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Publication 334

Chapter 5
Business Income(p20)


This chapter primarily explains business income and how to account for it on your tax return, what items are not considered income, and gives guidelines for selected occupations.
If there is a connection between any income you receive and your business, the income is business income. A connection exists if it is clear that the payment of income would not have been made if you did not have the business.
You can have business income even if you are not involved in the activity on a regular full-time basis. Income from work you do on the side in addition to your regular job can be business income.
You report most business income, such as income from selling your products or services, on Schedule C or C-EZ. But you report the income from the sale of business assets, such as land and office buildings, on other forms instead of Schedule C or C-EZ. For information on selling business assets, see chapter 3.
Nonemployee compensation. Business income includes amounts you received in your business that were properly shown on Forms 1099-MISC. This includes amounts reported as nonemployee compensation in box 7 of the form. You can find more information in the instructions on the back of the Form 1099-MISC you received.

Kinds of Income(p20)

You must report on your tax return all income you receive from your business unless it is excluded by law. In most cases, your business income will be in the form of cash, checks, and credit card charges. But business income can be in other forms, such as property or services. These and other types of income are explained next.
If you are a U.S. citizen who has business income from sources outside the United States (foreign income), you must report that income on your tax return unless it is exempt from tax under U.S. law. If you live outside the United States, you may be able to exclude part or all of your foreign-source business income. For details, see Pub. 54, Tax Guide for U.S. Citizens and Resident Aliens Abroad.

Bartering for Property or Services(p21)

Bartering is an exchange of property or services. You must include in your gross receipts, at the time received, the fair market value of property or services you receive in exchange for something else. If you exchange services with another person and you both have agreed ahead of time on the value of the services, that value will be accepted as the fair market value unless the value can be shown to be otherwise.

Example 1.(p21)

You are a self-employed lawyer. You perform legal services for a client, a small corporation. In payment for your services, you receive shares of stock in the corporation. You must include the fair market value of the shares in income.

Example 2.(p21)

You are an artist and create a work of art to compensate your landlord for the rent-free use of your apartment. You must include the fair rental value of the apartment in your gross receipts. Your landlord must include the fair market value of the work of art in his or her rental income.

Example 3.(p21)

You are a self-employed accountant. Both you and a house painter are members of a barter club, an organization that each year gives its members a directory of members and the services each member provides. Members get in touch with other members directly and bargain for the value of the services to be performed.
In return for accounting services you provided for the house painter's business, the house painter painted your home. You must include in gross receipts the fair market value of the services you received from the house painter. The house painter must include the fair market value of your accounting services in his or her gross receipts.

Example 4.(p21)

You are a member of a barter club that uses credit units to credit or debit members' accounts for goods or services provided or received. As soon as units are credited to your account, you can use them to buy goods or services or sell or transfer the units to other members.
You must include the value of credit units you received in your gross receipts for the tax year in which the units are credited to your account.
The dollar value of units received for services by an employee of the club, who can use the units in the same manner as other members, must be included in the employee's gross income for the tax year in which received. It is wages subject to social security and Medicare taxes (FICA), federal unemployment taxes (FUTA), and income tax withholding. See Pub. 15 (Circular E), Employer's Tax Guide.

Example 5.(p21)

You operate a plumbing business and use the cash method of accounting. You join a barter club and agree to provide plumbing services to any member for a specified number of hours. Each member has access to a directory that lists the members of the club and the services available.
Members contact each other directly and request services to be performed. You are not required to provide services unless requested by another member, but you can use as many of the offered services as you wish without paying a fee.
You must include the fair market value of any services you receive from club members in your gross receipts when you receive them even if you have not provided any services to club members.

Information returns.(p21)

If you are involved in a bartering transaction, you may have to file either of the following forms. For information about these forms, see the General Instructions for Certain Information Returns.

Real Estate Rents(p21)

If you are a real estate dealer who receives income from renting real property or an owner of a hotel, motel, etc., who provides services (maid services, etc.) for guests, report the rental income and expenses on Schedule C or C-EZ. If you are not a real estate dealer or the kind of owner described in the preceding sentence, report the rental income and expenses on Schedule E. For more information, see Pub. 527, Residential Rental Property (Including Rental of Vacation Homes).

