TurboTax FAQ
TurboTax FAQ
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What self-employed expenses can I deduct?

If it's directly related to the work you do, you can deduct it as an expense. 

Work-related expenses reduce your taxes by lowering the amount of self-employment income you get taxed on. For example, if you made $50,000 in self-employment income and had $5,000 out-of-pocket expenses, you'd only get taxed on $45,000.

Below are some common expenses most self-employed taxpayers will want to review:

Common Expenses

  • Communication costs, for example cell phones, data plans, internet or wireless services, land or fax lines, long-distance charges, voicemail or answering services, call waiting, etc.
    • If also used for personal reasons (for example, internet service), then only the proportion used in business is allowed as an expense
  • Office supplies (paper, toner, writing instruments, etc.), software, stamps, envelopes, shipping materials, cleaning supplies
  • Any licenses or permits that are required for your profession
  • Fees and membership dues you paid to professional associations or unions
  • Continuing education or certification related to your work
  • Mileage accumulated during the course of your work
    • However, regularly commuting to and from a fixed office wouldn't qualify
  • Advertising costs, including business cards and websites
  • Fees for attorneys, consultants, accountants, and other professionals
  • Liability insurance, errors and omissions insurance, surety bonds
  • Credit card and bank fees
  • Health care premiums

 

Below are some more industry-specific expenses for common self-employed professions.

Driver

As an Uber, Lyft, or other self-employed driver, you can deduct these work-related expenses in addition to the ones listed above:

  • Cell phones, data plans, and cell phone accessories (chargers, cradles and mounts)
  • Vehicle expenses or standard mileage
  • Car wash, cleaning, and detailing
  • Licenses, permits, emissions testing
  • Customer refreshments (bottled water, mints, snacks, gum)
  • Commissions paid or deducted from income (Uber and Lyft split fare)
  • Miscellaneous fees (tolls, parking, roadside assistance, city and airport fees, etc.)

These out-of-pocket expenses will offset (reduce) your earnings, lowering the amount of income you pay taxes on.

As for the car itself, you can deduct fuel, maintenance, repairs, auto insurance, registration, lease payments, and depreciation. Many drivers opt to do this through the Standard Mileage Rate (54 cents per mile) because it's much simpler. However, you can deduct each expense individually with the alternative Actual Expenses method.

Here are more resources:

 

Consultant

In addition to the expenses listed above, you might have these expenses while working as a consultant:

  • Office supplies, computer software (tax prep fees)
  • Cell phones, data plans, second phone line
  • Advertising, including websites
  • Work-related education
  • Licenses, legal or professional membership dues
  • Vehicle expenses or standard mileage
  • Travel expenses such as airfare, auto rental, lodging
  • Meals and entertainment with clients

These out-of-pocket expenses will offset (reduce) your earnings, lowering the amount of income you pay taxes on.

Salesperson

If you're a self-employed salesperson, here are some expenses you can deduct, in addition to the ones listed above:

  • Sales kits, presentation materials, free samples
  • Booth rental fees at malls, farmer's markets, craft fairs, trade shows, etc.
  • Inventory storage space
  • Advertising, including websites
  • Office supplies, shipping, postage
  • Cell phones, data plans, second phone line
  • Travel expenses such as airfare, auto rental, lodging
  • Meals and entertainment with clients

These out-of-pocket expenses will offset (reduce) your earnings, lowering the amount of income you pay taxes on.

Real estate agent/professional

In addition to the expenses listed above, self-employed real estate agents can also deduct things like:

  • Broker, lockbox, and MLS fees
  • Advertising, including websites (signage, open house refreshments)
  • Business Insurance (liability, errors & omissions, etc.)
  • Fees for licenses and renewals, professional association fees and membership dues
  • Work-related education
  • Cell phones, data plans, second phone line
  • Vehicle expenses or standard mileage

These out-of-pocket expenses will offset (reduce) your earnings, lowering the amount of income you pay taxes on.

 

Residential building contractor or landscaper

As a self-employed construction worker, contractor, handyman, or landscaper, here are some additional expenses you can deduct, in addition to those listed above:

    • Equipment such as garden tools, wheelbarrows, lawnmowers, trailers
    • Supplies (sprinkler heads, herbicides, fertilizer, etc.) 
    • Specialized protective clothing like masks, safety glasses/shoes/boots, and work gloves
    • Vehicle expenses or standard mileage
    • Advertising, including websites
    • Work-related education or training
    • Licenses and permits
    • Liability and other insurance
    • Cell phones, data plans, second phone line

These out-of-pocket expenses will offset (reduce) your earnings, lowering the amount of income you pay taxes on.

 

Childcare or eldercare provider

As a self-employed caretaker, babysitter, or nanny, here are some additional expenses you can deduct, in addition to those listed above:

 

  • CPR certification, first aid training
  • Miscellaneous supplies such as diapers, food, toys, books
  • Liability insurance
  • Advertising, including websites
  • Cell phones, data plans, second phone line
  • Vehicle expenses or standard mileage
  • Work-related education or training
  • Licenses and permits, membership dues
  • Fees for legal or professional services (Childcare only)

You can't take write off these expenses if you're not self-employed, for example if you're a household employee who was hired through an agency.

