The federal government allows some law enforcement personnel to claim deductions for business-related expenses they incur during their shifts. The IRS does not typically provide law enforcement personnel with tax deductions for on-the-job meal expenses. The IRS allows law enforcement personnel to deduct uniform costs.
Allowable Meal Cost Deductions
The IRS allows all taxpayers to deduct some business-related expenses for entertaining business associates, customers and clients. Taxpayers may deduct entertainment expenses if they are necessary, ordinary, directly related to the business and associated with the business. Typically, police officers' meals do not fall within this category, since the main purpose of the meals do not serve a business function to increase business income. However, if the police officer incurred out-of-pocket meal expenses for a business-related purpose or incurred the costs during business travel, then the deduction is limited to 50 percent of the meal expenses, and the taxpayer must meet the two-percent adjusted gross income limitation rule.
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IRS Form 2106-EZ
Taxpayers must use the "Unreimbursed Employee Business Expenses" IRS form to deduct their business expenses. Although law enforcement personnel, including police may not deduct their on-the-job meal costs, they may be able to take other standard deductions that unreimbursed employees can take. Taxpayers must itemize their unreimbursed expenses on Form 2016-EZ and must attach the form to their IRS 1040 Form when filing their annual tax returns.
Deduction for Police Uniforms
Taxpayers can deduct the cost of uniforms if the uniform is not suitable for wear outside of work and must be worn at work. Police may deduct the cost of their uniforms and the cost of upkeep. Additionally, law enforcement personnel can deduct protective clothing costs that are required on the job such as boots and safety vests. Similar to the meal deduction, deductions for business-related uniforms are subject to the IRS's two-percent floor rule. Taxpayers can deduct allowable expenses that exceed two percent of the taxpayer's adjusted gross income.
Deductions for Tax Preparation and Legal Fees
The IRS allows all taxpayers to deduct legal fees related to the taxpayer's business. For law enforcement personnel, police officers may incur legal fees from private citizens' suits incidental to an arrest or search and seizure. Law enforcement personnel may deduct any incidental legal fees that arise during the course of business to defend claims, such as police misconduct, illegal search and seizure or discrimination claims that are not covered by the police department's general counsel. All taxpayers may deduct tax preparation fees, including police who may seek additional tax assistance to determine whether any of their employment costs were deductible, business-related expenses.
Since tax laws frequently change, you should not use this information as a substitute for legal or tax advice. Seek advice through a certified accountant or tax attorney licensed to practice law in your jurisdiction.