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Tax Deductions for Unemployed Persons Looking For Work
By Stacie Kitts, CPA
There are so many people looking for work, I agree it’s was a good idea to remind people that there is a tax deduction waiting for taxpayers. Although – I think some of the restrictions here are totally bogus as it applies to this economy. I think the restrictions should be lifted. But that’s just my opinion.
Here are seven things the IRS wants you to know about deducting costs related to your job search.
- To qualify for a deduction, the expenses must be spent on a job search in your current occupation. You may not deduct expenses you incur while looking for a job in a new occupation. [This restriction irks me. Rather than wasting away on unemployment, any attempt to get a job should be rewarded]
- 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.
- 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. [In this economy, I think this restriction is stupid also]
- You cannot deduct job search expenses if you are looking for a job for the first time. [Okay well maybe I can go along with this one]
- The amount of job search expenses that you can claim on your tax return is limited. You can claim the amount that is more than 2 percent of your adjusted gross income. You figure your deduction on Schedule A. [bogus – these should not be limited – all attempts to find employment – again in this economy – in my opinion should be fully deductible]
For more information about job search expenses, see IRS Publication 529, Miscellaneous Deductions. This publication is available on www.irs.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).
Tax Credits to Help Offset College Costs
Check out these tax credits to help offset the cost of college – presented below by the IRS from their tax tips series.
- American Opportunity Credit This credit, originally created under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, has been extended for an additional two years – 2011 and 2012. The credit can be up to $2,500 per eligible student and is available for the first four years of post secondary education. Forty percent of this credit is refundable, which means that you may be able to receive up to $1,000, even if you owe no taxes. Qualified expenses include tuition and fees, course related books, supplies and equipment. The full credit is generally available to eligible taxpayers whose modified adjusted gross income is below $80,000 ($160,000 for married couples filing a joint return).
- Lifetime Learning Credit In 2011, you may be able to claim a Lifetime Learning Credit of up to $2,000 for qualified education expenses paid for a student enrolled in eligible educational institutions. There is no limit on the number of years you can claim the Lifetime Learning Credit for an eligible student, but to claim the credit, your modified adjusted gross income must be below $60,000 ($120,000 if married filing jointly).
- Tuition and Fees Deduction This deduction can reduce the amount of your income subject to tax by up to $4,000 for 2011 even if you do not itemize your deductions. Generally, you can claim the tuition and fees deduction for qualified higher education expenses for an eligible student if your modified adjusted gross income is below $80,000 ($160,000 if married filing jointly).
- Student loan interest deduction Generally, personal interest you pay, other than certain mortgage interest, is not deductible. However, if your modified adjusted gross income is less than $75,000 ($150,000 if filing a joint return), you may be able to deduct interest paid on a student loan used for higher education during the year. It can reduce the amount of your income subject to tax by up to $2,500, even if you don’t itemize deductions.
For each student, you can choose to claim only one of the credits in a single tax year. However, if you pay college expenses for two or more students in the same year, you can choose to take credits on a per-student, per-year basis. You can claim the American Opportunity Credit for your sophomore daughter and the Lifetime Learning Credit for your senior son.
You cannot claim the tuition and fees deduction for the same student in the same year that you claim the American Opportunity Credit or the Lifetime Learning Credit. You must choose to either take the credit or the deduction and should consider which is more beneficial for you.
Six Things to Know About the Expanded Adoption Tax Credit
If you are adopting a child in 2011, the Internal Revenue Service encourages you to familiarize yourself with the adoption tax credit. The Affordable Care Act increased the amount of the credit and made it refundable, which means it can increase the amount of your refund.
Here are six things to know about this valuable tax credit:
- The adoption tax credit, which is as much as $13,170, offsets qualified adoption expenses making adoption possible for some families who could not otherwise afford it. Taxpayers who adopt a child in 2010 or 2011 may qualify if you adopted or attempted to adopt a child and paid qualified expenses relating to the adoption.
- Taxpayers with modified adjusted gross income of more than $182,520 in 2010 may not qualify for the full amount and it phases out completely at $222,520. The IRS may make inflation adjustments for 2011 to this phase-out amount as well as to the maximum credit amount.
- You may be able to claim the credit even if the adoption does not become final. If you adopt a special needs child, you may qualify for the full amount of the adoption credit even if you paid few or no adoption-related expenses.
- Qualified adoption expenses are reasonable and necessary expenses directly related to the legal adoption of the child who is under 18 years old, or physically or mentally incapable of caring for himself or herself. These expenses may include adoption fees, court costs, attorney fees and travel expenses.
- To claim the credit, you must file a paper tax return and Form 8839, Qualified Adoption Expenses, and you must attach documents supporting the adoption. Documents may include a final adoption decree, placement agreement from an authorized agency, court documents and the state’s determination for special needs children. You can still use IRS Free File to prepare your return, but it must be printed and mailed to the IRS, along with all required documentation. Failure to include required documents will delay your refund.
- The IRS is committed to processing adoption credit claims quickly, but it also must safeguard against improper claims by ensuring the standards for this important credit are met. If your return is selected for review, please keep in mind that it is necessary for the IRS to ensure the legal criteria are met before the credit can be paid. If you are owed a refund beyond the adoption credit, you will still receive that part of your refund while the review is being conducted.
For more information see the Adoption Benefits FAQ page available at www.irs.gov or the instructions to IRS Form 8839, Qualified Adoption Expenses, which can be downloaded from the website or ordered by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).
- Adoption Benefits FAQs
- Form 8839, Qualified Adoption Expenses
- Instructions for Form 8839, Qualified Adoption Expenses