These out-of-pocket expenses will offset (reduce) your earnings, lowering the amount of income you pay taxes on.

 

Health practitioner

As a self-employed healthcare service providers like acupuncturists, chiropractors, dentists, and physicians, here are things you can deduct in addition to those listed above:

 

  • Specialized equipment, supplies and tools such as examination tables, acupuncture needles
  • Uniforms otherwise unsuitable for everyday wear
  • Refreshments and reading material for your clients
  • Office or booth rental (Rent paid for an office or booth)
  • Advertising, including websites
  • Licenses, permits, renewal fees, membership dues
  • Liability, malpractice, or other business insurance
  • Cell phones, data plans, call waiting second phone line
  • Vehicle expenses or standard mileage
  • Work-related education or training

 These out-of-pocket expenses will offset (reduce) your earnings, lowering the amount of income you pay taxes on.

Beauticians and barbers

Self-employed hair stylists, beauticians, and barbers can deduct the following expenses along with those mentioned above:

 

  • Salon or booth rental
  • Supplies such as shampoo, hair products, combs, towels, nail products, etc.
  • Tools (scissors, hair dryers, curling irons, razors), including scissor and tool sharpening 
  • Uniforms otherwise unsuitable for everyday wear, and the laundry and cleaning services 
  • Refreshments, wifi, and reading material for your clients
  • Advertising, including websites
  • Licenses, membership dues
  • Work-related education or training
  • Cell phones, data plans, second phone line

These out-of-pocket expenses will offset (reduce) your earnings, lowering the amount of income you pay taxes on.

Writers, performers, and other artists

If you're a self-employed writer, artist, or performer, you can write off these expenses in addition to the ones listed above:

  • Equipment, like musical instruments, easels, recorders, stage props
  • Supplies such as canvas, paint, makeup
  • Costumes (if unsuitable for everyday wear)
  • Books, magazines, or other reference materials used in your work
  • Advertising, including websites
  • Agent commissions
  • Cell phones, data plans, and second phone line
  • Vehicle expenses or standard mileage
  • Travel expenses such as airfare, auto rental, and lodging

These out-of-pocket expenses will offset (reduce) your earnings, lowering the amount of income you pay taxes on.

Sports official

As a self-employed coach, umpire, or referee, here are some additional expenses you can deduct:

  • Tools, supplies and equipment (whistles, balls, cones, first aid kit, clipboard, etc.)
  • Uniforms or gear not suitable for everyday wear, for example helmets, masks, skates, chest protectors
  • CPR certification, first aid training
  • Coach’s clinics, workshops, and specialized training
  • Travel expenses such as airfare, auto rental, lodging (plus meals, if you have to overnight)
  • Cell phones, data plans, second phone line
  • Vehicle expenses or standard mileage
  • Advertising, including websites
  • Licenses, permits, fees, membership dues

These out-of-pocket expenses will offset (reduce) your earnings, lowering the amount of income you pay taxes on.

Notaries, attorneys, or other legal services

Self-employed notaries, attorneys, or other legal services can deduct the following expenses along with those mentioned above:

  • Office supplies, notary journals, stamps
  • Copying and printing fees
  • Advertising, including websites
  • Notary insurance (E&O, surety bonds)
  • Licenses, permits, renewal fees, membership dues
  • Work-related education or training
  • Cell phones, data plans, second phone line, 
  • Vehicle expenses or standard mileage
  • Fees for legal or professional services

These out-of-pocket expenses will offset (reduce) your earnings, lowering the amount of income you pay taxes on.

 

Dieticians, nutritionists, and masseuses

 Self-employed dieticians, nutritionists, and masseuses may deduct the following expenses along with those mentioned above:

  • Specialized equipment and supplies such as massage tables, scales, towels, massage oils, refreshments 
  • Uniforms otherwise unsuitable for everyday wear
  • Advertising, including websites
  • Office or booth rental 
  • Licenses, permits, renewal fees, membership dues
  • Liability, malpractice, or other business insurance
  • Work-related education or training
  • Cell phones, data plans, second phone line 
  • Vehicle expenses or standard mileage
These out-of-pocket expenses will offset (reduce) your earnings, lowering the amount of income you pay taxes on.

Physical/occupational therapists, speech therapists, and audiologists

Self-employed physical/occupational therapists, speech therapists, and audiologists may deduct the following expenses along with those mentioned above:

  • Specialized equipment, supplies and tools such as speech cards, exercise bikes, audiometers, therapy bands, etc.
  • Uniforms otherwise unsuitable for everyday wear
  • Liability, malpractice, or other business insurance
  • Licenses, permits, renewal fees, membership dues
  • Work-related education or training
  • Cell phones, data plans, second phone line, 
  • Vehicle expenses or standard mileage
  • Advertising, including websites

These out-of-pocket expenses will offset (reduce) your earnings, lowering the amount of income you pay taxes on.


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