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Which Job Search Expenses Are Tax Deductible?

April 20, 2017
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Business people negotiating a contract, they are pointing on a document and discussing together

Finding a new job takes a lot of time, effort, and often, money. During tax season you're probably looking for as many deductions as possible. Fortunately, some of those job search expenses are allowable deductions.

If you are looking for a new job that is in the same line of work and you are not taking a break between your last job and starting your search, you may be able to deduct some of your job hunting expenses on your federal income tax return. This could include things like transportation costs, resume printing costs, and outplacement agency fees.

When doing your taxes, keep in mind these seven things the IRS wants you to know about deducting costs related to your job search:

  1. To qualify for a deduction, your expenses must be spent on a job search in your current occupation. You may not deduct expenses you incur while looking for a job in a new occupation.
  2. You can deduct employment and outplacement agency fees you pay while looking for a job in your present occupation. If your employer pays you back in a later year for employment agency fees, you must include the amount you received in your gross income, up to the amount of your tax benefit in the earlier year.
  3. You can deduct amounts you spend for preparing and mailing copies of your resume to prospective employers as long as you are looking for a new job in your present occupation.
  4. If you travel to look for a new job in your present occupation, you may be able to deduct travel expenses to and from the area to which you traveled. You can only deduct the travel expenses if the trip is primarily to look for a new job. The amount of time you spend on personal activity unrelated to your job search compared to the amount of time you spend looking for work is important in determining whether the trip is primarily personal or is primarily to look for a new job.
  5. You cannot deduct your job search expenses if there was a substantial break between the end of your last job and the time you begin looking for a new one.
  6. You cannot deduct job search expenses if you are looking for a job for the first time.
  7. In order to be deductible, the amount that you spend for job search expenses, combined with other miscellaneous expenses, must exceed a certain threshold. To determine your deduction, use Schedule A, Itemized Deductions. Job search expenses are claimed as a miscellaneous itemized deduction. The amount of your miscellaneous deduction that exceeds 2 percent of your adjusted gross income is deductible.

Examples of things that cannot be deducted related to job search:

  • Expenses when finding a job in a new occupation.
  • Professional clothing for a job interview.
  • Computers or other technology (these are assumed to be used for more than just your job search).

For more information about job search deductions, consult with your tax adviser and reference IRS Publication 529.

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