After writing Can I Deduct My Uniform Costs on My Income Tax Return?, I’ve gotten more questions and comments about other items that may or may not be deducted from your income taxes. While I am not a tax professional and this is not professional advice, I have learned a few things over the years. Here are some items that are commonly thought to be tax-deductible:
Cell Phones: No. You are presumed to have a form of communication regardless of whether you are in the military. If your military job requires that you have a specific cell phone, they will issue you one.
Computers: No. It is assumed that a military member has access to computers for the requirements of their job.
Gas/Tolls/Other Transportation: Generally no. There are some provisions for the official use of a personal vehicle, but they are very limited, require careful bookkeeping, and are subject to the 2% of your Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) limitation. Reservists, however, are permitted to deduct travel expenses to and from their reserve obligations.
Moving Expenses: Some moving expenses are deductible. The IRS has a great publication with the details about this topic. Be sure that you only deduct expenses that exceed any reimbursement you receive from the government.
Don’t forget to check with your installation’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) office for more information on specific situations.
If your tax advisor tells you that these items are deductible, I strongly encourage you to get a second opinion. There are unscrupulous tax advisors who have been deducting these items for military members; some have even been charged and found guilty of tax-evasion related crimes. This is not a situation you want.
For more information on military-related job expenses and their deductibility on federal income tax returns, check out these other posts: