Job Search Expenses can be Tax Deductible

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It's tax season, which means that it's time to make an appointment with your tax professional or to download your favorite tax software and get started. For job seekers, especially sales professionals who already itemize their deductions, it's important to know that many of the expenses that relate to the search for a new job can be deducted as well.


According to the IRS website, there are a few rules that apply to taking deductions for job search expenses. Here are the main ones:


  1. Job seekers have to be looking for a job in the same industry. Basically, this means that a sales professional who is looking for a new job in the sales industry can deduct their job seeking expenses. However, if someone who had been working in sales decided to look for a job in some other industry, the expenses wouldn't be deductible.

  2. Traveling to look for work can't be personal. There is a fine line between travel for the purpose of looking for a job and personal travel. For example, if you had to fly into New York City to attend an interview, spent several days meeting with potential employers and then took a few additional days to see the sights and visit with friends, only a portion of your time can be deducted. However, if your travel was strictly for the purpose of finding a job, your mileage, airfare, meals, hotel stays and other expenses could be counted as a deduction.

  3. There can't have been a gap in employment. The IRS states that there can't be a significant gap between ending employment and looking for a new job. Although they aren't clear about how long of a break is “significant,” if someone was out of the workforce and not looking for a job for a couple of years and then decides to go back to work, their expenses wouldn't be allowed.

  4. Expenses must be at least 2% of adjusted gross income. In order to be able to itemize deductions, the total amount of expenses has to exceed 2% of the adjusted gross income. Once the amount has reached the 2% threshold, any expenses over that amount will be deductible.

The types of expenses that you can deduct aren't limited to simply the cost of printing and mailing out your resume. In fact, there are many types of job search expenses that might be tax deductible. According to H&R Block's Tax Tips, some things that many professionals overlook are:


  • Fees to employment agencies.

  • The cost of a professional career coach.

  • Fees for a resume writing service.

  • Phone charges or cell minutes used exclusively for phone interviews, follow up calls and other job search purposes.

  • Subscriptions to job boards and other job-hunting services.

  • Childcare expenses incurred during job interviews and other job search activities.

  • Licensing fees and other regulatory expenses, if your profession requires them.

  • Mileage to and from interviews, including parking fees and tolls.

  • Tuition and books for courses that directly relate to your industry.

  • Subscriptions to industry journals and magazines.

  • Dues to professional societies like the Chamber of Commerce, if being a member helps your job search. For many sales professionals, membership in trade organizations or community groups can help their job search and their sales success.

  • Educational or networking seminars and events, as long as they relate to the industry.


There are many different types of expenses that can be deducted. The most important thing is to keep extremely detailed records and receipts of each and every expense you plan to deduct. It's also a good idea to keep a calendar, day planner or journal to keep track of the dates of interviews and other job related events in order to track your expenses to the specific activity. It's a lot of work, but it can definitely save money at tax time.


As always, these tips are meant as general information and each person's situation is different. If you have specific questions about which expenses you can deduct, contact a trusted tax professional for personalized advice.


Do you itemize your deductions or take deductions for job search expenses? Please share your thoughts in the comments.


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