How To Claim Work Expenses On Your 2021 Taxes

The pandemic has turned many corporate employees into remote workers for the foreseeable future as well as driving layoffs and furloughs. People have had to navigate working from home — and the expenses that came with it if a workspace wasn’t already set up. For now, the most well-known employment-related tax deduction — for home office expenses — is reserved for those who are both self-employed and have a dedicated home space for working.

Read more: Tax return deadline 2021: How to estimate refund, claim stimulus money and more

“We know that there has been an increase in the number of people working from home due to the coronavirus,” Lisa Greene-Lewis, CPA, and tax expert with TurboTax said last year. “In general, only those who are self-employed can take deductions for expenses related to working from home.”

Still, there are a handful of other work-related expenses that both corporate employees and the self-employed may be eligible to claim on their taxes. And it’s worth noting that tax laws change from year to year — and it’s quite possible that the IRS will unveil a host of new tax deductions related to COVID-19, and its impact on remote working, some time between now and next April.

For now, here’s a list of the work expenses and deductions that you can presently claim.

Read more: Tax scams can still target you after you’ve filed your taxes. What to know and do

How to claim work expenses on your taxes: Choose a deduction

Before you start going through every line item of every receipt, you may want to save yourself the trouble and figure out which you’ll take: the standard deduction or the itemized deduction.

Standard deduction: The standard deduction is an all-encompassing flat rate, no questions asked. For tax year 2020, the flat rate is $12,400 for single filers and those married filing separately. The rate is $24,800 for married filing jointly. Taking this route is much easier than itemizing.

Itemized deduction: If you want to claim work expenses, medical payments, charitable contributions or other expenses, you’ll use the itemized deduction. It’s more time-consuming than the standardized deduction — and you’ll need proof of the expenses you wish to deduct.

If you’re going to claim and itemize your work expenses, you’ll need to complete Schedule A of Form 1040. You need to have sufficient proof for each itemized expense, which means tracking down receipts. If your standard deduction is greater than the sum of your itemized deductions, save yourself the trouble and take the flat-rate.

Common tax deductions to claim

Before you start adding up all the line-items, make sure you know what’s covered and what isn’t. Here are some of the most common deductions for folks working from home.

1. Home office deduction

Greene-Lewis says that although the home office deduction may be the largest deduction for self-employed people, many are hesitant to take it. The most significant requirement is that the space be reserved for and dedicated entirely to your work.

Read more: Why you can’t claim the home office tax deduction — even after working from home for a year

“Can you deduct a home office if you work at your kitchen table?” she says. “Unfortunately, no. You not only have to be self-employed — but have a dedicated space in your home that is exclusively related to your business. You can’t deduct the space at your kitchen table if your family also eats dinner there.”

If you have a dedicated workspace at home, you can use the IRS regular method or simplified option, though you can’t use a combination of them in a single tax year. Some things that qualify for home office deductions:

  • Insurance: You can deduct a percentage of your home insurance that covers the business space in your home.
  • Utilities: Expenses for utilities, like electricity and gas, can be deducted — but only the percentage used in your home office.
  • Depreciation: If you own your home, you can deduct the cost of wear and tear on the portion used exclusively for business.

All of these calculations are based on the percentage of your home that you use for business. To find the percentage, compare the size of space you use for business to that of your entire home, and then apply the percentage to the specific expenses. For instance, if your home is 1,800 square feet total, and your home office measures 300 square feet, your home office deductions could be applied at a rate of 16%.

Greene-Lewis says that if you take the simplified option, you can deduct $5 per square foot, up to 300 square feet, or $1,500 total. This would be an alternative to calculating the various individual home expenses.

2. Travel

Regular commutes from your home to work are considered non-deductible personal expenses. If you have to commute between multiple locations or travel for work, however, some of those costs may be deductible. Flights, hotel rooms, rental cars, meals and tips for service are all considered travel expenses. If a passport is required for your travel, you can claim that as well.

In the past, mileage accrued while driving your own car for business travel was an expense you could claim on your taxes — but the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act eliminated that for employees. The self-employed and business owners, however, are still eligible for this deduction.

Read more: Best tax software for 2020: TurboTax, H&R Block, Jackson Hewitt and more compared

3. Work uniform

If you have to buy clothes that you only wear for work, you can write off the cost. You can also claim expenses incurred for dry cleaning or laundering work clothes. The deduction cannot exceed 2% of your adjusted gross income.

4. Continuing education and certifications

In some fields, you can claim the enrollment cost of any required continuing education courses, classes or certifications. You can also deduct professional organization dues and fees — as long as the organization isn’t political. And if you’re a lawyer, you can deduct the price of membership for your state bar or any other similar organization.

