How The IRS Wants To Help You With Your Job Hunting Expenses

by Khaleef Crumbley on February 27, 2011

in Career,Taxes

Job Search Expenses

Normally, when we talk about tax deductions, we immediately think of IRA contribution limits, the standard mileage rate, or self employment tax. However, with so many people being out of work or working part-time hours, the job market is being flooded with applicants. This is why it is important to look at the tax deductions related to job hunting expenses.

Summer used to be the season for job hunting. I received a ton of announcements and advertisements for career fairs, resume services, and headhunters during the summer. However, since the economy has tanked, I get them all year long!

Due to this fact, the IRS has released a list of tax benefits for job seekers. So, while our Senators debate another payroll tax holiday, see if you qualify for any job search deductions.

A Few Guidelines Regarding Job Hunting Expenses:

  • 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 receive in your gross income up to the amount of your tax benefit in the earlier year.
  • You can deduct amounts you spend for preparing and mailing copies of your résumé to prospective employers as long as you are looking for a new job in your present occupation.
  • If you travel to an area to look for a new job in your present occupation, you may be able to deduct travel expenses to and from the area. 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 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.
  • To qualify for a deduction, the expenses must be spent on a job search in your current occupation.

So, be sure to save all records of any of these job hunting expenses. Don’t forget things such as printing and copying your resumes, paying headhunters and agencies, and even travel costs.

Other Things To Note About Job Hunting Expenses:

  • You may not deduct expenses incurred while looking for a job in a new occupation.
  • You cannot deduct job search expenses if you are looking for a job for the first time.
  • You cannot deduct 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.

So, in order to deduct job search expenses, it can’t be your first job search and it can’t be in a new field. Of course, just to complicate things, the IRS does not go on to specify what a “substantial break” actually is. However, if you decide to start your own business and become a young entrepreneur, then there is another set of tax laws that govern your situation.

To find out more about deducting job search expenses, see IRS Publication 529. If you have any questions regarding any other issues, please visit our tax help page. Also, be sure to contact us for professional tax preparation once you are ready to file.

Be sure you are aware of the tax filing delay, as well as the fact that the tax filing deadline has been extended this year. To get the most out of your financial situation in 2011, you should know the IRA Contribution Limits, 401k Contribution Limits, and the Income Tax Rates for 2011!

photo credit: nidhug

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

1 sean

Thanks for the article! I would never have though about tax deductions during a job search, this is the time when they are most needed!


2 Dr Dean

It is interesting how tax codes get written to favor one group or another.

Why the unemployed get a break and the never employed don’t is an interesting phenomena…


3 Mrs. BrokeProfessional

I truly had no idea tax deductions like these existed. Unfortunately for Mr. BP and myself, our arduous job hunts of last summer were for first time jobs, otherwise these would have been great opportunities to take advantage of. I will be passing along this post to friends who are looking to move within their current field.


4 Aloysa

Great informative artcile! I didn’t know that you can deduct some of the job hunting expenses. Not that I am job hunting… but it is always good to know!


5 MoneyCone

With the unemployment rate at its peak, a very timely post Khaleef!


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