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Hobby Vs. Business Taxes

Hobby Vs. Business Taxes: Everything You Need to Know

It can be hard to determine an expense is for a business or a hobby. If you’re not careful, you could pay more taxes than necessary because of improperly claimed costs.

We’ve created this article to help you understand the differences between a business and a hobby. By following these tips, you’ll be able to claim the deductions that are rightfully yours and keep more money in your pocket.

What is the difference between a hobby and a business?

The difference between a hobby and a business is that business expenses are typically tax-deductible, while hobby expenses are not. This is because the IRS considers a business to be an activity undertaken, with the intention, of making a profit.

In contrast, a hobby is an activity undertaken for personal enjoyment. Businesses can deduct their expenses from their taxes, while individuals cannot do the same for their hobbies.

So, what’s the difference between business and hobby expenses? The answer is quite simple. Business expenses are ordinary and necessary to run your business, such as advertising, office supplies, or travel costs related to doing work. On the other hand, Hobby expenses are costs incurred from hobbies or activities you enjoy outside of work.

Do I have to declare hobby income?

If you earn income from hobby activities, you must declare that income on your tax return. The good news is that you may be able to deduct some of the expenses related to your hobby as long as it doesn’t exceed your hobby income.

For example, suppose you received $5,000 in hobby income and had hobby expenses of $3,000. In that case, you can deduct the $3,000 from your hobby income. 

How much money can you make as a hobby before paying taxes?

To comply with IRS, you must report all hobby income above $0. There isn’t a dollar limit on how much you can make to be tax-exempt. You must report your hobby income on your 1040 income tax return under “Other Income” on Schedule 1, line 8.

At what point does a hobby become a business?

You can turn your hobby into a business at any time without waiting until you make a profit.

A hobby becomes a business when you do the following:

  1. Open a business bank account to keep your finances organized and separate from your personal expenses. 
  2. Register and receive a business license to legitimize your business and protect yourself from legal issues.
  3. Stay organized and efficient by keeping records of your business activities, such as bookkeeping, logs, and documents.
  4. Promoting your business to obtain new clients and leads.
  5. In some cases, maintain a hosting site for your products or services.
  6. Paying federal, state, or local fees and taxes due.

Tips for taxpayers who make money from a hobby

Can an LLC be considered a hobby?

There are many factors the IRS considers when determining whether an activity is a business or a hobby. These factors include whether you are carrying on the activity in a business-like manner or making a profit. The IRS also checks if your losses are due to circumstances beyond your control or if it’s mainly to reduce taxable income.

Your LLC can be classified as a hobby depending on how you’re using the LLC. It is easier to prove business intent if you’re running your Limited Liability Company like an actual business. It will be harder to prove or convince the Internal Revenue Service if you’re not.

A hobby is considered an activity primarily for pleasure and not for profit. If your company doesn’t meet the requirements, it can easily be mistaken for a hobby.

Safe Harbor Rule: Business Vs. Hobby

The IRS safe harbor rules, IRC § 183(d), state that you must meet the three-year profit test. Businesses that receive profit 3 out of 5 consecutive years are presumed to have a for-profit intent. In other words, if a company maintained a profit for three years within the last five years, it may not raise a red flag on whether it is a hobby.

There are exceptions to that rule. For the specific case of horse training, breeding, or racing, the safe harbor rules are extended to a profit in two of the last seven years.

If your LLC is determined to be a hobby by the IRS, you can not deduct your losses from your tax return. You may, however, deduct your hobby losses to the extent of your hobby income. This will allow you to report your net hobby income. Do note hobby losses are lost funds, and you won’t be able to write off those expenses.

How do you prove your business is not a hobby?

There are a few different ways to show that your business is not a hobby. One way is to demonstrate that you have a clear purpose and goal for your business.

Another way is to show that you generate income from your business activities or meet the hobby vs. business test. Finally, you can show that you consistently invest time and resources into growing your business. This could include marketing materials, a website, or plans to expand your company.

Also, you can prove that you are building a small business or are self-employed by following the list mentioned above. This includes opening up a business bank account and keeping detailed records of your income and expenses. Doing so will show that you are sincere about tracking and growing your business.

Hobby income vs. self employed

Do I need to register my hobby as a business?

Registering your hobby with the government can help prove your side- hustle intent as a for-profit. This will give your business an official status and clarify that it is legitimate.

However, if your intent for your hobby activities is not-for-profit, there’s no need to register for a business license. You can enjoy hobby activities without maintaining record-keeping on hobby expenses or preparing financial statements. Remember to keep track of your income to comply with reporting hobby income requirements.

What are some tips for tracking your expenses to report them on your tax return accurately?

You can do a few things to make tracking your expenses easier and more accurate.

  1. Keep all of your receipts organized in one place. You can use a small notebook, excel spreadsheet, accounting software, or an app on your phone to track everything.
  2. Record your expenses as soon as possible after incurring them. This will help you remember what they were for and prevent surprises later.
  3. For business owners, categorize your expenses to see where most of your money is going and run reports monthly. Accurately categorizing expenses and running reports will help you identify areas where you may be able to cut back. Consider hiring a bookkeeper or accountant for assistance.
  4. Review your records periodically to ensure everything is still accurate and up-to-date. Doing so will help you find inconsistencies and errors.

Feel free to click here to download a FREE Expense Report.


Whether you’re building a small business or are an experienced entrepreneur, it’s essential to understand the difference between a hobby and a business. The IRS is always on the lookout for people trying to write off personal expenses as business deductions, so it’s crucial to correctly identify which costs can legitimately be deducted from your taxable income.

What is the difference between a hobby and a business? You’re doing something for fun with a hobby and don’t necessarily expect to make any money. But when you’re running a business, you aim to generate profits. So, while both hobbies and businesses can involve similar activities, the critical distinction is that one is motivated by profit while the other isn’t.

You should keep track of income for best practice as both incomes must be reported to the IRS. To help you keep track of your expenses, we’ve created a free expense report template that you can use to document both business and hobby expenses. Click here to download the report and get started!




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