Career and Work-Related Tax Deductions

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Whether you're an employee or self-employed, you may have work-related expenses you can deduct on your income tax return.

Business Deductions for Home Office

More people now work at home at least part of the time. If you work in your home, you may be able to take an employee expenses deduction or a business deduction for a home office.

You can only take a deduction for a home office if you use an area in your home regularly and exclusively for business. It must be your principal place of business or a place you meet with clients, or it can be used in connection with your business if it is a separate structure not attached to your personal residence, such as a shop.

With the simplified option launched in 2013, you can deduct $5 per square foot (up to 300 square feet and with a $1,500 limit). This option greatly reduces time spent on paperwork and tracking expenses.

If you are an employee, the use of the home office must also be for your employer's convenience - not yours.

If you can deduct expenses for a home office, you can deduct a proportionate amount of all indirect expenses for your home, including mortgage interest, real estate taxes, rent, utilities, and so on.

If you are using the simplified method of reporting the deduction, you list these deductions on Schedule A, but you do not need to allocate them to business or personal use. Unlike the regular reporting method, the simplified option does not allow you to depreciate the portion of your home used to conduct your business.

Employee Expenses

If you are an employee, you may also be able to deduct unreimbursed travel and transportation costs, supplies, uniforms, and other expenses. Employee expenses must be significant before they actually lower your tax bill. You can only deduct your employee expenses to the extent that they exceed 2% of your adjusted gross income, and only if you itemize your deductions.

Self-Employed Expenses

If you are self-employed, you can deduct your ordinary and necessary expenses for your trade or business. Some expenses, such as the cost of inventory or business equipment, may not be deductible in full in the year you pay them. TaxAct asks you questions about your inventory expenses to calculate your deductible cost of goods sold. TaxAct also calculates depreciation or first-year expensing for business assets you acquire.

If you pay people in the course of your business, it's important to correctly determine if they are independent contractors, or if they are really employees.

The IRS uses common law rules to determine if a worker is an employee or an independent contractor. Revenue Ruling 87-41 contains 20 of these rules you should take into consideration.

According to these rules, a person is likely to be an independent contractor if he or she requires little training, and has latitude over how the job is completed. An independent contractor is less likely to have a temporary relationship, to provide tools and supplies, and to work for more than one company.

A person is likely to be an employee if he or she is an integral part of the business and works only for one company. If an employee has travel or other expenses, the employer is more likely to reimburse them. Employees generally have set work hours and work on the employer's premises.

It's easier to write a check to independent contractors, rather than dealing with the paperwork that comes with hiring employees. However, it's important to classify employees or contractors correctly, to avoid reclassification by the IRS. If the IRS reclassifies a worker at some later date, you will be liable for back payroll taxes, plus penalties and interest.

Travel Expenses

If you travel for your business or as an employee, you can generally take a deduction for your travel expenses. Your trip must be for longer than a day - even a long day. Your duties must require you to be away from home long enough for you to need rest, generally meaning overnight.

Besides airplane or bus tickets, you can deduct the cost of the taxi or commuter bus you took to the airport or from the airport to your hotel. You can also deduct any costs for getting your business materials, e.g., exhibit booth or conference materials, to your destination, and your actual car or truck expenses or the standard mileage rate, in most cases.

You can also deduct the cost of meals and lodging while you travel, although you generally can only deduct 50% of the cost of your meals.

Miscellaneous expenses while traveling add up. Include items such as tips, dry cleaning and laundry expenses, and Internet and fax fees when traveling.


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Upcoming Tax Dates

February 1 — Individuals who must make estimated tax payments
If you did not pay your last installment of estimated tax by January 15, you may choose (but are not required) to file your income tax return (Form 1040) for 2015 by February 1. Filing your return and paying any tax due by February 2 prevents any penalty for late payment of the last installment. If you cannot file and pay your tax by February 1, file and pay your tax by April 18.

February 1 — All Employers
Give your employees their copies of Form W2 for 2015. If an employee agreed to receive Form W2 electronically, have it posted on a website and notify the employee of the posting.

February 1 — Payers of gambling winnings
If you either paid reportable gambling winnings or withheld income tax from gambling winnings, give the winners their copies of Form W2G.

February 1 — Nonpayroll taxes
File Form 945 to report income tax withheld for 2015 on all nonpayroll items, including backup withholding and withholding on pensions, annuities, IRAs, gambling winnings, and payments of Indian gaming profits to tribal members. Deposit or pay any undeposited tax under the accuracy of deposit rules.

February 1 — Social Security, Medicare, and withheld income tax
File Form 941 for the fourth quarter of 2015. Deposit or pay any undeposited tax under the accuracy of deposit rules. If your tax liability is less than $2,500, you can pay it in full with a timely filed return. If you deposited the tax for the quarter timely, properly, and in full, you have until February 10 to file the return.

