Miscellaneous Itemized Deductions: No Longer Deductible

Tax reform eliminates most miscellaneous itemized deductions.

One of the greatest changes brought about by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) is the elimination of many personal itemized deductions. Starting in 2018 and continuing through 2025, taxpayers will not be able to deduct expenses such as union dues, investment fees, or hobby expenses. However, gambling losses remain deductible.

Personal Expenses that Are No Longer Deductible

Specifically, the TCJA suspended for 2018 through 2025 a large group of deductions lumped together in a category called “miscellaneous itemized deductions” that were deductible to the extent they exceeded 2% of a taxpayer’s adjusted gross income. These include the following deductions:

Unreimbursed job expenses. These are work-related expenses an employee pays out of his or her own pocket. They include:

  • work-related travel, transportation, and meal expenses
  • union dues
  • business liability insurance premiums
  • depreciation on a computer or cellular telephone your employer requires you to use in your work
  • dues to professional societies
  • education (work-related)
  • home office expenses for part of your home used regularly and exclusively in your work
  • expenses of looking for a new job in your present occupation
  • legal fees related to your job
  • subscriptions to professional journals and trade magazines related to your work
  • tools and supplies used in your work, and
  • work clothes and uniforms (if required and not suitable for everyday use).

None of these expenses are deductible during 2018 through 2025. Thus, you should seek to have your employer reimburse you for them. This reimbursement is tax-free as long as you properly document your expenses. Alternatively, you could seek a pay raise to help pay for these expenses, but such a raise would be taxable.

Investment Expenses. Expenses you pay for personal investing are also not deductible as a personal itemized deduction during 2018 through 2025. This includes:

  • investment advisory and management fees
  • fees for legal and tax advice related to your investments
  • trustee fees to manage IRAs and other investment accounts, and
  • rental fees for a safe deposit box.

Tax preparation fees. Tax preparation fees are likewise not deductible for 2018 through 2025. This includes costs for hiring a tax pro or buying tax preparation software or tax publications. It also includes any fee you pay for electronic filing of your return. If you have a tax pro prepare both your personal and business taxes, ask for a separate bill for your business return. Reason: The fees to prepare your business return remain a fully deductible business expense—they are not a personal itemized deduction.

Fees to fight the IRS. During 2018 through 2025, you may not deduct as an itemized deduction attorney fees, accounting fees, and other fees you incur to determine, contest, pay, or claim a refund of any tax.

Hobby expenses. A hobby is an activity you engage in primarily for a reason other than to earn a profit—for example, to have fun. Before 2018, hobbyists were permitted to deduct their hobby-related expenses up to the amount of hobby income they earned each year (but only expenses over 2% of AGI were deductible). The TCJA eliminates the itemized deduction for hobby expenses for 2018 through 2025. This means that you will not be able to deduct any expenses you earn from hobbies during these years. However, you still have to report and pay tax on any income you earn from a hobby! However, if your hobby involves selling goods to customers, you may deduct your costs of goods sold when calculating your hobby income. For example, if your hobby is making and selling pottery, you can deduct the cost of making each pot you sell from your hobby income.

Personal Expenses that Remain Deductible

A few miscellaneous itemized expenses remain deductible during 2018 though 2025 for taxpayers who itemize.

Gambling losses. The deduction for gambling losses has not been affected by the TCJA. These remain deductible up to the amount of your gambling winnings for the year. You cannot simply reduce your gambling winnings by your gambling losses and report the difference. You must report the full amount of your winnings as income and claim your losses (up to the amount of winnings) as an itemized deduction. These losses are not subject to the 2% limit on miscellaneous itemized deductions.

Investment interest. If you borrow money to purchase an investment, the interest you pay on the loan is called investment interest. Investment interest remains deductible for taxpayers who itemize. However, the deduction is limited to the amount of taxable investment income you earn each year, such as dividends, royalties, or interest. Any disallowed investment interest is carried over to deduct in future years. Ordinarily, investment income does not include any capital gains or qualifying dividends that enjoy favorable tax treatment. However, you can make an election to include long term capital gain and qualifying dividends in your investment income. This can allow you to deduct a larger amount of investment interest. When you do this, however, your long-term capital gain and qualifying dividends must be taxed at your ordinary income tax rates, not the usually lower capital gains rates.

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