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Is the Interest on Your Business Loan Tax Deductible?

Is Business Loan Interest Tax Deductible?
Susan Guillory

Susan Guillory

Updated February 7, 2022
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If you’ve taken out a loan to start or build your business (or you’re thinking about doing so), here’s some good news: The interest you pay on that loan will likely be tax-deductible as a business expense. This includes interest charged on all types of loans, including term loans, short-term loans, lines of credit, mortgages on business real estate, and even personal loans, provided the funds are used for business purposes. There are a few caveats, however. To be eligible, you’ll need to meet some criteria as defined by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Here’s everything you need to know to write off loan interest as a business expense.Recommended: Applying for a Small Business Loan in 6 Steps

Deducting Business Interest: The Short Answer

If you’ve been wondering whether or not business loan interest is tax-deductible, the short answer is — yes. If the loan is being used for business purposes, you can likely deduct 100% of the interest you pay to the lender.

Deducting Business Interest: The Long Answer

The long answer is a little more nuanced. There are some requirements that a loan has to meet in order for the interest to be tax-deductible. Who you take the loan out from, what you spend the money on, when you spend it, and how your business is structured all factor in when determining whether or not you can get a tax break on that interest, as well as how much of the interest you can deduct.

Who Qualifies for a Business Interest Tax Deduction

The IRS has some criteria for allowing you to get a tax deduction on your business loan interest, which include:
  • You must be legally liable for the debt. That means that you (through your business) and no other party are responsible for paying back the loan. 
  • Both you and the lender intend the debt to be repaid. It needs to be a true loan (not a gift of cash) with repayment terms that you have agreed to and are spelled out in a legal document.
  • You and the lender must have a true debtor-creditor relationship. If you borrow money from a relative or friend and use it for business purposes, it can be very tricky to deduct any interest you pay them. To do so, the loan needs to be set up like any other business loan. That means signing a promissory note, paying a reasonable interest rate, following a repayment schedule, and keeping records of every transaction.

When Is It Deductible?

The interest on a business loan is only deductible if you actually spend the money for legitimate business expenses. If you take out a loan and the funds sit in your account, you can’t deduct any of the interest, even if you’re paying off the principal and interest of your loan every month. Money that is left in the bank and goes unspent is considered an investment and not an expense, which is why that interest isn’t tax-deductible.And keep in mind: What you spend the loan proceeds on has to be for your business. You can’t use a business loan to put in a new pool at your house or cover other personal expenses and then deduct the interest.The key is to categorize expenses for your business so you can easily see where you spent the loan proceeds and can prove, if asked by the IRS, that you spent the funds on business-related expenses.

When Isn't It Deductible? 

There are some situations in which your loan interest is not tax-deductible. You typically can not deduct:
  • interest on a personal loan if it’s used for personal expenses or to pay debts your business doesn’t owe
  • interest that is being paid by a second loan (though interest payments on the second loan are tax-deductible)
  • any fines or penalties paid to your lender
  • interest that must be capitalized, which is interest added to the principal balance of a loan or mortgage (this interest expense needs to be depreciated along with the other costs of the asset)
  • interest on overdue taxes (unless you are a C-corporation)

Different Deductions for Different Loans

Here’s a look at how tax deductions apply to different kinds of small business loans.

Term Loans

If you have a term loan, the interest can generally be deducted in the corresponding year that payments were made. This means if you take out a term loan with a three-year repayment period, you will deduct the interest paid in each of three consecutive tax years, with the amount deducted reflecting the amount you paid on interest in each year.You should get a notification from your lender on how much you have paid in interest for the year. You can also find this information on your amortization schedule.

Short-Term Loans

Short-term business loans have much shorter repayment periods than traditional term loans, typically three months to a year. Even in this short period, though, you pay interest.Some short-term loans use a factor rate rather than annual percentage rate, since the repayment period may not be an entire year. Either way, you can typically write off the interest or fee you pay on the loan.

Business LOC

With a business line of credit, you don’t get a lump sum of cash like you do with a loan. Instead, a line of credit (or LOC) gives you access to cash up to a pre-approved maximum. You can take out however much you need up to the limit, repay it, and then borrow it again.To deduct interest on a line of credit, you must look at the statements on your business LOC account to see how much you borrowed in a given year and how much of what you paid back was interest.

Personal Loans

Personal loans generally can’t be used for business expenses, but if your lender allows it, the interest on the loan would then be tax-deductible. If you use part of the funds for business expenses and part for personal expenses, however, it could get complicated. You would need to separate out the interest paid on the portion that went toward business expenses, since only that portion of the interest can be deducted for the year.

