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For the most part, employees can deduct all "ordinary and necessary" business expenses, using the same definition that is used by a business owner. An "ordinary" expense is one that is common and accepted in your line of work. A "necessary" expense is one that is appropriate or helpful for the work you do, even if it's not absolutely indispensable to your business.
For employees, expenses may be considered "unnecessary" if you could have been reimbursed for them, but you neglected to ask the employer for reimbursement.
As a general principle, amounts that you spend for personal or family reasons are not deductible. While it's sometimes difficult to tell the difference, the IRS has specific rules in a number of areas (such as car expenses, travel, meals and entertainment, and education) to help you determine what portion of an expense is truly business-related. If you pay for property or have some other expense for both business and personal purposes, you must allocate the expense between the two types of usage. The allocation must be made on a reasonable and consistent basis, depending on the nature of the expense.
Certain expenses, while they may be ordinary and necessary, must be treated as capital expenditures.
Generally speaking, the cost of equipment or business real estate that will be used for more than one year must be treated as a capital expenditure and depreciated. Employees may claim a depreciation deduction for equipment they need in their job (such as a laptop computer) and would use a separate Form 4562, Depreciation and Amortization, to compute the proper amount. The result from Form 4562 would be carried over to Line 4 of the Form 2106 or 2106-EZ. See our detailed explanation of capital assets, including depreciation and sales of business assets.
Finally, certain types of expenses are not deductible even if they meet the "ordinary and necessary" tests, and are not personal or capital expenses. This category includes illegal payments (e.g., bribes or kickbacks) and payments of fines or penalties (such as parking or traffic tickets).
For more detailed information, check out the following: