4 Tax Write-Offs That Can Advance Your Career

June 18, 2013 : JT O'Donnell - Guest Contributor

Getting promoted and mastering our jobs are results of consistent hard work and great relationships. But sometimes we need a little help to reach our career goals, whether it’s attending a conference, joining a professional association or going back to school. To help make going that extra mile a little bit less expensive, J.T O’Donnell of Careerealism.com offers some career advancement activities that happen to be tax deductible.

Many people don’t realize there are tax write-offs that can serve to further your career. I don’t know about you, but I’m always incentivized when I know I can do something deductible while improving my professional worth and positioning myself to be more valuable.

Here are four things you can do to advance your career, the associated cost of which you can write off come April:

1) Join an association with annual dues so you can network with your peers.

Networking is the number one way people get ahead today. Our network is an asset – the bigger and stronger we make it, the more we can leverage it to advance our careers. As an added bonus, if you join certain organizations that help you carry out the duties of your job, you may be able to deduct your membership dues if you itemize, to the extent it exceeds 2% of your adjusted gross income for the year. For instance, membership dues paid to business leagues, trade associations, chambers of commerce, boards of trade, real estate boards, professional organizations and civic or public service organizations are deductible. These include bar associations, medical associations or the Kiwanis, Rotary and Lions clubs. However, membership dues paid to country clubs, athletic clubs, etc. are never deductible. Remember, if your employer reimburses you for your professional dues, you may not deduct the expense on your return.

2) Attend a conference with people in your industry.

If you attend a professional conference that is required by your employer (but unreimbursed) or that is otherwise an ordinary and necessary business expense, you may be able deduct the cost of attendance, travel, lodging and even meals if the conference is outside of the city where you normally work. Generally, attendance at a conference is considered ordinary or necessary if expected or considered common practice in your profession.

3) Subscribe to and read trade journals and magazines related to your industry.

As they say, “knowledge is power”. Staying informed on industry news and trends is vital to staying current in our professions. If you subscribe to a professional journal or trade magazine and are unreimbursed by your employer, you can generally deduct the cost to the extent it exceeds 2% of your adjusted gross income for the year, if you itemize your deductions. With today’s rate of change in all industries, we can’t afford to appear out of the loop.

4) Take a course to advance your skills in your area of expertise.

Learning new methods, technologies and programs is the best way to stay fresh and relevant in your chosen profession. Investing in education that will keep us up-to-date on the latest techniques ensures we don’t become stale to employers. Depending on the nature of the education, you may be able to claim a deduction or claim a credit for certain education related expenses.

Get an idea of how much money you can save with work related tax write offs by using the H&R Block tax refund calculator.

For more information on tax-deductible career expenses, visit this IRS page: Publication 529.

There are a lot of viable tax write-offs you can take advantage of to up skill and move forward professionally. All you need to do is make the choice to invest the time and energy into an activity that will give you the greatest return on that investment.

Editor’s Note: This post was updated on July 27, 2016.

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JT O'Donnell - Guest Contributor

J.T. O'Donnell is the Founder of CAREEREALISM.com, an advice site designed to be your "career wingman" in a time when, "every job is temporary."