Tax Breaks For Airline Pilots And Flight Crew Members

If you work for an airline as a pilot or flight attendant, some of the out-of-pocket expenses you pay throughout the year when your job takes you away from home may qualify as a tax deduction on your federal income tax return. You must include the expenses as unreimbursed employee expenses on Form 1040 Schedule A. You can enter a deduction for job expenses and certain miscellaneous deductions for the amount that exceeds 2 percent of your adjusted gross income.

Tax Home Defined

Since airline pilots and flight attendants do not have a regular place of business because their jobs require them to travel, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) considers their tax home to be the place where they regularly live. Therefore, as a pilot or flight crew member, you can deduct expenses for travel when your job takes you away from home.

Travel Expenses

If a flight to which the airline assigns you requires you to be away from home overnight, you can deduct the cost of lodgings, car rental, and meals. The expenses also qualify if your job keeps you away from home long enough that you need to sleep before making the return flight. Report your employee business expenses on Form 2106.

Except for meals, the IRS generally allows you to deduct 50 percent of the expenses you pay when your job takes you away from home. However, because air transportation employees, including pilots and flight crew members, are subject to the Department of Transportation (DOT) hours-of-service limits, you may deduct a higher percentage amount (80 percent) of your business meal expenses when you are on flight duty.

Uniform Expenses

You can add to your deductible expenses the purchase of uniforms the airline requires you to wear. Since you must wear a special uniform when performing the duties of your job, you can take a dry cleaning deduction as well. But you can't claim dry cleaning expenses if the airline pays you an allowance to maintain your uniforms.

Union Dues

In most cases, union dues and membership fees to professional organizations that are directly related to your work as a pilot or flight crew member qualify as deductible employee expenses. However, you may not include any portion of the dues or fees you pay that go toward supporting the activities of a political candidate or lobbying for the passage of legislation.

Additional Flight Training

If the airline or government requires you to get additional flight training, you can claim the expense when totaling your deductions. Training you need to meet the minimum education requirements to become a pilot or certify you to fly commercial aircraft does not qualify as a deductible expense. The cost of any training you deduct must be required by the airline to improve your skills or required by law to keep your job. To learn more, speak with a business like Tri Check Inc.