Tax breaks: Bait and switch

Hunting for a new job can be a maddening and costly endeavor. But at least you can deduct your job-search expenses.

True. But only partially true.

First, you must be looking for a job in the same field. You can’t use the tax code to subsidize a career change. And first-time job seekers can’t claim their job-search expenses.

Then, you must itemize. Most people don’t. If all your itemized expenses don’t add up to more than the standard deduction amount you can claim, then there’s no reason to itemize, and you can’t claim your job-search expenses.

Even if you do itemize, you must claim your job-search costs as a miscellaneous expense on Schedule A. And before you can subtract these costs, they must come to more than 2 percent of your adjusted gross income, or AGI.

A filer with an AGI of $30,000 must have more than $600 in miscellaneous expenses. Note the “more than” requirement. Total miscellaneous expenses of $605 mean just a $5 deduction in this category.