I’d like to try itemizing deductions for my tax
return next year. But I’m a little unclear what my job as a buyer
will let me write off. I don’t work at home. Can I write off my
cable bill? How about my high-speed internet? Is there anything else
you can think of?—Tax Troubles
As professions go, media buyers and planners don’t
have as many opportunities for writeoffs as those in many other
careers, such as lawyers, sales reps or day care providers.
The industry isn’t all that lucrative to begin with, and
you rarely have to pay for a business lunch, as clients or reps
usually buy. Thus it may not make sense for you to itemize rather
than take the standard deduction, because you may not have enough
expenses to outweigh the standard.
That said, here are a few suggestions for potential
deductions. This is based on conversations with the IRS business
hotline and IRS publications. Follow up with a tax professional or
the IRS to make sure you understand the rules. Also, be sure not to
claim something that you were reimbursed for by the office.
If you itemize instead of taking the standard
deduction, save your bills and receipts so that you can prove your
claims are legitimate.
Cable—This may be one of the stickiest areas. You could
certainly argue that keeping tabs on “Queer Eye for the Straight
Guy” is part of your job, but watching Bravo with your wife and
kids doesn’t sound like a work-related expense to Uncle Sam.
The IRS hotline told me that cable “may be deductible
in certain cases.” If you subscribe to HBO only because you want
to stay up to date on “Deadwood” for the job, then you can
deduct part of the bill.
But be aware that this may raise one of those dangerous
IRS red flags. The more unusual the deduction, the more likely your
return will be scrutinized.
Internet—Again, this is pretty subjective. You can
argue that you wouldn’t otherwise use high-speed internet at home,
so the cost difference between broadband and a dial-up connection
would be deductible.
But the IRS probably won’t believe that you wouldn’t
have an internet connection at all if it wasn’t for work. Same
goes for anyone trying to claim a computer as a business expense. If
that computer’s only for work, fine, but if it’s the only PC in
the house, the IRS will suspect you are sneaking on for non-business
Magazine and newspaper subscriptions—These are
deductible so long as they relate to your job. Since you’re in
media, you could argue that almost any subscription relates to your
job of staying current with publications, but an auditor may not
believe the Sports Illustrated subscription is strictly business.
Classes—If the class or other continuing education
material such as a book “maintains or improves skills required in
your place of business” or “it is required by your employer or
the law to keep your salary, status, or job,” then it is
For example, a planner who pays for a class on
interactive buying could deduct that cost. But you cannot deduct the
cost if your employer reimburses you or if you are taking a class in
preparation for a career change, such as going to grad school for
your masters in education at night.
Job hunting fees—Many people don’t realize that money
spent on a job search is deductible. For example, the cost of fancy
resume paper, recruiter services or career counselors can be
Tax preparation—If you got your taxes done by a pro
or even bought tax software, that’s deductible the next year.
Car expenses—Your daily commute is not deductible.
But trips to a client’s office, a business trip or a run to
Staples for office supplies are. Keep a mileage log in your car for
records. Also, save all of your gas receipts.