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Tax Talk with George Saenz

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Occupational deductions

Are there deductions for merchant mariners licensed by the Coast Guard and who haul hazardous materials, work Department of Transportation hours and stay on the boat day and night? I understand there is a special tax break for this type of work, but I can't find it in the tax literature I have. Your help is appreciated in clearing up this situation.

Dear Jerry:
You've heard right. There is a special tax break for individuals whose work hours are limited by Department of Transportation hours of service limits. The DOT imposes limits on the hours certain individuals can work; this includes pilots, truckers and, I guess in your case, merchant marines. The DOT regulates these individuals so that they don't create safety risks.

The special break, however, only applies to the unreimbursed costs of meals incurred. For example, if you work on the boat and your meals are provided without charge, there is no special tax break since you don't incur any expenses.

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Typically, most business-related meals are only 50-percent deductible, the theory being that you have to eat anyway. However, if the DOT regulates your hours, the deduction is 65 percent of the costs of the meals.

In reality, it's only a little-something-special tax break, but I guess you guys have a good lobbying group.

-- Posted: Feb. 13, 2003

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