Can You Deduct Union Dues From Federal Taxes?

by Michael Keenan
Certain union expenes can be deducted on your taxes.

If you're working in a union job, you're probably watching some of your wages go to the union rather than being included in your take home pay. Though union dues technically are a deductible expenses, several factors make it unlikely they'll save you much in the way of taxes.

Deductible vs. Nondeductible Dues

Your union dues, plus any initiation fees you pay when you join the union, count toward your unreimbursed employee expense deduction on your taxes. You also can include the costs of benefits paid to unemployed union members. However, you can't include any portion of your payments to the union that are for your medical, accident or death benefits, or payments for a retirement fund, even if they're mandatory.

Miscellaneous Deduction AGI Limit

Because the IRS classifies union dues as an unreimbursed employee expense, the deduction is subject to the 2 percent of adjusted gross income limit. That means that until your expenses exceed 2 percent of your total taxable income -- minus certain deductions like traditional IRA contributions and student loan interest -- you can't deduct anything. For example, if your AGI is $22,000, only your union dues and other unreimbursed employee expenses exceeding $440 are deductible.

Itemized Deduction

The other hurdle you have to surpass to make deducting union dues save you on your taxes is itemizing. When you itemize, you can't claim the standard deduction, so unless your total itemized deductions exceeds your standard deduction -- which is $6,100 for singles in 2013 -- you won't save money. Other itemized deductions include state income taxes, charitable contributions and mortgage interest.

Claiming the Deduction

If you have enough union dues and other write-offs to make claiming them worth your while, you have to file your taxes with Form 1040 and itemize with Schedule A. On Schedule A, the union dues and any other unreimbursed employee expenses, like lab breakage fees or professional association dues, go on line 21. After getting combined with your other itemized deductions, the total replaces your standard deduction on line 40 of your Form 1040 tax return.

About the Author

Mark Kennan is a writer based in the Kansas City area, specializing in personal finance and business topics. He has been writing since 2009 and has been published by "Quicken," "TurboTax," and "The Motley Fool."

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