So lets say you do not have a U.S. citizenship but you spend a lot of time in the U.S. You buy products and create goods from them which you resell (say you build sheds out of wood or something of the kind). You have no employees and do all the work yourself. How much do you need to be making per year for it to be considered a business, which you would not be allowed to operate in the U.S. without citizenship or certain visas?

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    As far as I know, whether it's a "business" isn't relevant with regard to visa status. The question is whether you are working, i.e. performing valuable services, and in this case you clearly are. So you need a visa that allows you to work. Apr 18, 2018 at 1:13
  • Businesses can run at a loss - they are doing the opposite of making money. Clearly this is an irrelevant factor.
    – user4657
    Apr 18, 2018 at 1:41
  • It's a very relevant factor. See Alabsi v. Comm'r of Internal Revenue, No. 19892-11S, 2017 WL 480710, at *5 (U.S. Tax Court, Feb. 6, 2017) ("[W]hen considering whether a taxpayer is engaged in an activity for profit, [t]he relevant factors are ... the taxpayer's history of income or losses with respect to the activity [and] the amount of occasional profits, if any, that are earned from the activity.").
    – bdb484
    Apr 18, 2018 at 16:27

1 Answer 1


Less than zero dollars.

An undertaking like this is usually categorized as either a hobby or a business. The official guidance is in IRS Publication 535, but a determinination takes into account lots of different factors, such as:

  • how much time and effort goes into the undertaking;
  • whether the taxpayer relies on the income for basic expenses;
  • whether the taxpayer adapts his/her methods to increase profitability;
  • whether the taxpayer has made profits this year or in years past;
  • whether the taxpayer can reasonably expect to turn a profit in the near future.

Even if you're losing money, the IRS may still say it's a business if all the signs suggest that that's what it is.

  • In Germany, if you make money it’s a business. If you lose money, the tax office can call it a hobby, so you can’t deduct losses. In that case you protest against the decision, and if you make profit the next year they’ll have to admit it was not a hobby and you deduct your losses.
    – gnasher729
    May 11 at 7:09

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