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FAQs: When can I deduct job-hunting expenses?

Job-hunting expenses are generally deductible if you are not searching for a job in a new field. This can be useful in a tough job market. It does not matter whether your job hunt is successful, or whether you are employed or unemployed when you are looking.

The expenses are deductible as a miscellaneous itemized deduction. You can deduct job-hunting expenses if the amount of all your miscellaneous itemized deductions exceeds two percent of your adjusted gross income. However, if you claim the standard deduction, you cannot deduct job-hunting expenses. Therefore, as a practical matter for many job seekers, job hunting expenses do not materialize as a tax deduction.

For those who are able to use job seeking expenses as a deduction, it can be difficult to determine what a new field is. A professional photographer who pursues a job in the retail industry clearly is searching in a new field and cannot deduct any of his or her job-hunting expenses. But there are exceptions. The IRS has allowed persons who retired from the military to search for jobs in new fields and claim their job-hunting expenses. Taking a temporary job while searching for permanent employment in your current field will not be considered a job change that disqualifies your job-hunting expenses.

Persons entering the job market for the first time, such as college students, and persons who have been out of the job market for a long period of time, such as parents of young children, cannot deduct their job-hunting expenses. However, a college student who worked in a particular field while in school may be able to deduct job-hunting expenses.

Deductible expenses include typing, printing and mailing a resume. Long-distance phone calls are also deductible. You can deduct travel costs for going on a job search or an interview, including air transportation, railroad, or car expenses. The standard rate for car expenses for business is 51 cents per mile for the first six months of 2011, and 55.5 cents per mile for the period July 1-December 31, 2011. Amounts you pay to a job counselor, employment agency or job referral service are all deductible.

It is important to keep records of your costs. While your individual expenses may not be substantial, your total expenses can add up to a significant amount.