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Untangling Tax Implications of your Fishing Hobby


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Fishing, a popular pastime for many, may initially be seen as a leisure activity. However, it can sometimes blur the lines and cross over into the realm of a business. Recognizing the differences between a casual hobby and a commercial pursuit plays a crucial role in your tax implications. This understanding helps in navigating through various expenses and potential deductibles associated with fishing. Furthermore, it provides clarity on when and how to accurately report your fishing income to avoid any tax discrepancies.

Understanding Hobby Vs Business Fishing

Understanding Hobby Vs Business Fishing

Angling, more commonly known as fishing, can be pursued as both a leisure activity and a professional business. The tax implications and IRS rules and regulations vary greatly depending on whether one classifies fishing as a hobby or a business, thus making the distinction crucial.

When an individual partakes in fishing as a hobby, it’s primarily for relaxation, amusement, or personal fulfillment without any financial reward intentions. Any expenses incurred during such activities are often not tax-deductible, as the IRS typically classifies these costs as personal expenditures.

On the other hand, business fishing typically involves commercial activities driven by the aim of generating profit, such as charter fishing, commercial fishing, or operating fishing lodges. It’s important to understand that a business’s primary motive is always financial gain. Individuals pursuing fishing as a business can generally deduct all ordinary and necessary expenses related to their trade or business.

IRS’s Criteria for Business Vs Hobby

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) employs several determining factors to differentiate between a hobby and a business. They examine whether the operation is carried out in a businesslike manner, whether the taxpayer depends on income from the activity, whether the activity makes a profit in some years, and how much profit it makes, among other things.

A venture is likely to be considered a business by the IRS if it makes a profit in three of the last five years. If it doesn’t fulfill this condition, it may be categorized as a hobby.

Tax Implications of Fishing as a Hobby

If fishing is categorized as a hobby, you should be aware that the tax treatment of your expenses and income differ significantly. Income from a hobby must be reported, but you may not deduct expenses in the same manner as a business expense.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 suspends hobby expense deductions through 2025. Before this law was enacted, hobby expenses could be claimed as a miscellaneous itemized deduction on Schedule A to the extent they exceeded 2% of adjusted gross income.

Fishing as a Business and Its Tax Implications

When you categorize fishing as a legitimate business rather than simply a casual hobby, any potential profits could be subject to income tax and self-employment tax. But on the flip side, this also means you can legally deduct a variety of ordinary and necessary business expenses. This includes, but is not limited to, licensing costs, gear, operations and upkeep of a fishing boat, bait, and all related travel expenses.

Moreover, if established as a bona fide business, fishing could open the opportunity for additional deductions that wouldn’t be allowed for hobbyists. This may include home office deductions, depreciation on equipment, and mileage deductions for vehicle use.

In order to maximize these potential tax benefits, it is of paramount importance for those who intend to profit from their fishing activities to keep detailed and accurate records. This validates their fishing endeavors as a business venture rather than a hobby, thus aiding in possible tax deductions and importantly, providing required documentation in case of an IRS audit.

Fishing Expenses and Deductibles

Unraveling the Expenses Tied to Fishing Activities

The realm of recreational fishing comes with its own unique set of expenses. These costs can include everything from investing in basic equipment like fishing rods, reels, baits, and tackle, to purchasing or renting fishing boats. Additional ongoing expenses are likely to occur, such as maintenance and repairs for equipment and vessels.

Furthermore, you could also incur expenses in terms of going to and from your chosen fishing spots, acquiring necessary fishing licenses, and securing permits from state or local authorities. Also, if you choose to participate in fishing tournaments, be prepared for associated entry fees. All these costs combined represent the financial commitment demanded by the fishing hobby.

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