27.   Tax Benefits for Work-Related Education

What's New

Standard mileage rate. Generally, if you claim a business deduction for work-related education and you drive your car to and from school, the amount you can deduct for miles driven from January 1, 2013, through December 31, 2013, is 56½ cents per mile. For more information, see Transportation Expenses under What Expenses Can Be Deducted.

Introduction

This chapter discusses work-related education expenses that you may be able to deduct as business expenses.

To claim such a deduction, you must:

  • Itemize your deductions on Schedule A (Form 1040) if you are an employee,

  • File Schedule C (Form 1040), Schedule C-EZ (Form 1040), or Schedule F (Form 1040) if you are self-employed, and

  • Have expenses for education that meet the requirements discussed under Qualifying Work-Related Education .

If you are an employee and can itemize your deductions, you may be able to claim a deduction for the expenses you pay for your work-related education. Your deduction will be the amount by which your qualifying work-related education expenses plus other job and certain miscellaneous expenses (except for impairment-related work expenses of disabled individuals) is greater than 2% of your adjusted gross income. See chapter 28.

If you are self-employed, you deduct your expenses for qualifying work-related education directly from your self-employment income.

Your work-related education expenses may also qualify you for other tax benefits, such as the American opportunity and lifetime learning credits (see chapter 35). You may qualify for these other benefits even if you do not meet the requirements listed earlier.

Also, keep in mind that your work-related education expenses may qualify you to claim more than one tax benefit. Generally, you may claim any number of benefits as long as you use different expenses to figure each one.

When you figure your taxes, you may want to compare these tax benefits so you can choose the method(s) that give you the lowest tax liability.

Useful Items - You may want to see:

Publication

  • 463 Travel, Entertainment, Gift, and Car Expenses

  • 970 Tax Benefits for Education

Form (and Instructions)

  • 2106 Employee Business Expenses

  • 2106-EZ Unreimbursed Employee Business Expenses

  • Schedule A (Form 1040) Itemized Deductions

Qualifying Work-Related Education

You can deduct the costs of qualifying work-related education as business expenses. This is education that meets at least one of the following two tests.

  • The education is required by your employer or the law to keep your present salary, status, or job. The required education must serve a bona fide business purpose of your employer.

  • The education maintains or improves skills needed in your present work.

However, even if the education meets one or both of the above tests, it is not qualifying work-related education if it:

  • Is needed to meet the minimum educational requirements of your present trade or business, or

  • Is part of a program of study that will qualify you for a new trade or business.

You can deduct the costs of qualifying work-related education as a business expense even if the education could lead to a degree.

Use Figure 27-A, later, as a quick check to see if your education qualifies.

Education Required by Employer or by Law

Once you have met the minimum educational requirements for your job, your employer or the law may require you to get more education. This additional education is qualifying work-related education if all three of the following requirements are met.

  • It is required for you to keep your present salary, status, or job,

  • The requirement serves a bona fide business purpose of your employer, and

  • The education is not part of a program that will qualify you for a new trade or business.

When you get more education than your employer or the law requires, the additional education can be qualifying work-related education only if it maintains or improves skills required in your present work. See Education To Maintain or Improve Skills , later.

Example.

You are a teacher who has satisfied the minimum requirements for teaching. Your employer requires you to take an additional college course each year to keep your teaching job. If the courses will not qualify you for a new trade or business, they are qualifying work-related education even if you eventually receive a master's degree and an increase in salary because of this extra education.

Education To Maintain or Improve Skills

If your education is not required by your employer or the law, it can be qualifying work-related education only if it maintains or improves skills needed in your present work. This could include refresher courses, courses on current developments, and academic or vocational courses.

Example.

You repair televisions, radios, and stereo systems for XYZ Store. To keep up with the latest changes, you take special courses in radio and stereo service. These courses maintain and improve skills required in your work.

