You Found Something You Enjoy and Realize You Might Be Able To Make Some Money Doing It. Is This a Hobby or a Business?

July 6, 2022

Ephraim Fishman, CPA

Do you collect stamps? Take professional pictures? Have a knack for writing speeches or stories? Help people plan parties? Are these hobbies or actual businesses? According to the IRS “A hobby is any activity that a person pursues because they enjoy it and with no intention of making a profit. People operate a business with the intention of making a profit.” However, the agency acknowledges that you may engage in hobby activities that turn into a source of income.


Determining whether that hobby has grown into a business can be confusing. To help simplify things, the IRS has established factors taxpayers must consider when determining whether their activity is a business or a hobby.


These factors are whether:


  • The taxpayer carries out activity in a businesslike manner and maintains complete and accurate books and records.
  • The taxpayer puts time and effort into the activity to show they intend to make it profitable.
  • The taxpayer depends on income from the activity for their livelihood.
  • The taxpayer has personal motives for carrying out the activity such as general enjoyment or relaxation.
  • The taxpayer has enough income from other sources to fund the activity.
  • Losses are due to circumstances beyond the taxpayer’s control or are normal for the startup phase of their type of business.
  • There is a change to methods of operation to improve profitability.
  • The taxpayer and his or her adviser have the knowledge needed to carry out the activity as a successful business.
  • The taxpayer was successful in making a profit in similar activities in the past.
  • The taxpayer can expect to make a future profit from the appreciation of the assets used in the activity.


All factors, facts and circumstances with respect to the activity must be considered. No one factor is more important than another. In most situations, the IRS will grant a “safe harbor” and only consider an activity as a business if it has turned a profit in at least three of five consecutive years. However, if a taxpayer starts making a profit from an activity that was never intended to be a business, according to the IRS, this income must be reported and is considered taxable.


These issues are not simple and If you are unsure about how to handle your situation, please give us a call and your LMC professional will provide the proper guidance.




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