How Does Non-Passive Income and Losses Work?

Non-passive income describes any specific type of income that affects how you are taxed, including active income from wages, business income, or investment income. Non-passive income is a fundamental distinction for tax filing. This distinction is essential when filing taxes, as loss and write-off rules govern how earnings are classified. Conversely, non-passive losses refer to losses incurred in the active management of a business.

Non-passive income and losses embody any form of income and losses that you cannot categorize as passive. Not only are non-passive income and losses subject to complete disclosure, but they also are deductible in the tax year of incurrence. Categorizing a loss as either passive or non-passive dictates if the loss can be deductible for tax purposes. You cannot offset the income and losses derived from non-passive activities by deductions incurred from business activities that generate passive income and losses unless a taxpayer takes place materially in the business operation in the past.

Per the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the tests for passive versus non-passive are firmly rooted in the period spent and actions performed to pursue revenue. The losses or income incurred may be accepted as non-passive if the taxpayer participates for more than 500 hours in the business ventures annually and actively. Therefore, that requirement drops to 100 hours if no other partner or co-worker is more involved hourly towards the venture than the taxpayer during the year. However, this does not include serving as a business manager if another manager fulfills those same duties. In addition, owning a business yet putting in work hours solely for the sake of claiming material participation might not meet the standard of the Internal Revenue Service for non-passive.

Non-Passive Income and Losses Example

You can derive non-passive income and losses from active income sources, business income, and profits or active investment management. Some specific examples of non-passive income and losses include:

  • Business Activity: the gains or losses incurred from a business activity linked to the tax year.
  • Active Stock Trading: profits earned from any active stock trading.
  • Wages: any wage earned from an hourly or a salaried job, plus tips or commissions.
  • Home Rental: when an individual rents their home, like a bedroom or other areas.

There are other types of income classification for non-passive earning. Income generated from investment portfolios qualifies as non-passive. This also includes dividends, proceeds of the sale of investments, and interest. Compensation for the destruction or theft of property is non-passive.

Furthermore, sources of retirement income like deferred compensation and social security may also classify as non-passive. Therefore, just as you must report income from these sources, any losses related to these activities are deductible from the taxpayer's taxes.

Passive vs. Non-Passive Income and Losses

Passive income and losses are financial gains and losses within an investment in any trade or business venture in which the investor is not a material participant. You can derive passive income and losses from investments in rental properties, business partnerships, or other activities. An investor is not continuously and substantially involved in the business activity.

However, for income and losses to be considered non-passive, the taxpayer or investor must materially participate. Material participation occurs when a taxpayer's active involvement in the trade or business is regular, continuous, and substantial. Any work an individual performs in a business in which he or she owns an interest generally refers to participation.