Maintaining skills vs. qualifying for new job.   Education to maintain or improve skills needed in your present work is not qualifying education if it will also qualify you for a new trade or business.

Education during temporary absence.   If you stop working for a year or less in order to get education to maintain or improve skills needed in your present work and then return to the same general type of work, your absence is considered temporary. Education that you get during a temporary absence is qualifying work-related education if it maintains or improves skills needed in your present work.

Example.

You quit your biology research job to become a full-time biology graduate student for one year. If you return to work in biology research after completing the courses, the education is related to your present work even if you do not go back to work with the same employer.

Education during indefinite absence.   If you stop work for more than a year, your absence from your job is considered indefinite. Education during an indefinite absence, even if it maintains or improves skills needed in the work from which you are absent, is considered to qualify you for a new trade or business. Therefore, it is not qualifying work-related education.

Education To Meet Minimum Requirements

Education you need to meet the minimum educational requirements for your present trade or business is not qualifying work-related education. The minimum educational requirements are determined by:

  • Laws and regulations,

  • Standards of your profession, trade, or business, and

  • Your employer.

Once you have met the minimum educational requirements that were in effect when you were hired, you do not have to meet any new minimum educational requirements. This means that if the minimum requirements change after you were hired, any education you need to meet the new requirements can be qualifying education.

You have not necessarily met the minimum educational requirements of your trade or business simply because you are already doing the work.

Example 1.

You are a full-time engineering student. Although you have not received your degree or certification, you work part-time as an engineer for a firm that will employ you as a full-time engineer after you finish college. Although your college engineering courses improve your skills in your present job, they are also needed to meet the minimum job requirements for a full-time engineer. The education is not qualifying work-related education.

Example 2.

You are an accountant and you have met the minimum educational requirements of your employer. Your employer later changes the minimum educational requirements and requires you to take college courses to keep your job. These additional courses can be qualifying work-related education because you have already satisfied the minimum requirements that were in effect when you were hired.

Requirements for Teachers

States or school districts usually set the minimum educational requirements for teachers. The requirement is the college degree or the minimum number of college hours usually required of a person hired for that position.

If there are no requirements, you will have met the minimum educational requirements when you become a faculty member. The determination of whether you are a faculty member of an educational institution must be made on the basis of the particular practices of the institution. You generally will be considered a faculty member when one or more of the following occurs.

  • You have tenure.

  • Your years of service count toward obtaining tenure.

  • You have a vote in faculty decisions.

  • Your school makes contributions for you to a retirement plan other than social security or a similar program.

Example 1.

The law in your state requires beginning secondary school teachers to have a bachelor's degree, including 10 professional education courses. In addition, to keep the job a teacher must complete a fifth year of training within 10 years from the date of hire. If the employing school certifies to the state Department of Education that qualified teachers cannot be found, the school can hire persons with only 3 years of college. However, to keep their jobs, these teachers must get a bachelor's degree and the required professional education courses within 3 years.

Under these facts, the bachelor's degree, whether or not it includes the 10 professional education courses, is considered the minimum educational requirement for qualification as a teacher in your state.

If you have all the required education except the fifth year, you have met the minimum educational requirements. The fifth year of training is qualifying work-related education unless it is part of a program of study that will qualify you for a new trade or business.

Figure 27-A Does Your Work-Related Education Qualify?

Figure 27-A. Does Your Work-Related Education Qualify?
Please click here for the text description of the image.

Figure 27-A. Does Your Work-Related Education Qualify?"

Example 2.

Assume the same facts as in Example 1 except that you have a bachelor's degree and only six professional education courses. The additional four education courses can be qualifying work-related education. Although you do not have all the required courses, you have already met the minimum educational requirements.

Example 3.

Assume the same facts as in Example 1 except that you are hired with only 3 years of college. The courses you take that lead to a bachelor's degree (including those in education) are not qualifying work-related education. They are needed to meet the minimum educational requirements for employment as a teacher.

Example 4.

