Tips for taxpayers who make money from a hobby

Many people enjoy hobbies that are also a source of income. From painting and pottery to scrapbooking and soap making, these activities can be sources of both fun and finances. Taxpayers who make money from a hobby must report that income on their tax return.

However, the rules for how to report the income and expenses depend on whether the activity is a hobby or a business.

There are special rules and limits for deductions taxpayers can claim for hobbies. Here are five things to consider:

If the activity is a business or a hobby
If someone has a business, they operate the business to make a profit. In contrast, people engage in a hobby for sport or recreation, not to make a profit. Taxpayers should consider nine factors when determining whether their activity is a business or a hobby. They should base their determination on all the facts and circumstances of their activity.

Allowable hobby deductions
Taxpayers can only deduct ordinary and necessary hobby expenses:

  • Ordinary expense is common and accepted for the activity.
  • Necessary expense is appropriate for the activity.

Limits on hobby expenses
Taxpayers can generally only deduct hobby expenses up to the amount of hobby income. If hobby expenses are more than its income, taxpayers have a loss from the activity. However, a hobby loss can’t be deducted from other income.

How to deduct hobby expenses
Taxpayers must itemize deductions on their tax return to deduct hobby expenses. Taxpayers can look into this now to determine if they will itemize their deductions when they file their 2019 tax return next year. Expenses may fall into three types of deductions, and special rules apply to each type.

More Information:
Publication 334, Tax Guide for Small Business
Publication 525, Taxable and Nontaxable Income
Publication 529, Miscellaneous Deductions
Publication 535, Business Expenses 
Publication 17, Your Federal Income Tax
About Schedule C, Profit or Loss from Business
Estimated Taxes