Law enforcement officers, or LEOs, can sometimes take a federal tax deduction for supplies that they purchase out-of-pocket, transportation and education if they do not receive reimbursement for from their department, though the opportunities are more limited as of 2018 thanks to the new tax law. The Internal Revenue Service allows LEOs to take a full deduction for job-related expenses on Form 1040, Schedule A but reduces their allowable deduction by 2 percent of their federal adjusted gross income. Law enforcement officers should keep records of all of their work-related expenses throughout a tax year to lower their taxable income.
Landline and Cell Phones
LEOs must sometimes purchase a second landline or cell phone to respond to emergency situations in case their primary line is in use. The IRS allows them to deduct 100 percent of the purchase price of a second phone and monthly bills on a second phone line if they use the phone strictly in their line of work and their department requires them to do so. As with other people using phones or business, law enforcement personnel who use a second phone for business and personal use can only deduct the percentage of the fees that they pay for business purposes.
Law enforcement officers may take classes to improve their proficiency in self-defense, crisis management, emergency response and first aid. Unfortunately, changes in tax law have made it harder to deduct the costs of miscellaneous courses, even if they're required or encouraged for advancement in your job. If LEOs go back to vocational school or pursue a higher degree,they can be eligible depending on their income and previous educational history for various tax credits and deductions.
Through the 2017 tax year, LEOs can deduct all out-of-pocket expenses paid for supplies that are common in their line of work and are necessary to perform their job, according to the IRS. These expenses include uniforms, handcuffs, gun holsters, weapons, bullets, dry cleaning, watches, badges and even haircuts if required by their department, according to Malkasian Accountancy. Since officers are required to maintain their appearance as part of their job, it was only natural that some of what seems like ordinary grooming could be tax deductible.
As of 2018, changes in the tax law mean that many of these and other employee business expenses are no longer tax deductible.
Law enforcement personnel cannot take a deduction for a regular commute to work, regardless if they use their own vehicle or a department provided cruiser. LEOs on patrol cannot ordinarily deduct mileage unless they spend money out of their own pocket to travel outside their metropolitan area to respond to a call. If they have two places of work, such as covering two separate counties or cities, they can take a deduction of 54.5 cents per mile or their actual expenses when making a commute between the locations as of 2018, according to IRS official mileage rates.
- IRS.gov: Publication 463, Part 4
- IRS.gov: Publication 529
- Malkasian Accountancy: We Specialize in Finding Income Tax Deductions for Law Enforcement Officers
- Lachowicz & Company, LLC: Law Enforcement Deductions
- RGFA Accountants: Tax Benefits For Police Officers And Public Safety Officers
- TurboTax: What Are the 2018 Standard Mileage Rates?
- The Motley Fool: Your 2018 Guide to College Tuition Tax Breaks
- LJPR Financial Advisors: Tax Reform