Real estate dealer.(p21)

You are a real estate dealer if you are engaged in the business of selling real estate to customers with the purpose of making a profit from those sales. Rent you receive from real estate held for sale to customers is subject to SE tax. However, rent you receive from real estate held for speculation or investment is not subject to SE tax.

Trailer park owner.(p21)

Rental income from a trailer park is subject to SE tax if you are a self-employed trailer park owner who provides trailer lots and facilities and substantial services for the convenience of your tenants.
You generally are considered to provide substantial services for tenants if they are primarily for the tenants' convenience and normally are not provided to maintain the lots in a condition for occupancy. Services are substantial if the compensation for the services makes up a material part of the tenants' rental payments.
Examples of services that are not normally provided for the tenants' convenience include supervising and maintaining a recreational hall provided by the park, distributing a monthly newsletter to tenants, operating a laundry facility, and helping tenants buy or sell their trailers.
Examples of services that are normally provided to maintain the lots in a condition for tenant occupancy include city sewerage, electrical connections, and roadways.

Hotels, boarding houses, and apartments.(p21)

Rental income you receive for the use or occupancy of hotels, boarding houses, or apartment houses is subject to SE tax if you provide services for the occupants.
Generally, you are considered to provide services for the occupants if the services are primarily for their convenience and are not services normally provided with the rental of rooms for occupancy only. An example of a service that is not normally provided for the convenience of the occupants is maid service. However, providing heat and light, cleaning stairways and lobbies, and collecting trash are services normally provided for the occupants' convenience.

Prepaid rent.(p22)

Advance payments received under a lease that does not put any restriction on their use or enjoyment are income in the year you receive them. This is true no matter what accounting method or period you use.

Lease bonus.(p22)

A bonus you receive from a lessee for granting a lease is an addition to the rent. Include it in your gross receipts in the year received.

Lease cancellation payments.(p22)

Report payments you receive from your lessee for canceling a lease in your gross receipts in the year received.

Payments to third parties.(p22)

If your lessee makes payments to someone else under an agreement to pay your debts or obligations, include the payments in your gross receipts when the lessee makes the payments. A common example of this kind of income is a lessee's payment of your property taxes on leased real property.

Settlement payments.(p22)

Payments you receive in settlement of a lessee's obligation to restore the leased property to its original condition are income in the amount that the payments exceed the adjusted basis of the leasehold improvements destroyed, damaged, removed, or disconnected by the lessee.

Personal Property Rents(p22)

If you are in the business of renting personal property (equipment, vehicles, formal wear, etc.), include the rental amount you receive in your gross receipts on Schedule C or C-EZ. Prepaid rent and other payments described in the preceding Real Estate Rents discussion can also be received for renting personal property. If you receive any of those payments, include them in your gross receipts as explained in that discussion.

Interest and Dividend Income(p22)

Interest and dividends may be considered business income.


Interest received on notes receivable that you have accepted in the ordinary course of business is business income. Interest received on loans is business income if you are in the business of lending money.
Uncollectible loans.(p22)
If a loan payable to you becomes uncollectible during the tax year and you use an accrual method of accounting, you must include in gross income interest accrued up to the time the loan became uncollectible. If the accrued interest later becomes uncollectible, you may be able to take a bad debt deduction. See Bad Debts in chapter 8.
Unstated interest.(p22)
If little or no interest is charged on an installment sale, you may have to treat a part of each payment as unstated interest. See Unstated Interest and Original Issue Discount (OID) in Pub. 537.


Generally, dividends are business income to dealers in securities. For most sole proprietors and statutory employees, however, dividends are nonbusiness income. If you hold stock as a personal investment separately from your business activity, the dividends from the stock are nonbusiness income.
If you receive dividends from business insurance premiums you deducted in an earlier year, you must report all or part of the dividend as business income on your return. To find out how much you have to report, see
Recovery of items previously deducted under Other Income, later.

Canceled Debt(p22)

The following explains the general rule for including canceled debt in income and the exceptions to the general rule.

