By Joyce M. Rosenberg, AP Business Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — For many of the people laid off during the recession, the next career move is a home-based business. It might just be an ideal solution for you, but you need to be aware of some caveats in running a company from home.
One is taxes. It's much easier to claim a deduction for a home-based business than it was years ago, when it almost guaranteed a visit from the IRS. But it's still possible to make a mistake, claim too big a deduction, and grab the government's attention. Another pitfall to look out for is insurance. Chances are you'll need to buy additional insurance if you're operating out of your house or apartment.
And, you need to be sure running a business in your home doesn't violate any local laws or any homeowners' association bylaws.
You should take taxes into consideration as you decide where you're going to operate a business. Mark Toolan, a certified public accountant in Exton, Pa., said that the room or space you choose "must be exclusively used for business."
That means you can't claim your entire family room if the kids watch TV and play there too. You might be able to claim the part of the room with your desk and PC, but keep in mind you might need to prove to the IRS that your kids don't sit there for hours at a time playing computer games or visiting Facebook.
Claiming part of your home for business use means you can deduct the part of the mortgage or rent, insurance, maintenance costs and repairs that can be attributed to that space. For example, if your business takes up 10% of your home and you spend $10,000 on home expenses, you can deduct $1,000. If you have a cleaning service and spend $2,500 a year to have your home cleaned, you can deduct $250.
The key word to keep in mind when claiming a home office deduction is "reasonable," a word that actually applies to all the business expenses you claim on your tax return. The IRS will have a sense of how much you should be deducting. If you have a consulting business and you get your roof repaired, the government will look askance at your attempt to deduct half of the bill.