The U.S. tax code provides a tax deduction for certain work-related training and education expenses. To get the deduction, you must be working. If you are employed, you must itemize deductions on Schedule A or, if you are self-employed, claim the expense on Schedule C. Work-related education expenses are among miscellaneous deductions subject to a 2 percent income exclusion, meaning you get a deduction only for the miscellaneous deduction total that exceeds 2 percent of your adjusted gross income.
You are allowed to deduct education required by laws, regulations, your profession or your employer to keep your present job, status or salary. If you are working in an occupational field and the mandatory minimum educational requirements for your field change, you can deduct the costs of the additional education you need to meet the new minimum requirements and keep your job.
You also can deduct expenses for education that maintains or improves your skills in your present line of work, even when such education is not mandatory for keeping your job. Examples of deductible skill-related education include courses, seminars or conferences on the latest developments in your occupational field, refresher courses, or academic or vocational programs that teach additional skills in your field. You can take a temporary absence from work for up to one year to obtain work-related education but you must return to the same type of work. You can return to work with the same employer or a different employer.
You can deduct the expenses of tuition, books, supplies and fees that are required by your course of study. You also can deduct related expenses such as research costs and costs of hiring a typist when writing research papers for your course of study. You can deduct your expenses for transportation between the school and your home or workplace. If you drive, you can deduct your actual auto expenses or use the the IRS’ standard mileage rate as of 2012 of 55.5 cents per mile. If you travel overnight to obtain qualifying work-related education, you can deduct travel, lodging and half your meal expenses. But if your trip combines work-related and personal purposes, your travel costs become nondeductible personal expenses.
Entry Not Deductible
You cannot deduct education or training needed to meet the minimum educational requirements set by laws, regulations, professions or employers for entry into a trade, business or profession. For example, you can’t deduct the cost of courses that prepare you to take the electrician licensing exam or bar exam. Such courses are considered education that qualifies you to enter the electrician's trade or the legal profession. You also can’t deduct expenses for education that qualifies you to enter a different trade, business or profession, even if you don’t plan to enter that occupation.
Herb Kirchhoff has more than three decades of hands-on experience as an avid garden hobbyist and home handyman. Since retiring from the news business in 2008, Kirchhoff takes care of a 12-acre rural Michigan lakefront property and applies his experience to his vegetable and flower gardens and home repair and renovation projects.