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Blood, sweat, and tears: the labor of love you pour into your business every day. It may be priceless from your standpoint. But will it have a fair market value on the street?

Here’s a question for you: How do you accurately translate your net worth?

A hundred dollars an hour?

A thousand?

Okay, we know, you’re worth every penny, but regardless of what it says on paper, you won’t be able to calculate the true value of your efforts until you have been paid. And by the way, don’t assume donating those hours will result in a big fat deduction at tax time.

What About Charity Donation?

When you donate time to charity or you’re looking to deduct the cost of time spent, the outcome may not be what you expect. In fact it can cause major confusion at tax time for entrepreneurs who assume their sweat equity is deductable.

You might be disappointed to know just what will happen to those hours you’ve donated to charity; especially if you’re a relatively new entrepreneur.

The Startup Phase

Starting a new business is an exciting time for an entrepreneur. Ideas are taking shape and heart-held dreams are becoming tangible realities. But unless they’re backed by a substantial nest egg or loan, most businesses need time to produce enough cash flow to compensate the owner for development time.

Are you one of those business owners who spent hours establishing your business before you even swept off the front step and opened the front door (virtual or otherwise)? If so you understand first hand that ensuring your company’s viability doesn’t often happen overnight. Market testing and calculating pricing take time.

What’s the legal answer to this question?

Well, perhaps it can be found in a recently decided court case. The issue? Whether or not a taxpayer can deduct the value of sweat equity, i.e. services for which he/she is unpaid.

In short, a sole proprietorship reported a loss in his business providing services at no charge. The amount was substantial: $29,500. The taxpayer used this loss as a deduction against his income of $234,000 earned that year (2014). While he had not spent any actual money out of pocket, he argued that research was needed to succeed in his business; yes, sweat equity.

The court ruled against the taxpayer in this case because in order to take a deduction, one must pay or otherwise incur an expense to be eligible to deduct it. The labor itself is not within the meaning of Code Section 162.

Donating Time to Charity

What about taxpayers or business owners who donate their time to a charitable cause? We’ve already determined their time has value. Certainly the court must allow for this type of deduction, right?

Well, no, not this one. Donations of services are not deductible charitable contributions. However, if business owners or taxpayers donate the value of their work in cash so the organization can hire someone else to do the work, it then becomes a tax-deductible donation.

Donated labor is not deductible even to nonprofits because in the normal earning cycle of a business, the net value of the services donated is zero.

For example, consider service on a nonprofit board. If you charge for the work, you would earn according to your pay scale. However, in donating your services you are not paid.

Now, there’s a way around it.

If the organization pays you for your service and you then donate it, you would be reporting it as income. You would owe and pay taxes on the money earned and then be able to deduct your cash donation. By not receiving the income, you avoid reporting the fees in additional revenue for the year, and you’ll also forego the charitable deduction. Either way, the result is the same.

While your personal valuation of sweat equity you put into your business may result in Fortune 500 positioning, it won’t help you reduce your tax bill.

To find out what WILL help you pay less in tax, visit this page: https://www.certifiedtaxcoach.com/find-ctc/

Seriously? Sweat Equity is Not Deductible?

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