If you are a freelancer who uses your home as your main place of business, and if you draft and send all your invoice templates from home, you have probably filled out (or will) form 8829 for your self employment tax. This IRS document is titled “Expenses for Business Use of Your Home” and is a common one for self-employed individuals to fill out each tax year. While you probably won’t recognize the form if you use common software services, you are still filling it out; they simply automate the process through a series of questions and answers.
Discover our instructions for using the Form 8829 for your home business!
Before you assume that the form applies to you, there are a few things the IRS wants to ensure before you go claiming any space in your home as a “home office”. The full details of the form are listed on the IRS website, but here are the basics.
You must answer “yes” to one of the following questions to be able to get tax benefits from the form:
If you own a daycare or use your business space to store product inventory, however, exceptions will apply.
It’s also important to qualify your home for a business by how much you use the space. Remember that you can use Bonsai tax to help with identifying tax deductions.
The IRS wants to ensure that you both use it “exclusively and regularly for administrative or management activities” related to your business and that you have no other place where you do a substantial portion of your work.
An example of this would be if you spent 40 hours a week or more doing project work in Starbucks because your house is too small; the IRS would consider the Starbucks to be your principle place of business, disqualifying your home. (Using a hotel room or temporary office space while traveling for business won’t disqualify you, however, since this is not where you do the bulk of your work.)
Since the main purpose of form 8829 is to get a business deduction that you can take from your total earnings – and decrease your taxable income – it’s important that you fill out the form to the best of your ability so that you get the maximum benefit possible. There are many fields on the form that require you to honestly provide details of your work set-up, including:
(Note that “office expenses” and “home expenses” are not the same. You’ll be able to claim the cost of things like office supplies and furniture on another form on your return, but these do not belong on form 8829. The home office expenses are restricted to just those costs associated with your home’s structure and upkeep.)
The form also has a place for a more complicated set of numbers, including your home’s depreciation and carryover of any unallowed expenses from prior years. Your tax advisor should be able to walk you through these issues, but most home business software providers also have appropriate questions addresses these, as well. Don't forget to follow the IRS form 8829 instructions when filling out the form.
Did you know that you can use Bonsai for accounting? Or that Bonsai can help you be prepared for self-employment tax by providing tax estimates, filling date reminders, and identifying your tax write-offs?
Let's see how that works. First, head to your main Bonsai dashboard and have a close look on the left side - we'll be working with the accounting and taxes sections. First click on "Accounting".
Inside the accounting section, you'll see a breakdown of your income and expenses. Both can either be automatically imported from your bank account, or manually added. Work you got paid for via Bonsai will also be registered here.
Make sure this section is properly filled in and click on "Taxes" next.
This is where the magic happens: Bonsai will do all the calculations for you, and we'll provide you with an overview of your tax estimates, a list of tax deductions you can use for the upcoming tax season, and reminders for all the upcoming filling dates.
Simple, right? If you're ready to check out Bonsai and explore all the features, go ahead and sign up for the free trial!
If any of the above made your head spin, you are not alone. In fact, the IRS took a surprising step in 2013 with the introduction of a simpler way to do the home office deduction. The move created a very no-fuss way to get a quick number to input on your tax forms, and saves an estimated 1.6 million hours of administrative work for taxpayers each year. As such, it works for a good number of freelancers who work from home with a modest (less than 300 square foot) office space.
This simplified home office method isn’t done on form 8829 at all, but rather on 6 lines of the Schedule C. This method doesn’t change who qualifies for the deduction. The same rules apply as before regarding your exclusive use of the space and that you do most of your business there. Major highlights of this simplified method are as follows:
Since this method eliminates an entire worksheet and form, it’s very popular among freelancers and those who prepare their own taxes. You can get even more info on this strategy on the IRS’ FAQ page.
Is there any reason to go through the work of taking the more complicated home office deduction? For some, the answer is yes. For those with a very large home office, over 300 square feet, you may get more by itemizing. Daycare providers might fall into this category, as they tend to use a very large portion of their home for use, and it’s not all exclusive. Those who create in a separate structure – such as a workshop -- may fall into this “large” home office category, as well.
Of course, taking the more complicated deduction requires you to track every single expense, as well as document it. The simplified deduction gives you a flat rate, no matter what your expenses are. If you manage to not pay much for your office space, you may come out ahead with a large office that fall under the 300-square foot limit and is relatively affordable to maintain. The simplified method doesn’t ask for itemized examples of your cost, so there is much less recordkeeping involved, as well.
The good news is that you don’t have to figure things out alone. Whether you employ the help of a certified tax professional or use one of the many reputable online tax products out there, the home office deduction has been around long enough for the calculations to be reliable. It takes much of the guesswork away since this is a common form for people to be filing and professionals are used to seeing it. They should be able to try both methods and let you know which one will get you the largest deduction. If you improperly report on your taxes, this could trigger a home office deduction audit.
If you want to give your professional a hand, however (or make your time at the computer less painful), consider getting the following info together before you file:
While you are free to choose whichever method applies to you and saves you the most money, you can’t switch from one method to the other within the same tax year. What about from one year to the next? The IRS explains it this way:
“If you use the simplified method for one year and use the regular method for any subsequent year, you must calculate the depreciation deduction for the subsequent year using the appropriate optional depreciation table. This is true regardless of whether you used an optional depreciation table for the first year the property was used in business.”