You have a bachelor's degree and you work as a temporary instructor at a university. At the same time, you take graduate courses toward an advanced degree. The rules of the university state that you can become a faculty member only if you get a graduate degree. Also, you can keep your job as an instructor only as long as you show satisfactory progress toward getting this degree. You have not met the minimum educational requirements to qualify you as a faculty member. The graduate courses are not qualifying work-related education.

Certification in a new state.   Once you have met the minimum educational requirements for teachers for your state, you are considered to have met the minimum educational requirements in all states. This is true even if you must get additional education to be certified in another state. Any additional education you need is qualifying work-related education. You have already met the minimum requirements for teaching. Teaching in another state is not a new trade or business.

Example.

You hold a permanent teaching certificate in State A and are employed as a teacher in that state for several years. You move to State B and are promptly hired as a teacher. You are required, however, to complete certain prescribed courses to get a permanent teaching certificate in State B. These additional courses are qualifying work-related education because the teaching position in State B involves the same general kind of work for which you were qualified in State A.

Education That Qualifies You for a New Trade or Business

Education that is part of a program of study that will qualify you for a new trade or business is not qualifying work-related education. This is true even if you do not plan to enter that trade or business.

If you are an employee, a change of duties that involves the same general kind of work is not a new trade or business.

Example 1.

You are an accountant. Your employer requires you to get a law degree at your own expense. You register at a law school for the regular curriculum that leads to a law degree. Even if you do not intend to become a lawyer, the education is not qualifying because the law degree will qualify you for a new trade or business.

Example 2.

You are a general practitioner of medicine. You take a 2-week course to review developments in several specialized fields of medicine. The course does not qualify you for a new profession. It is qualifying work-related education because it maintains or improves skills required in your present profession.

Example 3.

While working in the private practice of psychiatry, you enter a program to study and train at an accredited psychoanalytic institute. The program will lead to qualifying you to practice psychoanalysis. The psychoanalytic training does not qualify you for a new profession. It is qualifying work-related education because it maintains or improves skills required in your present profession.

Bar or CPA Review Course

Review courses to prepare for the bar examination or the certified public accountant (CPA) examination are not qualifying work-related education. They are part of a program of study that can qualify you for a new profession.

Teaching and Related Duties

All teaching and related duties are considered the same general kind of work. A change in duties in any of the following ways is not considered a change to a new business.

  • Elementary school teacher to secondary school teacher.

  • Teacher of one subject, such as biology, to teacher of another subject, such as art.

  • Classroom teacher to guidance counselor.

  • Classroom teacher to school administrator.

What Expenses Can Be Deducted

If your education meets the requirements described earlier under Qualifying Work-Related Education , you can generally deduct your education expenses as business expenses. If you are not self-employed, you can deduct business expenses only if you itemize your deductions.

You cannot deduct expenses related to tax-exempt and excluded income.

Deductible expenses.   The following education expenses can be deducted.
  • Tuition, books, supplies, lab fees, and similar items.

  • Certain transportation and travel costs.

  • Other education expenses, such as costs of research and typing when writing a paper as part of an educational program.

Nondeductible expenses.   You cannot deduct personal or capital expenses. For example, you cannot deduct the dollar value of vacation time or annual leave you take to attend classes. This amount is a personal expense.

Unclaimed reimbursement.   If you do not claim reimbursement that you are entitled to receive from your employer, you cannot deduct the expenses that apply to that unclaimed reimbursement.

Example.

Your employer agrees to pay your education expenses if you file a voucher showing your expenses. You do not file a voucher, and you do not get reimbursed. Because you did not file a voucher, you cannot deduct the expenses on your tax return.

Transportation Expenses

If your education qualifies, you can deduct local transportation costs of going directly from work to school. If you are regularly employed and go to school on a temporary basis, you can also deduct the costs of returning from school to home.

Temporary basis.   You go to school on a temporary basis if either of the following situations applies to you.
  1. Your attendance at school is realistically expected to last 1 year or less and does indeed last for 1 year or less.

