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Investment Expense Tax Deduction – Which Fees Can You Deduct?

If you have investments, you may be wondering where you can deduct investment fees on your income tax return.

Don’t spend a lot of time hunting around for the right place to enter them. Thanks to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (TCJA), most investment-related expenses are no longer deductible.

But in certain circumstances, you may still be able to get a tax break. If you use tax preparation software from H&R Block, it will help guide you through the deductions you’re still allowed to claim.

Tax Reform and Deductible Investment Expenses

Before the TCJA, taxpayers who itemized deductions on Schedule A could deduct certain “miscellaneous itemized deductions.” These miscellaneous itemized deductions included things like:

  • Attorney or accounting fees to produce or collect taxable income
  • Service charges for automatic investment and dividend reinvestment plans
  • Office expenses, such as rent or clerical help incurred in connection with your investments or collecting the taxable income on your investments
  • The cost to replace taxable securities that are mislaid, lost, stolen, or destroyed
  • Fees paid brokers, banks, or trustees to collect investment income
  • Fees paid for counsel and advice about investments that produce taxable income
  • Safe deposit box rent if you use it to store taxable stocks, bonds, or other investment-related documents
  • Fees paid to set up and manage your revocable trust insofar as it is to produce taxable income or manage a property
  • Investment expenses from pass-through entities such as non-publicly offered mutual funds, S corporations, or partnerships, provided the expenses are related to taxable income
  • The cost of investment newsletters, magazines, or website subscriptions to stock market news sites and research tools, as long as you use them to make decisions about taxable investments

The TCJA eliminated most miscellaneous itemized deductions, including these investment-related expenses, for the tax years 2018 to 2025.

While losing these write-offs is disappointing to some taxpayers, in reality, many investors weren’t receiving a tax benefit for these expenses anyway. That’s because three limitations caused many taxpayers to lose all or a portion of their deductions:

  1. Total miscellaneous itemized deductions had to be greater than 2% of adjusted gross income (AGI) before you could receive any benefit
  2. The Pease limitation reduced overall itemized deductions for high-income taxpayers
  3. If your income and deductions were too high, the alternative minimum tax might kick in and eliminate all or a portion of your itemized deductions

As a result, many people who thought they were receiving a tax break for their investment expenses had actually lost the deduction or were getting a minimal benefit.

Investment Expenses You Can Still Deduct

There are still a couple of ways investors can benefit at tax time.

Investment Interest Expenses

If you itemize deductions, you can claim a deduction for investment interest expenses. This is the interest paid on money borrowed to purchase taxable investments, and it can include margin loans for buying stocks in a brokerage account.

Investment interest expenses are an itemized deduction, so you have to itemize to get a tax benefit. If you do, enter your investment interest expenses on Line 9 of Schedule A. But keep in mind that your deduction is capped at your net taxable investment income for the year.

To illustrate, let’s say that in 2020, you took out a $2,000 personal loan with an interest rate of 4% to purchase an investment you expect to generate an 8% return. That year, you paid $80 in investment interest expenses and had investment income of $160. You would be able to deduct the full $80 of investment interest if you itemize.

However, if, for some reason, your investment didn’t perform as well as expected and you had only $20 of capital gains investment income, you could only deduct $20 of investment interest. Any leftover investment interest expenses could be carried forward to the next year and potentially reduce your tax bill in the future.

Business-Related Interest Expenses

Business interest expenses, such as the interest paid on a business loan or credit card, are still deductible as a business expense. The TCJA put a new cap on business interest deductions, which limits the annual deduction for business interest expenses to:

  1. Your business interest income, if any
  2. Your floor plan financing interest, if any
  3. 30% of your adjusted taxable income

However, the law grants an exception for small businesses, and their definition of “small” is pretty generous. The law defines small businesses as those whose average annual gross receipts for the past three years is $25 million or less.

If you take out a small-business loan to start or grow your business or use a credit card, deducting the interest is pretty straight forward. But many small-business owners take out personal loans or home equity loans to fund their business ventures. It’s easy to overlook the interest paid on these loans since it’s not in the business name, but it’s still deductible.

Sole proprietorships and single-member LLCs can claim business-related interest expense on Line 16 of Schedule C. Partnerships, multi-member LLCs, S corporations, and C corporations can take the deduction on the business’ tax return.

Final Word

Losing out on the investment expense deduction might be a tough pill to swallow for investors who pay hefty fees to have their investments actively managed. But most taxpayers won’t see much difference in their returns, especially since fewer people are itemizing thanks to the TCJA’s higher standard deductions.

Still, it’s a good idea to review the investment fees you’re paying and consider less expensive options, such as low-cost index funds or robo-advisors, since you won’t get a tax break for those fees.

Janet Berry-Johnson is a Certified Public Accountant. Before leaving the accounting world to focus on freelance writing, she specialized in income tax consulting and compliance for individuals and small businesses. She lives in Omaha, Nebraska with her husband and son and their rescue dog, Dexter.

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