What Are Job-Related Tax Deductions?

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When the topic of business and job-related tax deductions come up, most people simply assume that you need to have your own business or be self-employed to be entitled to any deductions. While it’s true that business owners do receive a number of nice tax breaks, there is still the possibility that you may be entitled to some job-related tax deductions even if you work the 9 to 5 for an employer.

Job-Related Deductions
Job-Related Deductions

While not as generous as tax deductions available to business owners, the ability to deduct some job-related expenses can certainly add up. If you’re required to travel or conduct a lot of business outside of the office there’s a good chance your employer reimburses you for many of these expenses, but every company is different and you may be footing the bill for things that you could possibly claim as a deduction.

Before getting into the actual deductions we need to understand what the IRS considers unreimbursed employee expenses. Your expenses must have been required for you to carry out the job for which you were hired and must be what the IRS calls “ordinary and necessary.” This means the item or service is common and accepted in your line of work and is appropriate and helpful to your job. In addition, to be able to claim these deductions you must itemize on Schedule A, and your unreimbursed business expenses must total more than 2 percent of your adjusted gross income(AGI). To give you an idea, if you have an AGI of $40,000, your expenses need to be more than $800 before you could begin claiming any deductions.

Possible Deduction Categories

To give you a better idea of what types of expenses might qualify for unreimbursed job-related expenses, here is a brief overview. And again, these only qualify if your employer doesn’t already reimburse you.

  • Legal fees related to doing or keeping your job.
  • Licenses and regulatory fees as well as occupational taxes.
  • Dues to professional groups, unions, or local trade groups.
  • Education that is related to or required for employment.
  • Work clothes and uniforms, and possibly upkeep costs.
  • Subscriptions to professional journals and magazines related to your line of work.
  • Medical examinations that are required by your employer.
  • Depreciation on technology required to do your job.
  • A home office or part of your home used regularly and exclusively for work.

Unfortunately, commuting expenses to get to and from your job are not a deductible expense, but if you do need to use your vehicle for work-related activities such as meetings, conferences, trade shows, or other travel, you may be able to deduct the actual expenses required for the trip or use the IRS standard mileage deduction.

Above all else, keep good records throughout the year. You may or may not reach the 2 percent threshold, but it’s worth keeping track just in case, and it’s a lot easier to tally up receipts at the end of the year rather than trying to come up with all of your expenses after the fact. If you’ve determined that you qualify for deducting some of these expenses you can look to Form 2106 or 2106-EZ. And of course, TurboTax will assist you with recording and claiming these unreimbursed job-related expenses.

50 responses to “What Are Job-Related Tax Deductions?”

  1. Hi lisa, im single n this year I took a tax course to prepared taxes , n paid all fees to get all my pins required,n bond.where can my course b claim in education expenses,and my cost for pins and bonds in work related xpenses, my agi is 21 please help me out(:

  2. Can I get back the money I paid to stay in a hotel?? I’ve stayed here the entire time I worked and pay $284.99 per week these last few months in the beginning it was $326 per week I just want to know

  3. I have a summer job which requires travel. The employer will reimburse our mileage, meals, and hotel bill. However, this year, I misplaced my receipts and did not submit them in the required timeframe to get reimbursed. I have since found the receipts. Can I deduct these as job-related expenses?

    • And…one other question…My regular employer reimburses my travel mileage at $.50/mile. The tax-reimbursement rate is $.56/mile. Can I deduct the remaining $.06/mile as a business expense?

  4. Hi Lisa,

    My husband is an automotive technician, is employed by a business, and is constantly buying new tools for his job. A guy at work told him he can itemized the tools as a deduction only after three years of working in the field, is that true?

    Thank you,

    • Hi Valerie,
      There is no stipulation on deducting tools only after 3 year. He should be able to deduct what he paid for the tools in the year he bought them. You can deduct total expenses for capital assets or divide it over the useful life of the asset. TurboTax will make the calculations for you based on your entries.
      Thank you,
      Lisa Greene-Lewis

  5. Hi Lisa,

    I am using TurboTax Deluxe 2014 for my tax filing. I have two questions

    1. I work out of my home office in cleveland and visit our client site in Philadelphia. I am not reimbursed for my expenses for air travel / hotel stay & meals during my trip to Philadelphia. I do this 6 times a year. Are these expenses eligible under the job-related expenses

    2. My 2 year old son was overseas for 6 months last year. I incurred expenses for his care from a foreign business. Can these expenses be listed under child care deductions?

