Learning is a lifelong process -- and in many professional fields, lifelong learning is mandatory. Architects, real-estate agents, nurses and accountants typically have continuing education requirements, for instance. You can take the cost of continuing education classes as a tax write-off. That includes the cost of traveling to attend classes and seminars.
If you're self-employed, you write off continuing education expenses on Schedule C, like your other business expenses. If you're an employee, you write the expenses off by itemizing on Schedule A. Work expenses are a 2 percent deduction on Schedule A, along with tax-preparation costs and investment fees. You add all such deductions together, subtract 2 percent of your adjusted gross income and write off the rest. If your total is less than 2 percent of your AGI, there's no write-off this year.
If your continuing ed is a local class, you deduct local travel costs. That includes buses, taxis, subway rides, and the cost of driving your car to school. You can take either a 56.5 cents a mile write-off, or claim the actual costs of driving to class. If your classes will wrap up in less than a year, you can take the round-trip costs of going from home to class, or home to work to class to home. With classes that last longer, you can only write off the journey from work to school, and only one way.
If you have to travel out of town overnight for your seminar, the costs of travel are still deductible. You can also write off lodging and up to half the cost of your meals. This only works if you spend most of your trip on business. If you take a sightseeing trip or dinner with friends during a week-long seminar, you're probably safe. A one-day class followed by five days of partying might raise IRS eyebrows.
If your boss reimburses you for your trip, you can't take the write-off. It's the same rule if a client pays you to take continuing ed. You can bring someone along with you to an out-of-town seminar, but you can't take a write-off for his expenses unless he works for you or has a business purpose on the trip. Bringing a spouse for company is acceptable, but deducting his expenses as a business write-off is not.
A graduate of Oberlin College, Fraser Sherman began writing in 1981. Since then he's researched and written newspaper and magazine stories on city government, court cases, business, real estate and finance, the uses of new technologies and film history. Sherman has worked for more than a decade as a newspaper reporter, and his magazine articles have been published in "Newsweek," "Air & Space," "Backpacker" and "Boys' Life." Sherman is also the author of three film reference books, with a fourth currently under way.