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Where Is Your Principal Place of Business?

Heather D Satterley

Heather D Satterley

EA, Advanced QuickBooks ProAdvisor, Member Intuit Trainer/Writer Network at Satterley Training & Consulting, LLC
Heather Satterley is founder of Satterley Training & Consulting, LLC - a firm dedicated to helping accounting professionals learn and implement QuickBooks and related applications. She works with sole practitioners and teams to streamline internal processes as well as consulting on a variety of client engagements.

With over 20 years experience as a bookkeeper, accountant and enrolled agent, Heather has helped thousands of small business owners and accounting professionals sharpen their skills and increase their confidence with accounting technology. As a member of the Intuit Trainer/Writer network, Heather teaches QuickBooks to accounting professionals all over the country via live training events, webinars, and conferences.
Heather D Satterley

When you operate in different locations, it can be confusing to determine your principal place of business. Some businesses have multiple store locations in different cities or states, and some smaller businesses operate out of a home or spend most of their time on the road visiting customers.

In fact, with the recent surge in individuals working for on-demand services companies like Uber and TaskRabbit, more and more taxpayers are faced with the challenge of trying to figure out where exactly is their principal place of business.

Why You Need to Know Your Principal Place of Business

Why is your principal place of business important? Properly defining your principal place of business affects the following:

  • The tax deductions you can claim on your tax return. Depending on where you operate your business, you may be able to take deductions for certain expenses.
  • The type of business taxes you are required to pay in the different places you operate in. From state taxes to employee income tax, what you owe will depend on where your principal place of business is located. 

Let’s figure out your principal place of business.

Deductions Based on Principal Place of Business

You can deduct the expenses you incur to maintain the locations of your business, whether you rent or own the property. If you operate three retail stores for your business, for example, you can deduct the costs to maintain all three stores. But if you also work out of your home, you might be able to deduct costs to maintain your home if you can establish that it is your principal place of business.

The IRS lets you deduct certain expenses if you use your home to conduct business and you meet certain tests. According to IRS Publication 587, to qualify for this deduction you must consider:

  • The relative importance of the activities conducted at each location
  • The amount of time spent at each location
  • Whether you use part of your home exclusively and regularly for administrative or management activities for your business
  • Whether you have another fixed location where you conduct substantial administrative or management activities for your business

A home office as a principal place of business

Can You Deduct a Home Office?

If your business operates three locations but does most of the administrative and management work such as bookkeeping, scheduling, and management activities from an office in your home, you might be able to deduct some of your taxes. First, it’s important to understand whether the office in your home is used exclusively for business purposes. If so, you can deduct some of the costs associated with keeping up your house, such as mortgage interest, insurance, real estate taxes, repairs, and utilities.

The key to determining the principal place of business is where most of the administrative or management activities are performed.

Special Considerations

The IRS has special rules for those who conduct business on the road or are away from their homes for a significant amount of time. For example, if you conduct administrative or management activities from a hotel room or from your car, this won’t necessarily disqualify you from being able to take the deduction. Neither will hiring an outside company, such as a bookkeeper, to perform these activities outside of your home.

There are other tests and requirements associated with this deduction that you’ll want to talk over with your qualified tax professional when considering whether you’re eligible to take the deduction.

Other deductions that may be affected by your principal place of business are travel expenses. There are special rules regarding the distance between places that you work and your “tax home” that can affect whether some costs are deductible.

Principal Place of Business and Taxes 

It’s also important to establish your principal place of business in order to determine which state and local authorities require you to pay tax and the types of taxes you’re required to pay. Many states require that you collect and remit sales tax and pay income tax if you conduct business in any capacity within their borders. But other states don’t have the same requirement if you spend an insignificant amount of time there or your income from the state is less than a certain amount.

You need to know your principal place of business in order to calculate the amount of income tax to pay to each state where you file. Typically, you’re required to report all of your income on the tax return for your home state (the state you have determined as your principal place of business), but you can take a credit for any taxes paid to other states, which reduces the tax you owe. Make sure to check with each state to determine which taxes you need to pay.

Where your employees work can also affect the types of taxes you pay. If you hire remote employees and they work in different states, you need to register as an employer in those states and remit payroll taxes. And if you provide services in surrounding areas outside of your principal place of business, you need to be aware of the laws and obligations that you might have.

Work With a Tax Professional

The best resource you can have as a business owner trying to determine your principal place of business and how it affects the taxes you owe is a qualified tax professional. Working with a CPA, enrolled agent, or another qualified tax pro will help you navigate the federal and state tax laws and make sure that you stay compliant. 

Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.
Heather D Satterley

Heather D Satterley

EA, Advanced QuickBooks ProAdvisor, Member Intuit Trainer/Writer Network at Satterley Training & Consulting, LLC
Heather Satterley is founder of Satterley Training & Consulting, LLC - a firm dedicated to helping accounting professionals learn and implement QuickBooks and related applications. She works with sole practitioners and teams to streamline internal processes as well as consulting on a variety of client engagements.

With over 20 years experience as a bookkeeper, accountant and enrolled agent, Heather has helped thousands of small business owners and accounting professionals sharpen their skills and increase their confidence with accounting technology. As a member of the Intuit Trainer/Writer network, Heather teaches QuickBooks to accounting professionals all over the country via live training events, webinars, and conferences.
Heather D Satterley

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