WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Internal Revenue Service plans to introduce a simplified way for small business owners and home-based employees to claim the home office tax deduction.

Small business owners and employees who work from home and who maintain a qualifying home office will be able to deduct up to $1,500 per year.  The new option allows qualified taxpayers to deduct annually $5 per square foot of home office space on up to 300 square feet, for as much as $1,500 in deductions.  To take advantage of the new option, taxpayers will complete a much simpler version of the current 43-line form.

The new simplified option will be available starting with the 2013 return that most taxpayers file early in 2014.

The IRS anticipates taxpayers will be able to save more than 1.6 million hours per year in tax preparation time from this simpler calculation method. The effort was described by Deputy Treasury Secretary Neal S. Wolin and SBA Administrator Karen Mills as part of the ongoing efforts by the Obama administration to reduce paperwork burdens.

“The announcement builds on the President’s commitment to streamline and simplify the tax code for small businesses and to reduce the burden for tax compliance,” they wrote. “It is part of broader efforts to make interacting with the federal government easier and more efficient for businesses of all sizes.”

The new option for the home office deduction will be available starting with the tax year 2013 return, according to Mills and Wolin, which most taxpayers file early in 2014. In addition, the IRS is accepting comments for improving upon this new option.

Current restrictions on claiming the home office deduction, such as the requirement that a home office be used regularly and exclusively for business and the limit on the amount of the deduction tied to income derived from the particular business, will still apply under the new option.

The new option provides eligible taxpayers an easier path to claiming the home office deduction. Instead of filling out the 43-line Form 8829, which often entails complex calculations of allocated expenses, depreciation and carryovers of unused deductions, taxpayers can claim the optional deduction through a significantly simplified form.

“This is a common-sense rule to provide taxpayers an easier way to calculate and claim the home office deduction,” said Acting IRS Commissioner Steven T. Miller in a statement. “The IRS continues to look for similar ways to combat complexity and encourages people to look at this option as they consider tax planning in 2013.”

While homeowners using the new option cannot depreciate the portion of their home used in a trade or business, they can claim allowable mortgage interest, real estate taxes and casualty losses on the home as itemized deductions on Schedule A. These deductions do not need to be allocated between personal and business use, as is required under the traditional method.

Business expenses unrelated to the home, such as advertising, supplies and wages paid to employees, are still fully deductible, the IRS noted.

Further details on the new option can be found in Revenue Procedure 2013-13, posted Tuesday on IRS.gov. Revenue Procedure 2013-13 is effective for taxable years beginning on or after January 1, 2013, and the IRS welcomes public comment on this new option to improve it for tax year 2014 and later years.

– BY MICHAEL COHN Accounting Today