Job Hunt Tips: Keep Your Expense Records

There are many things to remember to ensure a successful job hunt. One important job hunt tip to remember is to always note your expenses along the way. Be sure to write down the mileage and parking fees and tolls you paid in getting to that interview. And if your employer didn't pay for your attendance at the dinner, add up all your expenses including transportation and the toxic meal.

If these and other job-hunting expenses exceed a certain percentage of your income, or if you can attribute some of them to consulting, you may be able to claim them as tax deductions. Your mileage and tolls may seem like paltry amounts, but they add up-especially if you combine them with subscriptions to local newspapers and professional journals, memberships in online job listing services, career and resume counseling, out-of-town trips to trade shows and conferences, computer disks and printer cartridges and part of your broadband Internet service, long distance phone calls and courses you took to improve your competitiveness in your field. Save your receipts and credit card statements just in case.

I'm not giving tax advice here, except for advising you to hire an accountant if you don't already have one. Accountants can save you many times their fees (some of which may be deductible) by pointing out deductions you hadn't thought about, and counseling you on deductions you'd wondered about.

When you're between jobs, you may be tempted to save the money and turn to tax preparation software. Software manufacturers promise you that they'll send representatives to help you if you're audited. The trouble with software is that it can't give you permission. It can't say, "Sure, you can deduct the trip to the trade show in Tahoe, but I wouldn't list the new snowboarding gear and lessons." It can't tell you whether the new computer you're running it on can be expensed or depreciated.

Before you can deduct anything, though, you have to keep track of it. You can choose among many methods for doing so. Try using a calendar or organizer, either manual or electronic, to record every job search related event that happened on each day. If you have an interview at Sunspot Spokes and Spirals, write something like "intvw SS&S, John Jones & Susan Smith, jjones/ssmith@sunspotspokes. com, 28 mi., $8 pkg." Spell out a person's name because you'll have to remember them, in case I get a phone message saying, "This is Jack at Sunspot. Please give me a call."

You should also keep a spreadsheet into which you can translate the information from the organizer when you get around to it. Include columns for the date, company, person(s), type of transaction (phone call, answer to ad, e-mail, interview, etc.), source (headhunter, ad, friend, etc.), contact information such as phone numbers and e-mail addresses, type of expense (e.g., parking, postage), amount of expense, and comments.

It's equally important to keep track of all the jobs you applied for, when you applied, why you applied (e.g., an online posting, a trade journal ad, word of mouth)-and, if appropriate, what version of your resume you sent. You can use the same log or a different one. If you do it on a computer, using the same spreadsheet will help you to sort on "Sunspot" for all your contacts. It may also, with your accountant's consent, help you justify expensing the spreadsheet software. Otherwise, a spiral notebook is fine. You may think you'll remember all the ads you answered, especially if they didn't involve food poisoning. But wait until you get a call from Fair Play and can't remember whether it's a chain of toy stores or a mediation service.

Please resist the temptation to trash the records once you get your dream job and file your tax returns. Just in case you have to face an audit, the auditor will be snowed by your attention to detail and conclude that you must be too honest to harass.

Article provided by Homesteader.

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