Job Search Tax Deduction Elimination for 2018 and Beyond

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Job search expenses were potentially a tax deduction when you filed your income taxes through the 2017 tax year. However, since what's deductible on your income taxes — and what's not — is determined by the current tax law, be aware that this deduction has changed.

What Does the New Tax Bill Mean for Job Searchers? 

In December 2017, the House and Senate passed the Tax Cuts and Job Acts, with provisions that took effect in 2018 and will last through 2025. This bill suspends or eliminates many deductions, including the option to deduct job-search-related expenses, according to Forbes. Forbes reports that "Miscellaneous deductions which exceed 2% of your AGI will be eliminated for the tax years 2018 through 2025." This includes job search expenses.

2018 - 2025 Job Search Expenses Tax Deduction Elimination

For 2018, and going forward, these deductions will not be available or will change. For example, the deduction for moving expenses if you are relocating because of a job transfer, for a new job, or to start a business has been suspended through 2025

2017 Deductions If You Searched for a Job in the Same Line of Work

The information below is accurate for taxes paid for 2017 (that is, the taxes filed by April 15, 2018).

If you were looking for a job in the same line of work you're currently in, many of your expenses like phone calls, the costs of preparing and copying your resume, and career counseling were deductible for 2017.

You didn't have to be out of work to have some of your costs qualify as a deductible expense, but only expenses that exceeded 2% percent of your income counted. If you had been unemployed during 2017, you needed to report your unemployment compensation as income.

Also, severance pay, bonuses, 401(k) and/or other pension distributions may be taxable. Work that was done as an independent contractor also must be included in your income. For detailed information on what you need to report and how to report it, the IRS website is an excellent resource.

What You Can't Deduct

You can deduct certain expenses you have in looking for a new job in your present occupation, even if you do not get a new job. You cannot deduct these expenses if:

  • You are looking for a job in a new occupation
  • There was a substantial break between the ending of your last job and when you began looking for a new one
  • You are looking for a job for the first time

Deductible Job Search Expenses

The following are allowable job search deductible expenses, summarized from IRS Publication 529. (Again, note that these were deductible expenses for the year 2017, but will not be available for taxes paid in the year 2018 and going forward.) 

Employment and Outplacement Agency Fees

You can deduct employment and outplacement agency fees you pay in looking for a new job in your present occupation. However, if in a later year, your employer pays you back 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.

Also, if your employer pays the fees directly to the employment agency and you are not responsible for them, you do not include them in your gross income. Fees for online services directly connected to your job search like premium networking through LinkedIn might also be covered.

Resume Expenses

You can deduct amounts you spend for typing, printing, and mailing copies of a resume to prospective employers if you are looking for a new job in your present occupation.

Travel and Transportation Expenses

If you travel to an area and, while there, you look for a new job in your present occupation; you may be able to deduct travel expenses to and from the area. You can deduct the travel expenses if the trip is primarily to look for a new job. Hotel accommodations and meals associated with travel to another area for a job in your field may also be deductible.

Even if you cannot deduct the travel expenses to and from an area, you can deduct the expenses of looking for a new job in your present occupation while in the area.

Phone Calls

Local and long distance phone calls to prospective employers are also deductible.

Documentation

As with all tax deductions, there are three important words to remember: document, document, document. Keep track of your expenses, and back them up with receipts.