General Rule(p22)

Generally, if your debt is canceled or forgiven, other than as a gift or bequest to you, you must include the canceled amount in your gross income for tax purposes. Report the canceled amount on line 6 of Schedule C if you incurred the debt in your business. If the debt is a nonbusiness debt, report the canceled amount on line 21 of Form 1040.


The following discussion covers some exceptions to the general rule for canceled debt.

Price reduced after purchase.(p22)

If you owe a debt to the seller for property you bought and the seller reduces the amount you owe, you generally do not have income from the reduction. Unless you are bankrupt or insolvent, treat the amount of the reduction as a purchase price adjustment and reduce your basis in the property.

Deductible debt.(p22)

You do not realize income from a canceled debt to the extent the payment of the debt would have led to a deduction.


You get accounting services for your business on credit. Later, you have trouble paying your business debts, but you are not bankrupt or insolvent. Your accountant forgives part of the amount you owe for the accounting services. How you treat the canceled debt depends on your method of accounting.
For information on the cash and accrual methods of accounting, see chapter 2.


Do not include canceled debt in income in the following situations. However, you may be required to file Form 982, Reduction of Tax Attributes Due to Discharge of Indebtedness. For more information, see Form 982.
  1. The cancellation takes place in a bankruptcy case under title 11 of the U.S. Code (relating to bankruptcy). See Pub. 908, Bankruptcy Tax Guide.
  2. The cancellation takes place when you are insolvent. You can exclude the canceled debt to the extent you are insolvent. See Pub. 908.
  3. The canceled debt is a qualified farm debt owed to a qualified person. See chapter 3 in Pub. 225, Farmer's Tax Guide.
  4. The canceled debt is a qualified real property business debt. This situation is explained later.
  5. The canceled debt is qualified principal residence indebtedness which is discharged after 2006 and before 2017. A canceled debt is qualified principal residence indebtedness after 2016 only if the discharge is subject to an arrangement that was entered into and evidenced in writing before January 1, 2017. See Form 982.
If a canceled debt is excluded from income because it takes place in a bankruptcy case, the exclusions in situations 2 through 5 do not apply. If it takes place when you are insolvent, the exclusions in situations 3 and 4 do not apply to the extent you are insolvent.


For purposes of this discussion, debt includes any debt for which you are liable or which attaches to property you hold.

Qualified real property business debt.(p23)

You can elect to exclude (up to certain limits) the cancellation of qualified real property business debt. If you make the election, you must reduce the basis of your depreciable real property by the amount excluded. Make this reduction at the beginning of your tax year following the tax year in which the cancellation occurs. However, if you dispose of the property before that time, you must reduce its basis immediately before the disposition.
Cancellation of qualified real property business debt.(p23)
Qualified real property business debt is debt (other than qualified farm debt) that meets all the following conditions.
  1. It was incurred or assumed in connection with real property used in a trade or business. Real property used in a trade or business does not include real property developed and held primarily for sale to customers in the ordinary course of business.
  2. It was secured by such real property.
  3. It was incurred or assumed at either of the following times.
    1. Before January 1, 1993.
    2. After December 31, 1992, if incurred or assumed to acquire, construct, or substantially improve the real property.
  4. It is debt to which you choose to apply these rules.
Qualified real property business debt includes refinancing of debt described in (3) earlier, but only to the extent it does not exceed the debt being refinanced.
If you are the owner of a disregarded entity (for example, a single-member LLC), see Qualified Real Property Business Indebtedness in chapter 1 of Pub. 4681, Canceled Debts, Foreclosures, Repossessions, and Abandonments, to see if you qualify for this exclusion.
You cannot exclude more than either of the following amounts.
  1. The excess (if any) of:
    1. The outstanding principal of qualified real property business debt (immediately before the cancellation); over
    2. The fair market value (immediately before the cancellation) of the business real property that is security for the debt, reduced by the outstanding principal amount of any other qualified real property business debt secured by this property immediately before the cancellation.
  2. The total adjusted bases of depreciable real property held by you immediately before the cancellation. These adjusted bases are determined after any basis reduction due to a cancellation in bankruptcy, insolvency, or of qualified farm debt. Do not take into account depreciable real property acquired in contemplation of the cancellation.
To make this election, complete Form 982 and attach it to your income tax return for the tax year in which the cancellation occurs. You must file your return by the due date (including extensions). If you timely filed your return for the year without making the election, you can still make the election by filing an amended return within 6 months of the due date of the return (excluding extensions). For more information, see When To File in the form instructions.