    Appreciate your help.

  6. I am required to be within 30 minutes of the hospital where I work when on call. This includes over night. I live 1 hour away so have to pay for a motel room. Is the room tax deductible and if I were to purchase a camper van to stay that one night a week ( plus some entire week ends) would I be able to claim some tax deduction on that vehicle?

  7. Hi Turbo Tax Lisa!
    I need your help. I a m using Turbo tax and when entering job related expenses, it doesnt matter whether I put $1000, $10,000 or $1,000,000 in expenses! My refund doesnt change, is there something wrong with Turbo Tax? I dont wnat to have to hire a CPA, but its confusing how no matter what is entered, it doesnt change my refund.
    Please adivse

    Thank you

    • Hi Anders,
      First, you have to be able to itemize your deductions so if you are single your deductible expenses have to be more than the standard tax deduction of $6,200 ($12,400 if married filing jointly). If your expenses are not more than $6,200 you will get the standard deduction of $6,200 and cannot deduct employee related expenses so it wouldn’t make a difference.
      Second, your deductible job related expenses are the amount over 2% of your adjusted gross income so if you make $50,000, your expenses have to be more than $1,000 ($50,000 x 2%).
      Thank you,
      Lisa Greene-Lewis

    • Anders did you ever find a solution? I get same issue even though I itemize and have over $6200 in expenses so TurboTaxLisa post is not the solution.

  8. I lived in Boston, MA and worked in Hartford, CT. I had to take a rental car every Thursday/Friday to come back home and return on Sunday/Monday – most weeks in 2014 when affordable, to pay out of pocket. Or take a Bus. Each round trip is around 216 miles. Also, during the weekdays I had to find a temporary accommodation.

    Can I claim these expenses?

  9. I am called in to work for problems, outside of my regular hours. This amounts to extra trips to work from home. Are these miles deductible for the extra trips outside of regular hours?

    • Hi Jan,
      Yes, if he is self-employed and it is directly related to his business he would deduct it on his schedule C, if he is employed and was not reimbursed he would deduct it as an unreimbursed employee expense if he is able to itemize his deductions. TurboTax will walk you through all of the tax deductions and credits you’re eligible for.
      Thank you,
      Lisa Greene-Lewis

  10. Hi! I started a new job in 2014, and was required to pay for the background check (I work in a school). Is that considered a work related expense? Thanks!

    • Hi Patti,
      Yes, if you are able to itemize your tax deductions(deductible expenses are over $6,200) if you are single.
      Thank you,
      Lisa Greene-Lewis

  11. I am a licensed cosmetologist working for a department store as make up artist. I also freelance . Can I claim supplies I use for my personal clients although i dont have a EIN #? Can I do as an unreimbursed expense?

  12. Looking at possible tax breaks for 2015. If I work as a temp for a company, then all of my assignments are considered “sites” rather than “workplace”. (My workplace has an actual address, many sites don’t.) I’m easily looking at a 40 mile round-trip commute, and will likely need to spend $50+ for certification and buy accessories to my uniform (appropriate footwear and clothes to keep me warm).

    Can I deduct all of this with records?

  13. I live in an RV and travel to and work various seasonal jobs. Can I deduct travel expenses for my moves to these jobs? If so, what, exactly?

  14. I’m a custodian. I would like to purchase a golf cart or a bike or something to get around work…While there only . It would never leave the place and I would be the only one to use it. Is that tax deductible and. How much would I get back if I did that

  15. I am an online teacher and I do all of my job from my home office besides traveling for some meetings. How would I deduct my home office since that’s where i work from everyday for my job?

  16. I’m a teacher and use my home computer mostly for my job. Can I claim a new home laptop as a teaching related deduction?

  17. I work in the care industry. I ruin my own clothes regulary at work. can i claim for these clothes from my vat.

    • Hi Sandra,
      If you are wearing clothes that can not be worn on a regular bases like a uniform then you would be able to deduct the costs of the uniforms.
      Thank you,
      Lisa Greene-Lewis

  18. Hello,

    My wife is required to obtain licensure in multiple localities for her job. She is reimbursed for these license’s but the reimbursement is taxed, so she is getting about 70 cents back on each dollar spent. Is this legal, and if so, can she recoup any of the money lost?

