With less than a week remaining to file this year's income taxes, a new report shows a number of U.S. workers won't be getting back the lucrative refunds they possibly could.
With the unemployment rate still hovering near all-time high levels, the study found a number of expenses that many out-of-work employees could be claiming but aren't — including professional resume writing services, resume paper, travel costs to and from job interviews and the cost of relocation to another city for a job.
"Documenting the costs of a job search may deliver a tax break whether it results in a new position or not," said John Hewitt, CEO of Liberty Tax Service. "Job search expenses may be deductible when, totaled with employee expenses and other miscellaneous deductions, they exceed 2 percent of adjusted gross income."
The research shows that while most employed workers understood items such as uniforms, safety gear, home office equipment, and phone and Internet service may be tax deductible, at least half were not aware that certain travel expenses and home office furniture could potentially boost their tax refunds.
"Home office expenses may be claimed if you exclusively and regularly use your home office as your principal place of business," Hewitt said. "It’s important to be aware of the criteria for any eligible work-related expense, so you can appropriately maximize your return."
Education also is often overlooked when filing returns, the research shows. Fewer than 25 percent of employees have claimed their continued education expenses on their tax return, and more than half were unaware that going back to school for new skills training in their current occupation may be tax-deductible.
"With so many workers transitioning to faster-growing industries post-recession, we see greater investments in acquiring new degrees and certifications," said Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources at CareerBuilder. "If you’re not researching which educational or career-related expenses are tax deductible, you could be leaving money on the table."
The study was based on surveys of 6,000 U.S. employees.
Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based freelance business and technology writer who has worked in public relations and spent 10 years as a newspaper reporter. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @cbrooks76.