Can I write of haircuts, manicures, socks, underwear, and other similar expenses?

No. The reason is that these expenses are considered personal expenses. The IRS will not allow personal expenses to be deducted.

This is a common source of disagreement from many crew members, but with regard to personal expenses, the IRS uses the logic that if an expense would be incurred even without the job, it is not deductible. From the point-of-view of the IRS they argue that personal expenses would still be incurred, whether or not you were a pilot or a flight attendant.

The following are some common arguments that flight crew members pose with regard to personal expenses:

My employer’s manual states I have to meet specific appearance standards

The common argument among crew members is that their job's manual states that they have to meet certain appearance standards. Unfortunately the IRS doesn't agree with this argument. Therefore these appearance-related expenses are considered personal and are not deductible.

My tax preparer allows personal expenses to be written off

It is quite possible that you have written off personal expenses in the past. It is also possible that your tax preparer has allowed them to be written off. Nevertheless, they are not a deductible and you run the risk of paying penalties and interest to the IRS if your tax return is ever audited.

How do I determine if an expense is considered a personal expense?

To determine if an expense is personal, it is best to ask yourself two questions:

  1. Would you still incur the expense if there was no job?
  2. Is the expense for something useful and appropriate outside of work?

If you answer yes to either question, the expense is probably personal and not deductible.

What are some common personal expenses that are not deductible?

  • A suit for a job interview (not deductible)
  • Hair cuts (not deductible)
  • Pantyhose (not deductible)
  • Manicures (not deductible)
  • Black socks (not deductible)
  • Underwear (not deductible)
  • Razors (not deductible)
  • Shaving Cream (not deductible)

None of the expenses in the above list are deductible. A suit for a job interview is a good illustration of this concept. Most job search expenses are deductible, as long as the job you are searching for is in the same occupation that you are currently in. But because a suit for a job interview can also be worn elsewhere, it is not deductible.

What is the risk of an audit removing personal expenses?

The risk of being audited is relatively low — generally around 1% of all tax returns get audited. Furthermore, most returns are audited for red flags or for higher incomes. This might mean you are a very low risk for an audit. However, if your return is audited and you are found to be writing off expenses that are personal, it could trigger a deeper investigation by the auditor, who may wonder what else is being written off that shouldn’t be. If personal expenses are found, the expenses will likely be removed and penalties and interest could be levied.

The risk is not worth the relatively small savings.

There are plenty of expenses that flight crew members can legitimately deduct. The per diem calculation is one of the most lucrative. Other common deductions for flight crew members are listed in this article.

What's all this about?

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