From Tax Tip 2011-53, March 16, 2011 (www.irs.gov):
1. Generally, in order to claim a business deduction for your home, you must use part of your home exclusively and regularly:
It's a new year, and you have a strengthened resolve to get that home-based business up and humming. You've got the business plan, figured out funding, come up with a catchy name and filed your formation paperwork with the state. Maybe you've even dreamed up a logo (or gotten your artist friend to help you out with one). Ordered the biz cards. Website...check. Permits and licenses...check.
But have you thought much about the space where all the entrepreneurial magic is going to happen? At least beyond the fact that you're feeling justifiably happy about not paying out the high rent every month? Are you set up in the dining room with the papers and files (and maybe even inventory) scattered about...ancient PC with the coffee stains on the keyboard...office chair that won't roll anymore? Does the desk double as the kids' art station, or your stamp collection supply area? Maybe you went the other direction, raiding an office supply store with your freshly minted business credit card and purchasing all sorts of bookcases, files, labels, bins, etc. without the foggiest notion of how you're going to pull them all together effectively.
There is nothing at all wrong with setting up in the dining room or guest room, or even an extra large closet. And there's certainly nothing wrong with having adequate office supplies for your needs. The problem comes when you do not carve out and claim your new space as specific to your work and what you need to do there to be successful. More difficulties arise when the space is unplanned, uncomfortable, and inefficient. Admittedly, there are so many other concerns when starting a new business to put your heart into (chief among them, actually running the business) that putting thought into your work space may seem almost wasteful. But the bottom line is, if the space has no real plan, you are taking some risks. You will waste valuable time searching for something important buried in the rubble of paperwork. If you see clients or customers in your home, you may lose credibility with an unkempt space. Finally, you are quite likely to end up not wanting to work in the space at all. The effect of an organized, thoughtful space on motivation is huge.
But where to start, and when? In my next few posts, I will explore some effective and inexpensive ways to get your physical business house in order. There are many guides and books out there to help you with your business setup, but I've not found too many that address the actual home office space configuration (and those that do focus more on interior design ideas). Perhaps this oversight is because it's assumed that anyone can just get started with a computer and a card table - and some people do. Or maybe it just seems too elementary to talk about where to put your phone vs. where to put your post-it notes, but in my experience the small details make a difference.
Home office in the kitchen - it can work.
To get started, shoot me a comment below and tell me about the space that you have chosen for your home office (whether for bringing work home, full-time or part-time business). I'd like to know what kinds of spaces you're choosing, and what considerations led to your choice. Then we can talk about how to make most any space go to work for you.
Sara Skillen - Certified Professional Organizer®, Certified Organizer Coach®, wife, mom, and serial list-maker. Learning to trust my intuition more every day. Shall we work together?