Tax Deductible Job Search Expenses - John R. Dundon II, Enrolled Agent
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Tax Deductible Job Search Expenses

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Tax Deductible Job Search Expenses

Recently the IRS’ Outreach Corner published an article stating that if you’re searching for a job, “you may be able to deduct some of your expenses, such as attending career fairs, moving expenses and submitting resumes, on your tax return as long as you are looking for a new job in your current occupation.”

This is a true statement of fact however I worry for taxpayers because particular care needs to be had in understanding, substantiating as well as representing how long it has been since your last ‘job’ as well as whether the new ‘job’ in question is in the same ‘occupation’ as your previous ‘job’ and ultimately what the definition of a ‘job’ really is. These are the questions I am regularly faced with in IRS audits when job search expenses are being scrutinized and in Appeals if job search expenses have been disallowed.

For more information about job search expenses check out:

IRS Publication 529, Miscellaneous Deductions,

Tax Topic 508, Miscellaneous Expenses,

Tax Topic 511, Business Travel Expenses.

In Summary

• Job search expenses fall into the category of miscellaneous itemized deductions on Schedule A, Itemized Deductions. If your total itemized deductions are higher than the standard deduction, it’s generally better to choose to include your itemized deductions. Also, in most cases, these expenses must exceed your adjusted gross income by two percent to provide a tax benefit.
• Expenses incurred while searching for a job in your current occupation can be deductible. However, you may not deduct expenses incurred while looking for a job in a new occupation.
• Fees paid to employment and outplacement agencies are deductible. However, if your employer reimburses you for these fees in a later year, you must include the amount in your gross income up to the amount of your tax benefit in the earlier year.
• Costs for resume preparation and postage for mailing your resume to prospective employers is deductible.
• Travel expenses may be deductible if the primary purpose for the trip is to look for a new job. The amount of time you spend on personal activity compared to the amount of time you spend looking for work is important in determining whether or not the trip is primarily personal or primarily to look for a new job.
• Moving costs to a new job location may be deductible. However, you must meet certain criteria relating to distance moved and timing of the move. See IRS Publication 521, Moving Expenses.
• Job search expenses cannot be deducted if there was a substantial break between the end of your last job and the time you began looking for a new one.
• You cannot deduct job search expenses if you are looking for a job for the first time.