On April 18, 2006, Eddie Ferrand of Monroe, La., and two of his employees, Glenda Faye Elliott of Monroe, La., and William Nathaniel Kennedy of Rayville, La., were permanently barred from preparing tax returns. The court found that Ferrand, Elliott and Kennedy regularly understated customers’ tax liabilities, by claiming false dependents, reporting fictitious business expenses and deductions and inflating other deductions.

Federal Judge Stops Tax Refund Fraud by Two Florida Tax Return Preparers

On Aug. 8, 2006, a federal court permanently barred Jean-Marie Boucicaut and Marie Thelemarque of Orlando, Fla., and Boucicaut’s company, Tax Review Corporation, from preparing federal tax returns for others. The court found that the defendants filed amended income tax returns for persons without their authorization and directed the IRS to send the requested refund checks to them.

Federal Court Bars Louisiana Tax Preparers from Claiming Inflated Deductions on Income Tax ReturnsOn Oct. 5, 2006, in New Orleans, La., Rodney G. Bourg and Cynthia M. Bourg of Houma, La., were permanently barred from preparing federal income tax returns claiming inflated deductions or asserting unrealistic positions. The court found the Bourgs prepared federal income tax returns with improper per diem expense deductions for customers who worked as mariners, fishermen, merchant seamen and ferry workers.

Where Do You Report Suspected Tax Fraud Activity?

If you suspect tax fraud or know of an abusive return preparer, report this activity using IRS Form 3949-A, Information Referral. You can download Form 3949-A from this Web site or call 1-800-829-3676 to order by mail. Send the completed form, or a letter detailing the alleged fraudulent activity, to Internal Revenue Service, Fresno, CA 93888. Please include specific information about who you are reporting, the activity you are reporting and how you became aware of it, when the alleged violation took place, the amount of money involved and any other information that might be helpful to an investigation. Although you are not required to identify yourself, it is helpful to do so. Your identity can be kept confidential. You may also be entitled to a reward.

Related Items:

Deducting “Other” Business Expenses

The Internal Revenue Service has issued a number of educational fact sheets reminding taxpayers to know the rules for deducting several specific business expenses. This fact sheet, the tenth in the series, reminds taxpayers to follow appropriate guidelines when deducting expenses that fall under the category of “Other” on the Schedule C, Profit or Loss from Business.

“Other” business expenses account for just part of the overstated adjustments, deductions, exemptions and credits that add up to $30 billion per year in unpaid taxes, according to IRS estimates.

In general, taxpayers may deduct ordinary and necessary expenses incurred in conducting a trade or business. An ordinary expense is an expense that is common and accepted in the taxpayer’s trade or business. A necessary expense is one that is appropriate for the business. Although many common expenses are deducted on designated lines of the tax schedule, some expenses may not fit into a particular category. Taxpayers can deduct these as “other” expenses. A breakdown of “other” expenses must be listed on line 48 of Form 1040 Schedule C. The total is then entered on line 27.

Examples of “other” expenses include:

  • Amortization of certain costs, such as pollution-control facilities, research and experimentation, and intangibles including goodwill.
  • Bad debts. Business bad debts must be directly related to sales or services provided by the business, must have been previously included in income and must be worthless (non-recoverable). If a taxpayer deducts a bad debt expense and later recovers it, the amount must be included in income in the year collected.
  • Business start-up costs. These are costs related to creating an active trade or business, or investigating the creation or acquisition of an active trade or business. Generally these costs are amortized. However, taxpayers who started a business in 2006 may elect to deduct up to $5,000 of certain start up costs, subject to limitations. Refer to chapter 7 of Publication 535, Business Expenses, for more information.
  • Gulf Opportunity (GO) Zone clean-up costs.  Fifty percent of qualified clean-up costs for the removal of debris from, or the demolition of structures on, real property located in the GO Zone which are paid or incurred in 2006 are deductible as “other” expenses.  The property must be held for use in a trade or business, for the production of income, or as inventory.  

Personal, living and family expenses, do not qualify as deductible “other” business expenses.

Further information is available in IRS Publication 535, Business Expenses.


  • IRS Publication 535, Business Expenses ( html, pdf)