Is Cable Television Tax Deductible?

Cable TV may be nice, but it's rarely deductible.

When tax time rolls around, many people look for ways to claim deductions on their returns. It can be tempting to claim a household expense such as a cable bill as a deduction, and in certain cases, items purchased for your household constitute a legitimate business expense. Cable television almost always constitutes an entertainment expense, though, and only in a select few cases can you deduct it from your taxes.

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Home Office Deductions

When deducting expenses from your household budget, such as a cable bill, you need to follow some basic rules set forth by the Internal Revenue Service. According to its website, your home must serve as "the principal place of business for your trade or business," and "you cannot deduct any part of your home that you use for both personal and business purposes." If you use the cable television for personal entertainment purposes (as most people do), it doesn't quality and you can't deduct it.

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Business Use

While cable use in general is rarely deductible, you might be able to deduct certain specific channels or programming packages from your bill … provided you can show them to be directly and solely tied to your business. For example, if you work in the stock market, you may need to pay attention to certain business stations, such as Bloomberg, which cover the ups and downs of the market throughout the day. A sports writer might need to pay attention to games on ESPN, while someone teaching at a university may need to view documentaries on The History Channel or National Geographic Channel as part of building a curriculum.

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Specifics

In every case, you can claim a cable TV deduction only if you can show that you're using the given channel solely for business purposes, and that you would not usually purchase it if you didn't need it for your job. According to the IRS' home page, this does not extend to use of the TV channel for hobbies, part-time investment activities or anything not directly related to your job.

Exceptions

Exceptions to this rule are extremely rare. The few positions where you can claim cable television as a tax deduction free and clear include people who work directly for the TV industry and TV critics (who must watch a wide variety of shows in order to do their jobs). In these cases, the cable TV must constitute an absolutely necessary part of one's job; in other words, according to the IRS, "only if they are ordinary and necessary for the particular type of business."

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