  2. Initially, your attendance at school is realistically expected to last 1 year or less, but at a later date your attendance is reasonably expected to last more than 1 year. Your attendance is temporary up to the date you determine it will last more than 1 year.

Note.

If you are in either situation (1) or (2), your attendance is not temporary if facts and circumstances indicate otherwise.

Attendance not on a temporary basis.   You do not go to school on a temporary basis if either of the following situations apply to you.
  1. Your attendance at school is realistically expected to last more than 1 year. It does not matter how long you actually attend.

  2. Initially, your attendance at school is realistically expected to last 1 year or less, but at a later date your attendance is reasonably expected to last more than 1 year. Your attendance is not temporary after the date you determine it will last more than 1 year.

Deductible Transportation Expenses

If you are regularly employed and go directly from home to school on a temporary basis, you can deduct the round-trip costs of transportation between your home and school. This is true regardless of the location of the school, the distance traveled, or whether you attend school on nonwork days.

Transportation expenses include the actual costs of bus, subway, cab, or other fares, as well as the costs of using your car. Transportation expenses do not include amounts spent for travel, meals, or lodging while you are away from home overnight.

Example 1.

You regularly work in a nearby town, and go directly from work to home. You also attend school every work night for 3 months to take a course that improves your job skills. Since you are attending school on a temporary basis, you can deduct your daily round-trip transportation expenses in going between home and school. This is true regardless of the distance traveled.

Example 2.

Assume the same facts as in Example 1 except that on certain nights you go directly from work to school and then home. You can deduct your transportation expenses from your regular work site to school and then home.

Example 3.

Assume the same facts as in Example 1 except that you attend the school for 9 months on Saturdays, nonwork days. Since you are attending school on a temporary basis, you can deduct your round-trip transportation expenses in going between home and school.

Example 4.

Assume the same facts as in Example 1 except that you attend classes twice a week for 15 months. Since your attendance in school is not considered temporary, you cannot deduct your transportation expenses in going between home and school. If you go directly from work to school, you can deduct the one-way transportation expenses of going from work to school. If you go from work to home to school and return home, your transportation expenses cannot be more than if you had gone directly from work to school.

Using your car.   If you use your car (whether you own or lease it) for transportation to school, you can deduct your actual expenses or use the standard mileage rate to figure the amount you can deduct. The standard mileage rate for miles driven from January 1, 2013, through December 31, 2013 is 56½ cents per mile. Whichever method you use, you can also deduct parking fees and tolls. See chapter 26 for information on deducting your actual expenses of using a car.

Travel Expenses

You can deduct expenses for travel, meals (see 50% limit on meals , later), and lodging if you travel overnight mainly to obtain qualifying work-related education.

Travel expenses for qualifying work-related education are treated the same as travel expenses for other employee business purposes. For more information, see chapter 26.

You cannot deduct expenses for personal activities, such as sightseeing, visiting, or entertaining.

Mainly personal travel.   If your travel away from home is mainly personal, you cannot deduct all of your expenses for travel, meals, and lodging. You can deduct only your expenses for lodging and 50% of your expenses for meals during the time you attend the qualified educational activities.

  Whether a trip's purpose is mainly personal or educational depends upon the facts and circumstances. An important factor is the comparison of time spent on personal activities with time spent on educational activities. If you spend more time on personal activities, the trip is considered mainly educational only if you can show a substantial nonpersonal reason for traveling to a particular location.

Example 1.

John works in Newark, New Jersey. He traveled to Chicago to take a deductible 1-week course at the request of his employer. His main reason for going to Chicago was to take the course.

While there, he took a sight-seeing trip, entertained some friends, and took a side trip to Pleasantville for a day.

Since the trip was mainly for business, John can deduct his round-trip airfare to Chicago. He cannot deduct his transportation expenses of going to Pleasantville. He can deduct only the meals (subject to the 50% limit) and lodging connected with his educational activities.

