Tax Tips for Job Hunters

Updated for Tax Year 2021 • August 29, 2022 06:58 PM


Looking for a new job can feel like a job in itself. It takes a lot of time and energy, but there are certain tax implications you should be aware of as you conduct your search. Here are six tax tips to keep in mind while you’re looking for that new job.

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1.  You may still need to file taxes, even if you’re unemployed

Even if you aren’t currently earning wages from a job, you might still have to file taxes. If you lost your job during the year, you'll have to file for 2021 if you earned more than:

  • $12,550 as a single filer under the age of 65, or
  • $25,100 and are a joint filer under the age of 65.

Filing early can help; you may get a tax refund if you moved into a lower tax bracket after losing your job. Remember, severance pay and unemployment income must be reported on your taxes.

2.  Understand the tax implications if you’re withdrawing money from retirement accounts

If you're looking to supplement your income, you may decide to take an early withdrawal from your 401(k), IRA or other retirement account. While you can usually withdraw money as needed, be aware that early withdrawals from 401(k) and traditional IRAs typically have a 10% tax penalty in addition to being subject to income taxes.

  • Roth IRAs generally have a 10% tax penalty for early distributions, but only on the investment earnings, which means you can usually withdraw any amount of your original contributions tax-free before the age of 59½.
  • Before you withdraw money from any retirement account, make sure you understand what the tax implications for that particular type of account will be.

3.  Claim certain childcare expenses

You may be familiar with the Child and Dependent Care Credit as a working parent, but did you know that you can claim it if you're looking for a job, too? This credit allows you to claim the costs of qualifying child and dependent care that you paid while actively looking for a new job.

To claim the Child and Dependent Care Credit, use Form W-10 to request the necessary information from your care provider(s), and then complete Form 2441. Check the guidelines on who qualifies as a care provider; it can’t be:

  • Your spouse
  • The child’s other parent, if different than your spouse
  • Any dependent whom you or your spouse claims on your tax returns

4.  Track income from your side gigs

Looking to bridge your income with freelance work or a side gig as a rideshare driver? Keep in mind that all of the money you earn counts as income and is potentially taxable.

  • If you earn more than $600 from a company, they should provide you and the IRS with Form 1099-NEC (1099-MISC in prior years), which you use to report your income. If you earn less than $600, you are still required to report the income, even if you do not receive a 1099.
  • If you receive payments through online payment services such as PayPal, you might receive a 1099-K. Payers will also send these forms to the IRS to report your income.
  • The IRS may consider your side-gig income as self-employment income, in which case you'll file a Schedule C and Schedule SE with your tax return.

The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 significantly reduced the reporting threshold associated with Form 1099-K for card payment processors, and third-party payment networks like Venmo and Cash App from $20,000 to $600. Beginning with tax year 2022, if someone receives payment for goods and/or services through a third-party payment network, their payments are required to be reported on Form 1099-K if more than $600 was processed during the year. This change impacts small and large businesses including those who are self-employed or have side-gig income, real estate rental income, sales of items (online garage sales, re-selling of tickets) or hobby income.

If you're earning self-employment income, consider taking advantage of the business deductions available to you, such as:

  • Business portion of your home
  • Business mileage on your car
  • Dues and subscriptions paid to business-related organizations
  • Necessary tools and equipment
  • Tuition for related education

5.  Rules can change if you go to school

If you decide that you'd rather take classes instead of look for a job, there are some tax credits available that you should be aware of:

  • American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC) – You can receive a credit of up to $2,500 for qualified undergraduate education expenses paid in a year for the first four years in school. That includes money spent on tuition, books, supplies and school fees, but doesn't apply to living expenses or transportation.
  • Lifetime Learning Credit – This credit applies to undergraduate, graduate, non-degree and vocational education students. Unlike the AOTC, there's no cap on how many years you can claim it. It allows you to claim 20% of the first $10,000 you paid toward tuition and fees, up to $2,000. If you earned more than $80,000 ($160,000 if you file jointly) in 2021, however, your credit is reduced.
  • Student Loan Interest Deduction — This deduction allows you to deduct up to $2,500 of the interest you paid on a qualified loan for higher education. If you file as single and have earned more than $80,000 ($165,000 if married filing jointly) in the same year that you’re claiming the deduction, the deductible amount is reduced.

6.  Claim job-hunting expenses

The job-hunting expenses you can claim have changed, with many of the deductions ending after the 2017 tax year. If you file an amended return for a tax year in which you looked for employment prior to 2018, you may be able to claim job-hunting deductions, including:

  • Cost of resume preparation
  • Travel expenses for out-of-town interviews or career fairs
  • Postage and other mailing fees
  • Employment and placement agency fees

To qualify for these deductions, there are certain stipulations. You must:

  • Itemize your deductions
  • Search for a job in the same field as you were previously employed
  • Not be a first-time job seeker

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