Job Hunting Tax Breaks

Tired of your same old humdrum job? Then get out there and look for a new one! It might even help you cut your tax bill -- under certain circumstances, job-hunting expenses are tax-deductible.

New Job, Same Field
First, your hunt for new work must be in the same field in which you're currently employed. Uncle Sam won't help out if you decide to totally switch career gears.

Second, you can't decide to chill out for a while and then expect the Internal Revenue Service to help when you decide it's time to get back on the career track. Deductions aren't allowed for employment-search costs when there is a "substantial break" between your last job and when you begin looking for a new one.

Finally, recent graduates are out of luck. The costs you incur in getting your first job aren't deductible, since the tax law only allows you to write off expenses incurred in searching for another position in your present occupation.

But if you're a computer programmer and think you can get a better deal from another high-tech company, start saving those job-search receipts.

Even self-employment efforts could count at tax-filing time. The costs associated with investigating or attempting to start your own business, as long as it's in the same field as your current profession, may be tax deductible.

What You Can Write OffSome of the costs that are tax-deductible include:Employment and outplacement agency fees.Resume services. Printing and mailing costs of search letters.Want-ad placement fees.Telephone calls.Travel expenses, including out-of-town job-hunting trips. Itemizing LimitsCareful tracking of these expenses is critical because they are classified as miscellaneous itemized deductions. You itemize them on line 21 of Schedule A.But you can't automatically subtract your job-hunting costs from your income -- just those that, when added to all your miscellaneous deductions, come to more than 2 percent of your adjusted gross income.So hang onto those job-hunt vouchers. They can help push that miscellaneous amount to the allowable level, even if you don't get new work.Freelance writer Kay Bell writes Bankrate's tax stories from her Austin, Texas, home. She also writes two tax blogs, Bankrate's Eye on the IRS, and Don't Mess With Taxes. Bankrate.com is the Web's leading aggregator of information on financial products including mortgages, credit cards, new and used automobile loans, money market accounts, certificates of deposit, checking and ATM fees, home equity loans and online banking fees. Visit Bankrate.com to get the tools and information that can help you make the best financial decisions.
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