Employment Expenses and Job Deductions You CAN'T Deduct

Generally, you cannot deduct the following job related expenses:

Commuting Expenses

You cannot deduct commuting expenses for transportation between your home and your regular place of work. If you carry tools, instruments, or other items in your car to and from work, you can deduct only the additional cost of transporting the items, such as the rent of a trailer to carry them.

Commuting expense information.

Health Spa Expenses

Even if you have a job requirement to stay in tremendous physical condition, for example if you are a law enforcement officer, you cannot deduct health spa expenses. 

Details about health spa expenses.

Lobbying Expenses

Expenses paid for lobbying activities cannot be deducted. These include expenses to:

  • Influence legislation,
  • Participate, or intervene, in any political campaign for, or against, any candidate for public office,
  • Attempt to influence the general public, or segments of the public, about elections, legislative matters, or referendums, or
  • Communicate directly with covered executive branch officials in any attempt to influence the official actions or positions of those officials.

Lobbying expenses also include any amounts paid or incurred for research, preparation, planning, or coordination of any of the above activities.

The following executive branch officials are covered in relation to the activities mentioned above:

  • The President.
  • The Vice President.
  • Any officer or employee of the White House Office of the Executive Office of the President, and the two most senior level officers of each of the other agencies in the Executive Office.
  • Any individual serving in a position in Level I of the Executive Schedule under section 5312 of Title 5, United States Code, any other individual designated by the President as having Cabinet-level status, and any immediate deputy of one of these individuals.

If an organization is tax-exempt and part of the dues or other amounts you pay to the organization are used to pay nondeductible lobbying expenses, you cannot deduct that part.

Exceptions:  

  • You can deduct ordinary and necessary lobbying expenses of carrying on your trade or business.
  • Expenses for efforts to influence the legislation of any local council or similar governing body such as an Indian tribal government can be deducted.
  • You can deduct in-house expenses for influencing legislation or communicating directly with a covered executive branch official if the expenses for the tax year are not more than $2,000 (not counting overhead expenses).
  • Generally, you can deduct the expenses for the trade or business of lobbying on behalf of another person if you are a professional lobbyist. Payments by the other person to you for lobbying activities cannot be deducted.

Work Lunch Expenses

You cannot deduct the cost of lunches with co-workers, except while traveling away from home on business. More information about deductible expenses.

Meals while Working Late

The cost of meals while working late cannot be deducted, however, you may be able to deduct the cost if the meals are a deductible entertainment expense, or if you are traveling away from home.

More information about deductible expenses.

Medical Expenses as Business Expenses

You might be able to include as a deduction the cost of medical expenses as a business expense. 

Medical expense details.

Professional Accreditation Fees

The cost of professional accreditation fees such as the following cannot be deducted:

  • Accounting certificate fees paid related to practicing accounting.
  • Bar exam fees and incidental expenses.
  • Medical and dental license fees.

Professional Reputation, Expenses to Improve

Any expenses that are paid for radio or TV appearances for the purpose of creating or enhancing your professional reputation cannot be deducted.

Stockholders' Meeting, Expenses of Attending

If you own stock in a company and attend the stockholders’ meeting, any expenses paid, including the cost of transportation, cannot be deducted.

Tax-Exempt Income, Expenses of Earning or Collecting

If you have expenses to generate tax-exempt income, you cannot deduct the interest owed on a debt used to acquire or continue to purchase tax-exempt securities.  If you cannot determine which expenses were used to generate taxable and tax-exempt income, you need to divide them based on the amount of each type of income to determine the amount you can deduct.

Voluntary Unemployment Benefit Fund Contributions

If you have made voluntary unemployment benefit fund contributions to a union fund or a private fund, they cannot be deducted. But you may be able to deduct contributions as taxes if state law necessitates you make them to a qualifying state unemployment fund.

Be Careful of Non-Deductible Expenses

If your employer provides you any of the following, it will generally be considered taxable income. Furthermore, these expenses do not qualify as deductible:

  • Commuting expenses
  • Health Spa membership fees
  • Political contributions
  • Campaign expenses
  • Brokers' commissions
  • Meals while working late
  • Lunch with co-workers (except while traveling)
  • Professional accreditation fees
  • Club dues
  • Life insurance premiums
  • Personal disability insurance premiums
  • Burial and funeral expenses
  • Personal legal fees
  • Fines, such as parking and speeding tickets
  • Interest on car loans
  • Capital expenses
  • Check-writing/ personal checking account fees
  • Home repairs, insurance, and security
  • Fees for licenses, such as for marriage
  • Lost or misplaced cash or property
  • Relief fund contributions
  • Residential telephone lines
  • Wristwatches (even if necessary for work)
  • Voluntary unemployment benefit fund contributions
  • Lost vacation time or unpaid wages
  • Expenses of earning and collecting tax-exempt income
  • Expenses of attending a stockholders' meeting

Click here for a list of job related expenses that are often tax deductible

 See what tax deductions you may qualify for.

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