February 1 — Certain small employers
File Form 944 to report social security and Medicare taxes and withheld income tax for 2015. Deposit or pay any undeposited tax under the accuracy of deposit rules. If your tax liability is $2,500 or more for 2015 but less than $2,500 for the fourth quarter, deposit any undeposited tax or pay it in full with a timely filed return. If you deposited the tax for the year timely, properly, and in full, you have until February 10 to file the return.

February 1 — Farm employers
File Form 943 to report social security and Medicare taxes and withheld income tax for 2015. Deposit or pay any undeposited tax under the accuracy of deposit rules. If your tax liability is less than $2,500, you can pay it in full with a timely filed return. If you deposited the tax for the year timely, properly, and in full, you have until February 10 to file the return.

February 1 — Federal unemployment tax
File Form 940 for 2015. If your undeposited tax is $500 r less, you can either pay it with your return or deposit it. If it is more than $500, you must deposit it. However, if you deposited the tax for the year timely, properly, and in full, you have until February 10 to file the return.

February 1 — All businesses
Give annual information statements to recipients of certain payments you made during 2015 - Details

February 1 — Form 720 taxes
File Form 720 for the fourth quarter of 2015.

February 1 — Wagering tax
File Form 730 and pay the tax on wagers accepted during December 2015.

February 1 — Heavy highway vehicle use tax
File Form 2290 and pay the tax for vehicles first used in December 2015.

February 10 — Nonpayroll taxes
File Form 945 to report income tax withheld for 2015 on all nonpayroll items. This due date applies only if you deposited the tax for the year timely, properly, and in full.

February 10 — Social security, Medicare, and withheld income tax
File Form 941 for the fourth quarter of 2015. This due date applies only if you deposited the tax for the quarter timely, properly, and in full.

February 10 — Certain small employers
File Form 944 to report social security and Medicare taxes and withheld income tax for 2015. This due date applies only if you deposited the tax for the year timely, properly, and in full.

February 10 — Farm employers
File Form 943 to report social security and Medicare taxes and withheld income tax for 2015. This due date applies only if you deposited the tax for the year timely, properly, and in full.

February 10 — Federal unemployment tax
File Form 940 for 2015. This due date applies only if you deposited the tax for the year timely, properly, and in full.

February 10 — Employees who work for tips
If you received $20 or more in tips during January, report them to your employer - Details

February 10 — Communications and air transportation taxes under the alternative method
Deposit the tax included in amounts billed or tickets sold during the first 15 days of January.

February 12 — Regular method taxes
Deposit the tax for the last 16 days of January.

February 15 — Everyone
Federal Holiday (Washington's Birthday) - Details

February 16 — Individuals
If you claimed exemption from income tax withholding last year on the Form W-4, you must file a new Form W-4 by this date to continue your exemption for another year - Details

February 16 — All businesses
Give annual information statements to recipients of certain payments you made during 2015 - Details

February 16 — Publication 509 (2015)
All payments reported on Form 1099S, Proceeds From Real Estate Transactions. Substitute payments reported in box 8 or gross proceeds paid to an attorney reported in box 14 of Form 1099MISC.

February 16 — Social security, Medicare, and withheld income tax
If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in January.

February 16 — Nonpayroll withholding
If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in January.

February 17 — All employers
Begin withholding income tax from the pay of any employee who claimed exemption from withholding in 2015, but did not give you Form W4 to continue the exemption this year.

February 25 — Communications and air transportation taxes under the alternative method
Deposit the tax included in amounts billed or tickets sold during the last 16 days of January.

February 29 — Regular method taxes.
Deposit the tax for the first 15 days of February.

February 29 — All businesses
File information returns (for example, Forms 1099) for certain payments you made during 2015.

February 29 — Farmers & fishermen
File your 2015 income tax return (Form 1040) and pay any tax due - Details

February 29 — Payers of gambling winnings.
File Form 1096 along with Copy A of all the Forms W2G you issued for 2015. If you file Forms W2G electronically, your due date for filing them with the IRS will be extended to March 31. The due date for giving the recipient these forms remains February 1.

February 29 — All employers
File Form W3, Transmittal of Wage and Tax Statements, along with Copy A of all the Forms W2 you issued for 2015. If you file Forms W2 electronically, your due date for filing them with the SSA will be extended to March 31. The due date for giving the recipient these forms remains February 1.

February 29 — Large food and beverage establishment employers
File Form 8027, Employer's Annual Information Return of Tip Income and Allocated Tips. Use Form 8027T, Transmittal of Employer's Annual Information Return of Tip Income and Allocated Tips, to summarize and transmit Forms 8027 if you have more than one establishment. If you file Forms 8027 electronically, your due date for filing them with the IRS will be extended to March 31.

February 29 — Wagering tax
File Form 730 and pay the tax on wagers accepted during January.

February 29 — Heavy highway vehicle use tax
File Form 2290 and pay the tax for vehicles first used in January.

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