Forbes Discovers -- OIH


I don't know if this counts as a "Well Duh" or not? Forbes Magazine has been champing at the bit over the Office in the Home (OIH) deduction.

It seems Forbes just realized that employees who work from home during the Great Isolation can't claim the OIH deduction - even if they are required to maintain an office at their employer's behest, and even if they do substantially all their work from that home office.

Apparently this grand revelation is "new" to Forbes and its devotees. The truth is, however, that it's not new: The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) repealed the OIH provision as part of its ham-handed baby-and-bathwater approach to budget balancing.

Bottom line - employees can no longer take the OIH deduction because it doesn't exist and hasn't since 2018. [*1] That's hardly "new" in tax code terms.

Forbes goes on to speculate about whether work-from-home employees could take the deduction - if it still existed. [This kind of speculative non-sequitur is pretty much moot. The only bill we know of that addresses the issue, HR 3121 (116), has about a snowball's chance in Hades of enactment. It is also too narrow to do most people any good. (See our posts yesterday re HR 3121.)

As Forbes correctly observes, the major barrier to OIH deductions under the old law was the "regular and exclusive use" test. To fulfill that test, the employee/employers' business must be the sole activity conducted in the OIH. Pet the dog, feed the kid, store your unmentionables in the "office space" -- no deduction. Given what we've observed during the isolation (employees juggling the dog, two children, and the blender while streaming Dr. Who in their "home office" ) very few employees can satisfy the test.[*2]

So, why is Forbes suddenly so het'up over this issue? We can't even pretend to know.

*1] TCJA repealed the IRC Section 67 "miscellaneous deductions" provisions. CA, and a number of other states do not conform to the not-so-recent rule change. You may deduct OIH for income tax purposes on those states' returns - provided you meet all the relevant restrictions.

*2] The Service is/was well aware that employees seldom fulfill this requirement, and those that do often don't maintain records to substantiate compliance. Thus, EBE in general, and OIH in particular, are "Service Hot Buttons" and an "easy adjustment" when agents examine the return. If you represent taxpayers, you can see the agent's enthusiasm. Their eyes light up and glow with that "Slam Dunk" victory light.

#TaxPolicy #TaxComplianceDeductions

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