Merchant Cash Advances

A merchant cash advance is not technically a loan but, rather, an advance on future sales. Because you don’t pay interest on a merchant cash advance, you don’t have any interest that you can write off. 

Business Acquisition Loans

If you take out a loan to purchase another business, the interest you pay may or may not be tax-deductible. If you plan to operate the business, the loan interest will likely be tax-deductible. If you don’t plan to be involved in operations, however, the IRS sees this as an investment, and the tax rules are more complicated. In this scenario, it can be a good idea to consult a tax professional to determine whether or not this interest is tax-deductible.

Debt Refinancing Loans

Refinancing a business loan can be a smart idea if it allows you to pay a lower interest rate on your balance. Just know that when you use one loan to pay off another, you can’t deduct the interest you’re paying off with the second loan. Once you start paying interest on the second loan, however, you can typically deduct those interest payments.

Non-Profit Loans

Not-for-profit organizations are exempt from federal income taxes, so interest paid on non-profit business loans, which are geared specifically for businesses that have a 501(c)(3) status, would not need to be deducted.

Is There Any Reason Not to Deduct Business Loan Interest From Taxes?

No. Deducting what you pay in loan interest allows you to reduce your business’s taxable income, which, in turn, means your company will owe less in taxes. The result: Higher profits.There are limits, however, on how much interest you can deduct in any given year. You can’t deduct more than 30% of your adjusted taxable income, for example. There are some other limits imposed by the IRS, but they generally don’t apply to small businesses. Your accountant can tell you if any other caps are applicable to your situation.

Other Deductions to Keep in Mind

Business loan interest is just one of many business expenses you can deduct on your taxes. Here are some other deductions you may be able to take.

Office Supplies

You can typically deduct every pen, printer cartridge, and other supply you buy for your business. For an item to be deductible, it generally needs to be considered essential to running a functional office. 

Travel Expenses

If you travel for business, whether that’s to visit a client across the country or attend a trade show, these costs can be tax deductions. This includes airfare, rental cars, gas, tolls, hotels, and meals.

Vehicle Expenses

If you use one or more vehicles for your business, whether that’s for delivering products or visiting clients, all expenses related to the vehicle can be tax deductions as long as you keep track of the mileage. 

Meal Expenses

If you take clients (or potential clients) out for a meal to discuss business, these costs may be 50% tax-deductible. In order to be eligible, food costs typically need to be reasonable — extravagant meals likely won’t qualify.

Payroll Tax and Employee Benefits

As long as they’re not for you or other business partners, employee salaries and benefits are generally considered write-offs for small businesses. This category typically includes employee wages, paid time off, commissions, and bonuses, as well as employer-sponsored life insurance or retirement account contributions.

Home Office 

If you run your business out of your home, you may be able to deduct expenses related to creating and maintaining that workspace. To qualify for the home office deduction, you generally need to utilize part of your home regularly and exclusively for business. 

Rent

If you pay rent for an office, warehouse, retail space, or other type of business property, that monthly rent expense may be fully tax-deductible. Keep in mind that if you deduct rent as a business expense, you will not likely be able to take the home office deduction as well.

The Takeaway

If a loan is being used for business purposes, then the interest you pay to the lender is typically tax-deductible. There are a few requirements, however: You must be legally liable for the debt, you and the lender need to have a true lender-debtor relationship, and the funds from the loan need to be spent on your business during that tax year (not sitting in the bank).There are some situations that can be a little trickier than others, so, as always, it can be a good idea to consult an accountant who fully understands tax law, as well as the details of your business and finances.If you’re interested in getting a loan to grow your business -- while also getting some tax relief -- there are many different types of loans you can consider. With Lantern by SoFi, you can compare rates from multiple small business lenders without any obligation and just one application.
Photo credit: iStock/AsiaVision
The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.This article provides general background information only and is not intended to serve as legal or tax advice or as a substitute for legal counsel. You should consult your own attorney and/or tax advisor if you have a question requiring legal or tax advice. SOLC1221017

Frequently Asked Questions

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About the Author

Susan Guillory

Susan Guillory

Susan Guillory is the President of Egg Marketing, a content marketing firm based in San Diego. She’s written several business books, and has been published on sites including Forbes, AllBusiness, and Cision. She enjoys writing about business and personal credit, financial strategies, loans, and credit cards. Follow her on Twitter @eggmarketing.
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