What the IRS Wants You to Know About Your E-bay Income

Many people don’t realize the income they earn from auctions and consignment sales may be taxable.
What’s Taxable
All income from auctions, traditional or online, and consignment sales is generally taxable unless certain exceptions are met. This income is usually considered either “business” or “ordinary” income. Continue reading “What the IRS Wants You to Know About Your E-bay Income”

Identity Theft and Your Tax Records

How can someone steal your identity? Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal information such as your name, Social Security number, or other identifying information, without your permission, to commit fraud or other crimes. Continue reading “Identity Theft and Your Tax Records”

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.

Continue reading “Construction Income and Deductions”

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.