One of the most common expenses for any business are supplies and other office expenses. But it is worthwhile to consider whether you are getting the full amount of the deduction you are entitled to take in a tax year for the expenses you incur.
Obviously, a good accounting system tracks all of your business expenses effectively, but most small businesses have purchases of some type that are either not recorded, overlooked, misclassified or otherwise left out of a full accounting for your taxable income.
This article isn’t meant to address the home office deduction per se, nor is it meant to primarily address office rent, furniture or equipment. Each of these expense items are significant and can be deducted elsewhere on your tax return, and there may be advantages to clearly separating them from your more basic office expenses. Rather, here we are considering the expenses you incur for routine supplies and other office expenses and whether they are deductible.
You are likely to buy things routinely that are used in your office and raise a question about their deductibility. What about coffee and its accompaniments, for example? Less expensive commercial art work? Supplies that are allowed to be used for personal purposes as well as business? How are these to be treated?
To be deductible from taxable income, an expense must be “ordinary and necessary” for the conduct of the business. The rule is further refined by the IRS for some clarity – the expense must be reasonable, and it must “directly pertain” to the operation of the business. It is not deductible if it is simply to make your job easier or more comfortable.
Obviously, this is a fine line of distinction and ultimately, it is up to you, as the taxpayer, to make the decision of whether to take an item as a deduction or to treat as a personal expense – knowing the IRS could later audit your expenses and reach its own conclusions about these items.
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