Can I Claim Rent Payments on My Taxes?

by Tara Thomas ; Updated March 15, 2018

Taxpayers who take a standard deduction cannot claim rent payments on their federal tax return. However, if you’re self-employed – and rent dedicated office space or have a home office – then the IRS allows you to deduct all or a portion of your rent if certain criteria are met. The IRS is very clear regarding who may claim deductions of rent payments on taxes. Renters can’t deduct mortgage interest or property taxes on their rental like homeowners, because they do not own the property. But, if your lease agreement states that some of your rent goes towards property taxes, then you are able to deduct this amount on your personal tax return.

Can You Claim a Home Office Deduction?

Self-employment definitely has its perks. Being able to write off some of your business expenses when you go to file taxes, is one of them. While the IRS does not allow you to claim a straight deduction of rent for home offices if you also use a portion for living, you can claim some of your rent or utilities payments if you use a dedicated portion of your home in the course of doing business.

IRS Publication 535, Business Expenses, details the criteria that must be met before you’re able to claim any deductions on rent or leases. For home office use, the IRS states that, “In general, you can deduct rent as an expense only if the rent is for prop­erty you use in your trade or business.” But, because you’re likely not using your entire residence as an office, you’re able to deduct only the amount of space you use.

A simplified way to determine this amount is to calculate the square footage of the room in which you conduct your business. Next, divide this square footage by the square footage of your entire home. This will give you the percentage of rent you may deduct. For example, if your home office uses 150 square feet of space, and your home's total square footage is 2,000, then you would divide 150 by 2,000 for a total of 7.5 percent. This is the amount of your year's total rent you can deduct for a home office space.

Claiming a home office deduction can be tricky, but to do so, use line 30 on Schedule C, or Schedule C-EZ, of Form 1040. There are many rules and tests the IRS uses to determine if you are able to claim these deductions or not. Consult with an experienced tax adviser, and familiarize yourself with IRS Publication 535 for specific criteria that must be met before deciding to claim a home office deduction.

Deducting Dedicated Office Space

Some of the same rules apply for dedicated office spaces that apply to home offices. The IRS allows businesses to write off expenses incurred during the normal course of conducting business. Having a physical location to store inventory, hold meetings and perform the daily operations of your business is considered one of these expenses.

However, since you will not be using any of this space for living quarters, you’re able to deduct 100 percent of your lease or rent payments because you are using 100 percent of the space for business. Although, there are special rules in place if you pay your lease in advance.

You will need to claim your dedicated office space deduction on line 20b of schedule C or Schedule C-EZ. As with the home office deduction, you should first check to make sure you’re eligible to claim it. Your tax preparer will be able to assist you in selecting which deductions your business is able to claim.

About the Author

Tara Thomas has been a writer and traveler since 1997. Her articles appear in various online publications. She also has experience authoring grant proposals for a Southern California marine science laboratory, which helped her develop a lifelong interest in environmentalism. Thomas is an event planner, has a Bachelor of Science in marine biology from California State University, Long Beach, and worked as a mortgage consultant since 1998.

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