The costs of being a lawyer can be overwhelming, particularly if you're self-employed and have to pay all of your own expenses. It can be challenging to keep track of every receipt or bill as you drive from courthouse to courthouse, but claiming all of your deductions can save you thousands of dollars on your taxes, and could even put you in a lower tax bracket.
Business expenses are the expenses you encounter in the normal course of operating your practice. For self-employed lawyers, advertising in the form of business cards, print advertisements or a website can constitute a significant portion of business expenses. Accounting or billing software, a subscription to a legal research service, courier fees, filing fees and similar items are also deductible. If you have employees, such as paralegals or secretaries, their salaries or wages are also business expenses.
You can deduct the expenses associated with maintaining your office, including utility bills and the cost of rent itself. Regular office upkeep, the cost to repair damages to your office and office furniture are also deductible. If you work out of a home office, you can deduct the portion of your home mortgage and utilities dedicated to your office. If, for example, your home office is 500 square feet in a 2,000-square-foot home, you could deduct 25 percent of your mortgage and utilities.
Transportation and Travel
Lawyers can spend a considerable portion of their day traveling from courthouse to courthouse, and may also travel to visit clients, investigate crime scenes, gather evidence and meet with experts. You can deduct these travel expenses at the IRS standard mileage rate -- 56.5 cents per mile as of 2013. If you have to travel out of town to conferences or seminars, you can deduct your airfare, lodging and other necessary costs, as long as they are directly related to your business.
Continuing legal education classes can cost several hundred dollars each, and the materials you need for class can bump the cost up even more. Case books and practice manuals can be handy references, but are also costly. These expenses are considered educational expenses, and you can deduct them from your taxes. Other education-related expenses, such as online seminars, can also be deducted.
Your state bar dues are deductible, and you can also deduct the dues you pay to optional professional organizations such as a local bar chapter or bar association. If you're required to attend a certain number of seminars with a professional organization or to purchase educational materials, you can also write these expenses off.
Van Thompson is an attorney and writer. A former martial arts instructor, he holds bachelor's degrees in music and computer science from Westchester University, and a juris doctor from Georgia State University. He is the recipient of numerous writing awards, including a 2009 CALI Legal Writing Award.