Other Income(p24)

The following discussion explains how to treat other types of business income you may receive.

Restricted property.(p24)

Restricted property is property that has certain restrictions that affect its value. If you receive restricted stock or other property for services performed, the fair market value of the property in excess of your cost is included in your income on Schedule C or C-EZ when the restriction is lifted. However, you can choose to be taxed in the year you receive the property. For more information on including restricted property in income, see Pub. 525, Taxable and Nontaxable Income.

Gains and losses.(p24)

Do not report on Schedule C or C-EZ a gain or loss from the disposition of property that is neither stock in trade nor held primarily for sale to customers. Instead, you must report these gains and losses on other forms. For more information, see chapter 3.

Promissory notes.(p24)

Report promissory notes and other evidences of debt issued to you in a sale or exchange of property that is stock in trade or held primarily for sale to customers on Schedule C or C-EZ. In general, you report them at their stated principal amount (minus any unstated interest) when you receive them.

Lost income payments.(p24)

If you reduce or stop your business activities, report on Schedule C or C-EZ any payment you receive for the lost income of your business from insurance or other sources. Report it on Schedule C or C-EZ even if your business is inactive when you receive the payment.


You must include in gross income compensation you receive during the tax year as a result of any of the following injuries connected with your business.
Economic injury.(p24)
You may be entitled to a deduction against the income if it compensates you for actual economic injury. Your deduction is the smaller of the following amounts.
Punitive damages.(p24)
You must also include punitive damages in income.


If you receive any kickbacks, include them in your income on Schedule C or C-EZ. However, do not include them if you properly treat them as a reduction of a related expense item, a capital expenditure, or cost of goods sold.

Recovery of items previously deducted.(p24)

If you recover a bad debt or any other item deducted in a previous year, include the recovery in income on Schedule C or C-EZ. However, if all or part of the deduction in earlier years did not reduce your tax, you can exclude the part that did not reduce your tax. If you exclude part of the recovery from income, you must include with your return a computation showing how you figured the exclusion.


Joe Smith, a sole proprietor, had gross income of $8,000, a bad debt deduction of $300, and other allowable deductions of $7,700. He also had two personal exemptions for a total of $8,100. He would not pay income tax even if he did not deduct the bad debt. Therefore, he will not report as income any part of the $300 he may recover in any future year.
Exception for depreciation.(p24)
This rule does not apply to depreciation. You recover depreciation using the rules explained next.

Recapture of depreciation.(p24)

In the following situations, you have to recapture the depreciation deduction. This means you include in income part or all of the depreciation you deducted in previous years.
Listed property.(p24)
If your business use of listed property (explained in chapter 8 under Depreciation) falls to 50% or less in a tax year after the tax year you placed the property in service, you may have to recapture part of the depreciation deduction. You do this by including in income on Schedule C part of the depreciation you deducted in previous years. Use Part IV of Form 4797, Sales of Business Property, to figure the amount to include on Schedule C. For more information, see What is the Business-Use Requirement? in chapter 5 of Pub. 946, How To Depreciate Property. That chapter explains how to determine whether property is used more than 50% in your business.
Section 179 property.(p24)
If you take a section 179 deduction (explained in chapter 8 under Depreciation) for an asset and before the end of the asset's recovery period the percentage of business use drops to 50% or less, you must recapture part of the section 179 deduction. You do this by including in income on Schedule C part of the deduction you took. Use Part IV of Form 4797 to figure the amount to include on Schedule C. See chapter 2 in Pub. 946 to find out when you recapture the deduction.
Sale or exchange of depreciable property.(p24)
If you sell or exchange depreciable property at a gain, you may have to treat all or part of the gain due to depreciation as ordinary income. You figure the income due to depreciation recapture in Part III of Form 4797. For more information, see chapter 4 in Pub. 544, Sales and Other Dispositions of Assets.