TurboTax / Tax Calculators & Tips / All Tax Guides / Small Business Taxes / Can Cellphone Expenses Be Tax Deductible With a Business?

Can Cellphone Expenses Be Tax Deductible With a Business?

Updated for Tax Year 2016


OVERVIEW

Cellphones have become just as vital to business as a land line, which makes cellphone use a legitimate, deductible business expense. But for most of us, cellphones are also inextricably linked to our personal lives, so it’s a deduction that the IRS scrutinizes very carefully to make sure personal electronics use isn’t being claimed as a business expense.


Cellphones have become just as vital to business as a land line, which makes cellphone use a legitimate, deductible business expense. But for most of us, cellphones are also inextricably linked to our personal lives, so it’s a deduction that the IRS scrutinizes very carefully to make sure personal electronics use isn’t being claimed as a business expense.

Your cellphone as a small business deduction

If you're self-employed and you use your cellphone for business, you can claim the business use of your phone as a tax deduction. If 30 percent of your time on the phone is spent on business, you could legitimately deduct 30 percent of your phone bill. In “Entrepreneur” magazine, writer Kristin Edelhauser recommends getting an itemized phone bill, so you can measure your business and personal use and prove your deduction to the IRS. Alternatively, you could get a second phone number and use it exclusively for business.

Deductions for employees

Even if you're working for someone as an employee, you may have to use your personal cellphone for business. If you itemize deductions, the IRS allows you to claim depreciation on your phone as an "unreimbursed business expense" if you use it regularly for your job and your use is a common, accepted business practice.

You can deduct unreimbursed business expenses that amount to more than two percent of your adjusted gross income. These expenses also include professional association dues, legal fees and others listed in IRS Publication 529.

Cellphone depreciation

The Small Business Jobs Act of 2010 changes the way you calculate cellphone depreciation, according to the Schneider Downs accounting firm. Under the old rules, if you used your cellphone less than 50 percent of the time for business, you could only depreciate it on a straight-line 10-year depreciation schedule. Now, however, the law allows you to write off depreciation -- the loss in value from wear and tear -- over a seven year schedule, in addition to making it easier to claim bonus depreciation.

Your cellphone as fringe benefit

If your employer provides you with a cellphone as part of your job, this could potentially increase your taxable income. If you use the cellphone even slightly for personal calls, Schneider Downs states, that constitutes a fringe benefit, which must be calculated as part of your gross income.

If you can prove that you carry a personal cellphone during business hours and make all your personal calls on that, the IRS may decide the business phone is purely for business, in which case it won't affect your income.

Perfect for independent contractors
and businesses

Find more tax deductions so you can keep more of the money you earn with TurboTax Self-Employed.

For only $114.99$89.99*
Start for Free

Looking for more information?

The above article is intended to provide generalized financial information designed to educate a broad segment of the public; it does not give personalized tax, investment, legal, or other business and professional advice. Before taking any action, you should always seek the assistance of a professional who knows your particular situation for advice on taxes, your investments, the law, or any other business and professional matters that affect you and/or your business.


Security is built into everything we do
Here's how
* Important Offer Details and Disclosures
  • TURBOTAX ONLINE/MOBILE

  • Try for Free/Pay When You File: TurboTax online and mobile pricing is based on your tax situation and varies by product. Free 1040EZ/1040A + Free State offer only available with TurboTax Federal Free Edition; Offer may change or end at any time without notice. Actual prices are determined at the time of print or e-file and are subject to change without notice. Savings and price comparisons based on anticipated price increase expected in March. Special discount offers may not be valid for mobile in-app purchases.
  • QuickBooks Bonus Offer with TurboTax Self-Employed: File your 2016 federal return with TurboTax Self-Employed by 4/18/17 and receive a complimentary subscription to QuickBooks Self-Employed until 4/30/18 at no additional cost. After you file your taxes, you must activate your QuickBooks Self-Employed subscription by 7/15/2017 by logging into QuickBooks Self-Employed via mobile app or at https://selfemployed.intuit.com/login. Once activated, you will have access to QuickBooks Self-Employed until 4/30/2018.
    Offer valid only for new QuickBooks Self-Employed customers.
    • When you use TurboTax Self-Employed to file your 2017 taxes, you will have the option to renew your QuickBooks Self-Employed subscription. If you do not file with TurboTax Self-Employed by 4/30/2018, your QuickBooks Self-Employed subscription will automatically renew on 5/1/2018 for another year at the then-current annual subscription rate. You may cancel your subscription at any time from within the QuickBooks Self-Employed billing section.
  • Pays for itself: In order to pay for the price of TurboTax Self-Employed, you will need at least $600 in deductible business expenses. This calculation is based on the self-employment tax income rate for tax year 2016.
  • Anytime, anywhere: Internet access required; standard message and data rates apply to download and use mobile app.
  • Fastest refund possible: Fastest tax refund with e-file and direct deposit; tax refund time frames will vary.
  • Pay for TurboTax out of your federal refund: $X.XX Refund Processing Service fee applies to this payment method. Prices are subject to change without notice.
  • TurboTax Expert Help, Tax Advice and SmartLook: Included with Deluxe, Premier and Self-Employed (via phone or SmartLook); not included with Federal Free Edition. Feature availability varies by device. State tax advice is free. Service, experience levels, hours of operation and availability vary, and are subject to restriction and change without notice.
  • #1 best-selling tax software: Based on aggregated sales data for all tax year 2015 TurboTax products.
  • Most Popular: TurboTax Deluxe is our most popular product among TurboTax Online users with more complex tax situations.
  • CompleteCheck: Covered under the TurboTax accurate calculations and maximum refund guarantees.
  • TurboTax Self-Employed Expense Finder: Available only in TurboTax Self-Employed. Not available for people with certain types of expenses and tax situations including paying contractors or employees, home office or vehicle actuals, inventory, self employed health insurance or retirement, asset depreciation, sale of property or vehicles, and farm income. Some financial institutions limit the timeframe for which historical transactions may be imported by ExpenseFinder. ExpenseFinder expected late January (late February for mobile app).
  • TURBOTAX CD/DOWNLOAD SOFTWARE

  • TurboTax CD/Download products: Price includes tax preparation and printing of federal tax returns and free federal e-file of up to 5 federal tax returns. Additional fees apply for e-filing state returns. E-file fees do not apply to New York state returns. Savings and price comparison based on anticipated price increase expected in March. Prices subject to change without notice.
  • Fastest refund possible: Fastest tax refund with e-file and direct deposit; tax refund time frames will vary.
  • Pay for TurboTax out of your federal refund: $X.XX Refund Processing Service fee applies to this payment method. Prices are subject to change without notice. This benefit is available with TurboTax Federal products except TurboTax Business.
  • About our TurboTax Product Experts: Customer service and product support vary by time of year.
  • About our credentialed tax experts: Live tax advice via phone is included with Premier and Home & Business; fees apply for Basic and Deluxe customers. State tax advice is free. Service, experience levels, hours of operation and availability vary, and are subject to restriction and change without notice. Not available for TurboTax Business customers.
  • #1 best-selling tax software: Based on aggregated sales data for all tax year 2015 TurboTax products.
  • Data Import: Imports financial data from participating companies. Quicken and QuickBooks import not available with TurboTax installed on a Mac. Imports from Quicken (2015 and higher) and QuickBooks Desktop (2011 and higher); both Windows only. Quicken import not available for TurboTax Business. Quicken products provided by Quicken Inc., Quicken import subject to change.