  19. TurboTax references an exception to Dept of Transportation employees that pay union dues but my brother cannot find any more on what the exception is and where the amount should go on the return. I find nothing in Pub 17 or Sch A instructions about DOT employee expense exceptions. Please advise – thank you!

    • Hi Nancy,
      I think you just want to deduct your union dues paid correct? If so, go to “Federal Taxes” tab, Deductions and Credits, scroll down to “Employee expenses”, “Job related expenses”, click “start”, continue to the screen that says “other types of expenses”, you will see “union dues” in the list, click “yes I had some of these expenses”, click “continue”, On “the enter your out of pocket expenses”, enter “the amount you paid for union dues”.
      Thank you,
      Lisa Greene-Lewis

  20. my wife took a job in another city. She commute to home almost every weekend. We have an apartment there where she work. We have the home where I work. How can I take advantage of some expenses from where she lives. it over 150 miles apart. Rent, utilities, phone, cable , etc. from her apartment. Our home is paid for, so other than property taxes, not much deductions.

  21. I am the sole member of my own business — I list my business expenses on my taxes but are they also job-related expenses? Assuming I can only use one, and not list expenses under both, which is the most beneficial? Thanks!

  22. Hi Lisa,

    My husband and I work for a ranch and use our personal cell phones about 50% of the time for business. We also are required to have a home phone and internet in order to conduct business when we are home, because we do not have cell phone service. Since we are not self-employed, how can I go about claiming these expenses as a deduction?

  23. I work for a company that cares for elderly people in their homes. We get reimbursed if we need to take them places (Dr. Appt., Grocery Store etc…) however we do not get reimbursed on mileage going to and from their homes. Can I write this off on my taxes? There is a main office that we go to to get our request forms and time sheets etc…, then we drive to the client’s home.

  24. I am an exempt salaried employee with a compensation rate of 40 hours per week. We are specifically told we can not take overtime nor substitute comp time. We are allowed to flex, when possible during the same pay week. My question is……Can an exempt employee who routinely works 60-70 hours per week of which 20-30 hours are not compensated in any form be allowed to deduct these hours as unreimbursed business expenses on a schedule A. They are in fact a business loss, when looked at the hours. I understand that FLSB does not require exempt employees to be compensated overtime. Seems to me that the hours lost per week are unreimbursed and therefore limits your ability to take on a second job…….any literature or guidance on this one?


  25. Hi Lisa,

    I work from home and everything in my home office has been supplied my me, is there a cap on how much i canclaim? also, if I have lost receipts, what can do?


  26. I live in an apartment and have a 2 bedroom unit to use the second bedroom as my home office. I work exclusively from home and my company is not reimbursing me for this. Would I claim the difference in rent between a 1 bedroom and 2 bedroom as my deduction? Thanks!

  27. This past year my business partner and I took out a life insurance policy on each other. This is to enable the survivor to effectively buy out the opposing partners shares if ever invoked. This is paid 100% out of personal pocket not by the inc. Is any of the annual fee for the policy personal deductible due its business relevance?


  29. My cell phone is used for home and business. Largely for business. Can I deduct that?
    Also my laptop? I take it to work everyday to do work I cannot do on my desktop.
    I commute over an hour to and from work. I could not move based on the job after happening after my lease was signed. I cannot deduct gas at all? Please advise. Thank you!

  30. Is it true that you can claim round trip miles for running a sales rt if you use a computer and phone at home before and after your work day? Thanks, Tom

    • Hi Tom,
      Yes, you may be able to claim it as long as the mileage is directly related to your sales business, like meeting with your clients and as long it is not mileage to go to a regular place of business, which it sounds like your regular place of business may be your home. TurboTax will guide you through claiming your mileage.
      Thank you,
      Lisa Greene-Lewis

  31. Dependent exemption question. I have not worked for 2 yrs and we are married. My husband files as married filing jointly. We were advised he could not claim me(his wife) as a dependent as he pays for our house we are paying for, the car we are paying for as well as all other expenses. I don’t make any income as we only have one vehicle so it’s impossible for me to get a job. We live in North Carolina. Could you please help in this information. Thank you, Kim

    • Hi Kim,
      A taxpayer cannot claim their spouse as a dependent, however if you file married filing jointly, he will still get an exemption of $3,700 on the tax return for you, which is the same amount as the dependent exemption.

      Thank you,
      Lisa Greene-Lewis

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