The home office deduction is just one of many money-saving tools available to help you keep more of your income and avoid overpaying on taxes. By being prepared far in advance of tax time, you can prevent expensive mistakes. Start planning now for those details that will make April 15th a breeze!
Use Bonsai to manage your freelancing, import expenses, identify tax deductions, and estimate quarterly taxes - sign up for a free trial.
A verbal contract (formally called an oral contract) refers to an agreement between two parties that's made —you guessed it— verbally.
Formal contracts, like those between an employee and an employer, are typically written down. However, some professional transactions take place based on verbally agreed terms.
Freelancers are a good example of this. Often, freelancers will take on projects having agreed on the terms and payment via the phone, or an email. Unfortunately, sometimes clients don't pull through on their agreements, and hardworking freelancers can find themselves out of pocket and wondering whether a legal battle is worth all the hassle.
The main differences between written and oral contracts are that the former is signed and documented, whereas the latter is solely attributed to verbal communication.
Verbal contracts are a bit of a gray area for most people unfamiliar with contract law —which is most of us, right?— due to the fact that there's no physical evidence to support the claims made by the implemented parties.
For any contract (written or verbal) to be binding, there are four major elements which need to be in place. The crucial elements of a contract are as follows:
Therefore, an oral agreement has legal validity if all of these elements are present. However, verbal contracts can be difficult to enforce in a court of law. In the next section, we take a look at how oral agreements hold up in court.
Most business professionals are wary of entering into contracts orally because they can difficult to enforce in the face of the law.
If an oral contract is brought in front of a court of law, there is increased risk of one party (or both!) lying about the initial terms of the agreement. This is problematic for the court, as there's no unbiased way to conclude the case; often, this will result in the case being disregarded. Moreover, it can be difficult to outline contract defects if it's not in writing.
That being said, there are plenty of situations where enforceable contracts do not need to be written or spoken, they're simply implied. For instance, when you buy milk from a store, you give something in exchange for something else and enter into an implied contract, in this case - money is exchanged for goods.
There are some types of contracts which must be in writing.
The Statute of Frauds is a legal statute which states that certain kinds of contracts must be executed in writing and signed by the parties involved. The Statute of Frauds has been adopted in almost all U.S states, and requires a written contract for the following purposes:
Typically, a court of law won't enforce an oral agreement in any of these circumstances under the statute. Instead, a written document is required to make the contract enforceable.
Contract law is generally doesn't favor contracts agreed upon verbally. A verbal agreement is difficult to prove, and can be used by those intent on committing fraud. For that reason, it's always best to put any agreements in writing and ensure all parties have fully understood and consented to signing.
Verbal agreements can be proven with actions in the absence of physical documentation. Any oral promise to provide the sale of goods or perform a service that you agreed to counts as a valid contract. So, when facing a court of law, what evidence can you provide to enforce a verbal agreement?
Unfortunately, without solid proof, it may be difficult to convince a court of the legality of an oral contract. Without witnesses to testify to the oral agreement taking place or other forms of evidence, oral contracts won't stand up in court. Instead, it becomes a matter of "he-said-she-said" - which legal professionals definitely don't have time for!
If you were to enter into a verbal contract, it's recommended to follow up with an email or a letter confirming the offer, the terms of the agreement , and payment conditions. The more you can document the elements of a contract, the better your chances of legally enforcing a oral contract.
Another option is to make a recording of the conversation where the agreement is verbalized. This can be used to support your claims in the absence of a written agreement. However, it's always best to gain the permission of the other involved parties before hitting record.
Fundamentally, most verbal agreements are legally valid as long as they meet all the requirements for a contract. However, if you were to go to court over one party not fulfilling the terms of the contract, proving that the interaction took place can be extremely taxing.
So, ultimately, the question is: written or verbal agreements?
Any good lawyer, contract law firm, or legal professional would advise you to make sure you formalize any professional agreement with a written agreement. Written contracts provide a secure testament to the conditions that were agreed and signed by the two parties involved. If it comes to it, a physical contract is much easier to eviden in legal circumstances.
Freelancers, in particular, should be aware of the extra security that digital contracts may provide. Many people choose to stick to executing contracts verbally because they're not sure how to write a contract, or they think writing out the contract terms is too complicated or requires expensive legal advice. However, this is no longer the case.
Today, we have a world of resources available at our fingertips. The internet is a treasure trove of invaluable information, platforms, and software that simplifies our lives. Creating, signing, and sending contracts has never been easier. What's more, you don't have to rely on a hiring a lawyer to explain all that legal jargon anymore.
There are plenty of tools available online for freelancers to use for guidance when drafting digital contracts. Tools like Bonsai provide a range of customizable, vetted contract templates for all kinds of freelance professionals. No matter what industry you're operating in, Bonsai has a professional template to offer.
A written contract makes the agreement much easier to prove the terms of the agreement in case something were to go awry. The two parties involved can rest assured that they're legal rights are protected, and the terms of the contract are sufficiently documented. Plus, it provides both parties with peace of mind to focus on the tasks at hand.
Bonsai's product suite for freelancers allows users to make contracts from scratch, or using professional templates, and sign them using an online signature maker.
With Bonsai, you can streamline and automate all of the boring back-office tasks that come with being a freelancer. From creating proposals that clients can't say no to, to sealing the deal with a professional contract - Bonsai will revolutionize the way you do business as a freelancer.
Why not secure your business today and sign up for a free trial?