Example 2.

Sue works in Boston. She went to a university in Michigan to take a course for work. The course is qualifying work-related education.

She took one course, which is one-fourth of a full course load of study. She spent the rest of the time on personal activities. Her reasons for taking the course in Michigan were all personal.

Sue's trip is mainly personal because three-fourths of her time is considered personal time. She cannot deduct the cost of her round-trip train ticket to Michigan. She can deduct one-fourth of the meals (subject to the 50% limit) and lodging costs for the time she attended the university.

Example 3.

Dave works in Nashville and recently traveled to California to take a 2-week seminar. The seminar is qualifying work-related education.

While there, he spent an extra 8 weeks on personal activities. The facts, including the extra 8-week stay, show that his main purpose was to take a vacation.

Dave cannot deduct his round-trip airfare or his meals and lodging for the 8 weeks. He can deduct only his expenses for meals (subject to the 50% limit) and lodging for the 2 weeks he attended the seminar.

Cruises and conventions.   Certain cruises and conventions offer seminars or courses as part of their itinerary. Even if the seminars or courses are work-related, your deduction for travel may be limited. This applies to:
  • Travel by ocean liner, cruise ship, or other form of luxury water transportation, and

  • Conventions outside the North American area.

  For a discussion of the limits on travel expense deductions that apply to cruises and conventions, see Luxury Water Travel and Conventions in chapter 1 of Publication 463.

50% limit on meals.   You can deduct only 50% of the cost of your meals while traveling away from home to obtain qualifying work-related education. You cannot have been reimbursed for the meals.

  Employees must use Form 2106 or Form 2106-EZ to apply the 50% limit.

Travel as Education

You cannot deduct the cost of travel as a form of education even if it is directly related to your duties in your work or business.

Example.

You are a French language teacher. While on sabbatical leave granted for travel, you traveled through France to improve your knowledge of the French language. You chose your itinerary and most of your activities to improve your French language skills. You cannot deduct your travel expenses as education expenses. This is true even if you spent most of your time learning French by visiting French schools and families, attending movies or plays, and engaging in similar activities.

No Double Benefit Allowed

You cannot do either of the following.

  • Deduct work-related education expenses as business expenses if you benefit from these expenses under any other provision of the law, for example, the tuition and fees deduction (see chapter 35).

  • Deduct work-related education expenses paid with tax-free scholarship, grant, or employer-provided educational assistance. See Adjustments to Qualifying Work-Related Education Expenses , next.

Adjustments to Qualifying Work-Related Education Expenses

If you pay qualifying work-related education expenses with certain tax-free funds, you cannot claim a deduction for those amounts. You must reduce the qualifying expenses by the amount of such expenses allocable to the tax-free educational assistance. For more information, see chapter 12 of Publication 970.

Tax-free educational assistance includes:

  • The tax-free part of scholarships and fellowships (see chapter 1 of Publication 970),

  • The tax-free part of Pell grants (see chapter 1 of Publication 970),

  • The tax-free part of employer-provided educational assistance (see chapter 11 of Publication 970),

  • Veterans' educational assistance (see chapter 1 of Publication 970), and

  • Any other nontaxable (tax-free) payments (other than gifts or inheritances) received for education assistance.

Amounts that do not reduce qualifying work-related education expenses.   Do not reduce the qualifying work-related education expenses by amounts paid with funds the student receives as:
  • Payment for services, such as wages,

  • A loan,

  • A gift,

  • An inheritance, or

  • A withdrawal from the student's personal savings.

  Also, do not reduce the qualifying work-related education expenses by any scholarship or fellowship reported as income on the student's return or any scholarship which, by its terms, cannot be applied to qualifying work-related education expenses.

Reimbursements

How you treat reimbursements depends on the arrangement you have with your employer.

