Deduct Your Investment Expenses

Posted on Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Internet has taken investing to a whole different level: inexpensive online trading and real-time stock market data have made many of us 'armchair investors'. As you actively manage your investments, you will no doubt incur additional expenses. Many of these expenses are deductible investment expenses.

Tax law allows taxpayers to deduct investment expenses if those expenses are ordinary and necessary for the production or collection of income, or for the management, conservation or maintenance of property held for the production of income.

What are investment expenses? Investment expenses are any expenses that you incur as you manage your investments. Some of these expenses are deductible (e.g. professional fees you paid related to investment activities; custodian fees, safe deposit rental; and subscriptions to investment-oriented publications), and some are not (e.g. costs related to tax-exempt securities; trading commissions (these increase the basis of the investment); and certain convention/seminar costs).

Who can deduct investment expenses? Investment expenses can be deducted by most individuals on their personal income tax returns. How these expenses are claimed depends on what type of investor a person is. Generally, investors fall into two categories: casual investor and professional trader.

Casual Investor

This category of investor describes most people actively managing their own investments. Investment expenses (except interest) are claimed on the taxpayer's return as miscellaneous itemized deductions. These expenses can be deductible on the return to the extent that they, when added to other "miscellaneous itemized deductions", exceed 2% of your adjusted gross income (AGI). The actual tax benefits derived from these excess miscellaneous itemized deductions may be further reduced due to AGI limitations for all itemized deductions and the alternative minimum tax (AMT).

In addition to the expenses noted above, if you use your computer extensively in the management of your investments, there are some other expenses to be aware of:

Online fees: You may deduct the portion of your monthly charges paid to your Internet Service Provider (ISP) incurred to manage your investments. If you subscribe to additional online services geared towards investors (e.g. The Wall Street Journal Interactive Edition) where you can follow your investments, these fees are also deductible investment expenses. Trading fees paid to online brokerages (e.g. E*Trade) are not currently deductible but are added to the basis of your investment, which will result in a reduced gain (or increased loss) upon disposition of the asset.

Software: If you purchase software that helps you manage and/or track your investments, the cost of the software may be depreciated over three years, and written off completely in the year of obsolescence. Programs that are useful for one year or less should be expensed in the year purchased, rather than depreciated.

Depreciation: Since the casual investor's investment-related use of a personal computer (and related equipment) is probably less than 50%, the cost of this equipment must be depreciated over five years using the straight-line method. The Section 179 expense deduction is not available for this type of investor.

A word of caution for self-employed individuals: if you use your home office for both business and investment purposes, you run the risk of losing your home office deduction for business purposes. A home office deduction is not available for the investment-related expenses for the casual investor. To claim a deduction for a home office for business purposes, your home office must be used exclusively for business; if you are performing investment activities in the same office space, you've just violated the "exclusive use" test.

Professional Trader

A professional trader is defined by the courts someone in between a dealer and an investor. A professional trader is a person that conducts trading activity focusing on short-term investments in large volumes on a regular and consistent basis, receives no compensation for his services, and does not have any customers. Participating in an investment club or partnership does not qualify a person as a professional trader.

If you meet the tough definition of a professional trader, you will be treated as a self-employed individual and all your investment expenses may be claimed on Schedule C of your return. You can also deduct all of your home office expenses, and you can claim Section 179 expenses for computers and other equipment used more than 50% in your business as a professional trader.

Posted in Tax And Accounting Topics For Business

Disclaimer: The information contained in Dulin, Ward & DeWald’s blog is provided for general educational purposes only and should not be construed as financial or legal advice on any subject matter. Before taking any action based on this information, we strongly encourage you to consult competent legal, accounting or other professional advice about your specific situation. Questions on blog posts may be submitted to your DWD representative.

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