Employee work-from-home expenses cannot be written off on tax returns, tax professional says

Posted at 3:08 PM, Sep 01, 2020

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. -- If you are working from home, you may have bought some new items to accommodate the situation, or you are probably using more of the resources you already pay for.

If you were planning on writing off these new expenses on your next tax return, "Unfortunately, there are no tax benefits to working from home if you are an employee,” Scott Rinehart, a tax professional and financial advisor with Carlson Financial, said.

While tax season is months away, Rinehart said he has already received some questions from people.

"I've had people ask, 'since I work from home, can I deduct my office now?'” he explained.

Say, for example, if you bought a laptop and it cost a couple hundred dollars, the rent on your apartment or certain utilities like electricity -- just to name a few examples -- you cannot write those off on your taxes.

“The tax act a few years ago got rid of that tax break for employees,” Rinehart said.

He mentioned an exception, however.

"If you are self-employed and now instead of going to your office, you're working from home, you can deduct a portion of your home you're using as your office."

It is the same scenario for those homeschooling their children, Rinehart added, but he explained that extra paid leave was provided in the Family First Coronavirus Response Act for parents tending to their children.

A tax write-off normally helps to reduce the amount of tax you owe.

"I think there will be folks who will try to claim these expenses when they itemize,” Rinehart said, “or add some sort of miscellaneous deduction, and they're just not going to be allowed."

If you do make these claims or accidentally file for a write-off, Rinehart said, “You may get a letter from the IRS at some point saying, 'Hey, you owe us some money.’”

In that event, Rinehart said the IRS will try to work with the filer to fix the issue. It may result in additional payments.

Rinehart suggested tracking your expenses, organize receipts and use free tax resources online, as well as the IRS.

"Otherwise, it always makes sense to - if you have a more complex tax situation - have a professional look at it,” Rinehart said.

This story originally reported by Julio Avila on