There are two basic types of reimbursement arrangements—accountable plans and nonaccountable plans. You can tell the type of plan you are reimbursed under by the way the reimbursement is reported on your Form W-2.

For information on how to treat reimbursements under both accountable and nonaccountable plans, see Reimbursements in chapter 26.

Deducting Business Expenses

Self-employed persons and employees report business expenses differently.

The following information explains what forms you must use to deduct the cost of your qualifying work-related education as a business expense.

Self-Employed Persons

If you are self-employed, report the cost of your qualifying work-related education on the appropriate form used to report your business income and expenses (generally Schedule C, C-EZ, or F). If your educational expenses include expenses for a car or truck, travel, or meals, report those expenses the same way you report other business expenses for those items. See the instructions for the form you file for information on how to complete it.

Employees

If you are an employee, you can deduct the cost of qualifying work-related education only if you:

  1. Did not receive (and were not entitled to receive) any reimbursement from your employer,

  2. Were reimbursed under a nonaccountable plan (amount is included in box 1 of Form W-2), or

  3. Received reimbursement under an accountable plan, but the amount received was less than your expenses for which you claimed reimbursement.

If either (1) or (2) applies, you can deduct the total qualifying cost. If (3) applies, you can deduct only the qualifying costs that were more than your reimbursement.

In order to deduct the cost of your qualifying work-related education as a business expense, include the amount with your deduction for any other employee business expenses on Schedule A (Form 1040), line 21. (Special rules for expenses of certain performing artists and fee-basis officials and for impairment-related work expenses are explained later.)

This deduction (except for impairment-related work expenses of disabled individuals) is subject to the 2%-of-adjusted-gross-income limit that applies to most miscellaneous itemized deductions. See chapter 28.

Form 2106 or 2106-EZ.   To figure your deduction for employee business expenses, including qualifying work-related education, you generally must complete Form 2106 or Form 2106-EZ.

Form not required.   Do not complete either Form 2106 or Form 2106-EZ if:
  • If amounts included in box 1 of your Form W-2, are not considered reimbursements, and

  • You are not claiming travel, transportation, meal, or entertainment expenses.

  If you meet both of these requirements, enter the expenses directly on Schedule A (Form 1040), line 21. (Special rules for expenses of certain performing artists and fee-basis officials and for impairment-related work expenses are explained later.)

Using Form 2106-EZ.   This form is shorter and easier to use than Form 2106. Generally, you can use this form if:
  • All reimbursements, if any, are included in box 1 of your Form W-2, and

  • You are using the standard mileage rate if you are claiming vehicle expenses.

  If you do not meet both of these requirements, use Form 2106.

Performing Artists and Fee-Basis Officials

If you are a qualified performing artist, or a state (or local) government official who is paid in whole or in part on a fee basis, you can deduct the cost of your qualifying work-related education as an adjustment to gross income rather than as an itemized deduction.

Include the cost of your qualifying work-related education with any other employee business expenses on Form 1040, line 24. You do not have to itemize your deductions on Schedule A (Form 1040), and, therefore, the deduction is not subject to the 2%-of-adjusted-gross-income limit. You must complete Form 2106 or 2106-EZ to figure your deduction, even if you meet the requirements described earlier under Form not required .

For more information on qualified performing artists, see chapter 6 of Publication 463.

Impairment-Related Work Expenses

If you are disabled and have impairment-related work expenses that are necessary for you to be able to get qualifying work-related education, you can deduct these expenses on Schedule A (Form 1040), line 28. They are not subject to the 2%-of-adjusted-gross-income limit. To deduct these expenses, you must complete Form 2106 or 2106-EZ even if you meet the requirements described earlier under Form not required .

For more information on impairment-related work expenses, see chapter 6 of Publication 463.

Recordkeeping

You must keep records as proof of any deduction claimed on your tax return. Generally, you should keep your records for 3 years from the date of filing the tax return and claiming the deduction.

For specific information about keeping records of business expenses, see Recordkeeping in chapter 26.


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