Does it make sense to keep track of all my expenses as a pilot or flight attendant?
Absolutely, as long as you can itemize your deductions (see previous frequently asked question). The IRS provides a standard deduction of $5,950 for single and $11,900 for married taxpayers (for the 2012 tax year). This deduction reduces your gross income. However, if your deductions such as medical expenses, state income and property taxes, home mortgage interest, charitable contributions, job-related expenses, etc. exceed the standard deduction, then you can “itemize” your deductions on your tax return.
If you itemize your deductions, every $10 in flight crew expenses that you deduct essentially puts $1 back into your pocket (in general, for those in the 10% effective tax rate). For example, if you paid $200 in shoe shines last year this would amount to an additional refund of $20.
Myth Buster– deductions and write-offs are not a dollar for dollar increase in your refund. As the example above shows, to save $20 in taxes you have to spend $200 in dry cleaning. You are still out of pocket by $180. In other words, only spend what is required- don’t spend just to save taxes.
Please visit our Flight Crew homepage on our website to review the Flight Crew Expense Report. This report will help you to list all your expenses associated with your job. The more time you spend detailing all your expenses, the more complete your tax return will be.