When you’re hustling to finish your federal tax return, you might be overlooking a tax deduction that’s right in your front yard — literally.

Crystal Stranger, president of 1st Tax in Honolulu, HI, and author of The Small Business Tax Guide, says lawn care expenses can be deducted on your federal tax return if your home is used as a rental property or if you maintain a home office.

In deducting lawn care expenses related to your home office, you can write off only the portion of your lawn care that’s connected to your work. For example, Stranger says, if your house covers 2,000 square feet and your home office takes up 200 square feet, you’d be able to take a 10 percent deduction for the cost of lawn care. She emphasizes that the space set aside for your home office must be used “both regularly and exclusively” as an office.

Stranger says you might be able to bump up the work-at-home deduction if you use your lawn for an essential business activity, such as an area where children play while they’re at an in-home daycare center. If you own a lawn care business, you might be able to deduct all your lawn care-related expenses if your home serves as a “calling card” for your business and a promotional sign is posted in your front yard, she says.

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Photo: Flickr/Thomas Hawk

If you do pursue a tax deduction for business-related lawn care expenses, keep in mind that it’s not a cut-and-dried issue. “Lawn care is actually one of those hotly contested items for deductibility,” Stranger says.

However, courts have sided with taxpayers in several cases about deductions for lawn care expenses. Pappu Khera, a CPA in Odenton, MD, cites a 1987 case decided by the federal Tax Court that allowed a dentist who used one-third of his home as an office for his dental practice to deduct one-third of his landscaping expenses. Similarly, in a 1990 case decided by the Tax Court, a woman running a daycare center at her home was able to deduct part of her lawn care expenses.

As for rental property, all maintenance — including lawn care — is fully deductible as a business expense, Stranger says. “This is quite straightforward,” she says.

Top photo: Lending Memo