Understanding IRS Form 6198: At-Risk Limitations

Ines Zemelman, EA
Ines Zemelman, EA
• 08.03.24 • 5 min read
Understanding IRS Form 6198: At-Risk Limitations

Form 6198, "At-Risk Limitations," is integral to the US tax system, particularly for investors and business owners.

It's designed to limit the loss that a taxpayer can claim from business activities, ensuring that these losses are only as much as the taxpayer's actual financial risk.

What triggers the need for Form 6198?

You'll need to file Form 6198 in scenarios where you have a business or an income-producing activity subject to the at-risk rules.

These typically include activities such as:

  • Nonrecourse loans used for the activity, where you aren’t personally liable for repaying the loan
  • Certain types of real estate activities
  • Businesses, where the loss isn’t fully covered by personal investment

Understanding at-risk limitations

The core concept of at-risk limitations revolves around how much money you could potentially lose in your investment or business activity.

The IRS specifies that you can only deduct losses up to the amount you have 'at risk' in the activity.

This includes:

  • Cash contributions
  • Borrowings for which you are personally liable
  • Amounts borrowed with certain types of non-recourse financing

Breaking down Form 6198: key aspects and insights

Form 6198 is meticulously structured to guide taxpayers through the process of calculating and reporting at-risk amounts.

Its layout helps ensure that only legitimate, risk-bound losses are claimed, aligning with the IRS's aim to maintain fairness and accuracy in tax reporting.

Section I: Filling out Form 6198

1. Identify at-risk amounts

Begin by listing your at-risk amounts at the start and end of the tax year. This should include all personal investments, cash contributions, and loans for which you are personally liable.

2. Calculate current year loss

Calculate and report the loss from the activity for the current year. It's crucial to note that this loss should only reflect the amounts you're genuinely at risk for, as per the guidelines set by the IRS.

3. Adjustments

Adjust the at-risk amount to account for any changes throughout the tax year. This might include additional contributions made to the activity or withdrawals from it.

Section II: Special situations

In certain cases, such as those involving nonrecourse loans, particularly in real estate ventures, special rules come into play.

These rules can further limit the amount of loss you're eligible to deduct.

Understanding these nuances is critical, especially for those involved in complex investment scenarios.

Form 6198 preview



Common misconceptions and clarifications

It's common for taxpayers to have misconceptions about Form 6198, especially regarding the scope of losses it covers and its relation to other tax rules.

Clarifying these misunderstandings is crucial for accurate tax filing and compliance.

1. Not all losses are covered

It's essential to understand that Form 6198 is not a blanket form for all types of losses. It specifically applies to losses in activities that fall under the at-risk rules.

These typically involve certain business activities or investments where the taxpayer's financial exposure is limited to the amount they have actually invested.

Activities financed through non-recourse loans are a common example where Form 6198 is applicable.

2. Separate from passive activity loss rules

The at-risk rules on Form 6198 are often confused with passive activity loss rules, but they are distinct.

While both sets of rules limit the losses that can be deducted, they do so under different criteria. Passive activity loss rules, typically reported on Form 8582, focus on limiting losses from activities in which the taxpayer does not materially participate.

In contrast, at-risk rules are about the actual financial risk the taxpayer faces in the activity.

Impact on investors and business owners

For investors and business owners, understanding and properly applying the at-risk limitations is crucial. Incorrect filing can lead to disallowed losses and potential disputes with the IRS.

Expert tips and best practices

  • Maintain detailed records: Keep thorough records of all contributions, withdrawals, and loan details related to your investment or business activity.
  • Consult with a tax pro: Given the complexity of at-risk rules, consulting with a CPA is highly advisable.

Conclusion: Staying compliant with IRS rules

Form 6198 is an essential tool for the IRS to ensure that taxpayers only deduct losses to which they are genuinely at risk.

By understanding and correctly applying these rules, taxpayers can avoid potential pitfalls and remain compliant with IRS regulations.


Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal or tax advice. Always consult with a tax professional regarding your specific case.