If you’re a teacher, the Teacher Education Deduction lets you claim up to $250 of out-of-pocket costs related to teaching supplies. And Green-Lewis says if you and your partner are both teachers, you both can claim the deduction.

Read more: The truth about paying taxes on unemployment checks

5. Supplies

If you own your own business, you can deduct the cost of some business supplies. And the deduction threshold is generous.

“Self-employed business owners can deduct up to $1,020,000 for qualified business equipment like computers, printers and office furniture,” Greene-Lewis says.

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Source: How to claim work expenses on your 2021 taxes – CNET

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Here’s How to Stop Overspending When Hanging Out With Friends – Joshua Becker

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Nearly 40% of millennials overspend to keep up with friends. And two-thirds of them feel buyer’s remorse after spending more than they had planned to on a social situation.

Of course, this temptation to overspend when hanging out with friends is not unique to any one generation.

Speaking of overspending to keep up with friends, Stephanie M. Tully and Eesha Sharma, researchers and co-authors of Context-Dependent Drivers of Discretionary Debt Decisions: Explaining Willingness to Borrow for Experiential Purchasessaid, “We actually don’t see any differences across age in our data. It seems to be just as pronounced among older generations as younger generations.”

Interestingly enough, and vitally important to point out, this is also not a socioeconomic phenomenon. You cannot outearn this temptation.

According to Robert Frank in his 2007 book, Richistan, “20 percent of households with between $1 million and $10 million in assets in 2004 spent all their income—or more—in a frantic race to keep up with their newfound friends: those with more money than them.”

 Apparently, regardless of generation and/or net income, the temptation to overspend in an effort to keep up with our friends and their spending habits is common to all of us. No doubt, many of you have felt the same temptation in your own life.

How then, do we overcome this?

Nine Ways to Stop Overspending When Hanging Out With Friends

1. Set your budget. Or better yet, create a spending plan. Be specific on the amount of money you set aside for dining, experiences, and travel per month. Then, stick to it.

2. Keep in mind the big goals you have for your life. When creating your budget, remember that your budget is not restrictive. Just the opposite in fact, your budget is a roadmap to the life you desire: free from debt, financially focused on your values and most cherished pursuits.

3. Be honest with your friends. Surprisingly (or maybe not surprisingly), some of your friends feel the same way you do. According to the same survey cited above, 36% of respondents doubt they can keep up with their friends for another year without going into debt, but nearly 30% don’t feel comfortable being the one to say “no.” Break the trend in your friendship group by being the one to initiate the conversation.

4. Look for less expensive alternatives when out with friends. Of course, entirely changing your friends (or hoping to change your friends’ interests) is not the only option, nor is rejecting them altogether. The next time you are out, look for less expensive alternatives: rather than ordering an expensive meal on the menu, order something more reasonably priced; skip the snacks and drinks at your next movie; or order a cheaper drink at the club.

5. Cut costs elsewhere. If spending time with friends and having the financial margin to do so is important to you, look for other spending areas in your budget that can be cut: buy less clothing, don’t upgrade your phone, or pack your lunch for work. Minimalism is the intentional promotion of the things we most value by removing anything that distracts us from it. Applying minimalism in one area may free up more money to be spent with your friends.

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6. Be clear on your reasoning. When speaking openly and honestly with your friends, also speak in clear, reasoned terms. Share with them why you want to spend less. Is staying out of debt important to you? Are you working hard to pay off a student loan or build up an emergency savings fund? Maybe generosity is something you want to leave space for in your life? Be clear that your reasoning isn’t just “I don’t have enough money,” there is usually a deeper reason and motivation behind it.

7. Suggest less expensive ideas. Friends spend time together—this is true. But that doesn’t mean everything they do together needs to cost a lot of money. Sometimes it just takes someone to offer up some less expensive ideas: Frisbee in the park, an afternoon on the beach, a hike, or a Redbox rather than a theater.

8. If you lose them, it’s okay. I understand the fear that if you don’t keep spending the money to be with your friends, they might stop being your friends. And that may be the case. But ask yourself, if that’s true, isn’t it eventually going to happen anyway? Can you keep overspending and going into debt indefinitely just to be with them? Of course not. At some point, something will need to change—either how much money they spend or how much money you spend.  Besides, if you need to spend lots of money in order to impress your friends, you probably need new ones.

9. Remember, there will be other opportunities. One thing I know to be true of life, it goes on. Opportunities come and opportunities go. And sometimes bypassing an opportunity today means I can enjoy a different one tomorrow—when I’m in a better stage of life financially. Taking a step back from overspending to keep up with your friends doesn’t mean you’ll never be able to spend money with friends. Just the opposite. It’ll help put you in a more financially stable place, so you can do even more of it in the future.

Having friends doesn’t mean you have to go broke. You can have both friends and money. It just might take some intentional decisions to get there.

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