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Publication 508
Tax Benefits for Work-Related Education

For use in preparing 2002 Returns


How To Treat Reimbursements

How you treat reimbursements depends on the arrangement you have with your employer.

There are two basic types of reimbursement arrangements - accountable plans and nonaccountable plans. You can tell the type of plan you are reimbursed under by the way the reimbursement is reported on your Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement.

Accountable Plans

If you are reimbursed under an accountable plan, your employer should not include any reimbursement in your income in box 1 of your Form W-2. To be an accountable plan, your employer's reimbursement arrangement must require you to meet all three of the following rules.

  1. Your expenses must have a business connection - that is, your expenses must be deductible under the rules for qualifying work-related education explained earlier.
  2. You must adequately account to your employer for your expenses within a reasonable period of time.
  3. You must return any reimbursement or allowance in excess of the expenses accounted for within a reasonable period of time.

Any part of your reimbursement that does not meet all three rules is considered paid under a nonaccountable plan.

Expenses equal reimbursement.   If your expenses equal your reimbursement, you do not complete Form 2106 or 2106-EZ. Because your expenses and reimbursements are equal, you do not have a deduction.

Excess expenses.   If your expenses are more than your reimbursement, you can deduct your excess expenses. This is discussed later under Where To Deduct Expenses.

Allocating your reimbursements for meals.   Because your excess meal expenses are subject to the 50% limit, you must figure them separately from your other expenses. If your employer paid you a single amount to cover both meals and other expenses, you must allocate the reimbursement so that you can figure your excess meal expenses separately. You make the allocation as follows.

  1. Divide your meal expenses by your total expenses.
  2. Multiply your total reimbursement by the result from (1). This is the allocated reimbursement for your meal expenses.
  3. Subtract the amount figured in (2) from your total reimbursement. The difference is the allocated reimbursement for your other expenses of qualifying education.

Example.   Your employer paid you an expense allowance of $2,000 under an accountable plan. The allowance was to cover all of your expenses of traveling away from home to take a 2-week training course for work. There was no indication of how much of the reimbursement was for each type of expense. Your actual expenses equal $2,500 ($425 for meals + $700 lodging + $150 transportation expenses + $1,225 for books and tuition).

You must allocate the reimbursement between the $425 meal expenses and the $2,075 other expenses. The allocated reimbursement for meals is $340 and the allocated reimbursement for other expenses is $1,660, figured in the following steps.

  1. You divide $425 (your meal expenses) by $2,500 (your total expenses). The result is .17.
  2. You multiply $2,000 (your reimbursement) by .17. The $340 result is the allocated reimbursement for your meal expenses.
  3. You subtract $340 from $2,000. The $1,660 difference is the allocated reimbursement for your other expenses of qualifying education.

Your excess meal expenses are $85 ($425 - $340) and your excess other expenses are $415 ($2,075 - $1,660). After you apply the 50% limit to your meals, you have an educational expense deduction of $457.50 [($85 50%) + $415].

Nonaccountable Plans

Your employer will combine the amount of any reimbursement or other expense allowance paid to you under a nonaccountable plan with your wages, salary, or other pay and report the total in box 1 of your Form W-2.

You can deduct your expenses regardless of whether they are more than, less than, or equal to your reimbursement. This is discussed later under Where To Deduct Expenses. An illustrated example of a nonaccountable plan, using Form 2106-EZ, is shown toward the end of this publication.

Reimbursements for nondeductible expenses.   Reimbursements you received for nondeductible expenses are treated as paid under a nonaccountable plan. You must include them in your income. For example, you must include in your income reimbursements your employer gave you for expenses of education that:

  1. You need to meet the minimum educational requirements for your job, or
  2. Is part of a program of study that can qualify you for a new trade or business.

Where To Deduct Expenses

Self-employed persons and employees report their business expenses differently.

The following information explains what forms you must use to deduct the cost of your qualifying education as a business expense.

Self-Employed Persons

If you are self-employed, you must report the cost of your qualifying work-related education on the appropriate form used to report your business income and expenses (Schedule C, C-EZ, or F). If your educational expenses include expenses for a car or truck, travel, or meals, report them the same way you report other business expenses for those items. See the instructions for the form you file for information on how to complete it.

Employees

If you are an employee, you can deduct the cost of qualifying work-related education only if you were not reimbursed by your employer or if the costs exceeded your reimbursement. (Amounts your employer paid under a nonaccountable plan and included in box 1 of your Form W-2 are not considered reimbursements.)

In order to deduct the cost of your qualifying work-related education as a business expense, include the amount with your deduction for any other employee business expenses on line 20 of Schedule A (Form 1040). (Special rules for expenses of certain performing artists and fee-basis officials and for impairment-related work expenses are explained later.) This deduction is subject to the 2%-of-adjusted-gross-income limit that applies to most miscellaneous itemized deductions.

Form 2106 or 2106-EZ.   To figure your deduction for employee business expenses, including qualifying work-related education, you generally must complete Form 2106 or 2106-EZ.

Form not required.   Do not complete either Form 2106 or 2106-EZ if:

  • You were not reimbursed for any of your expenses, and
  • You are not claiming travel, transportation, meal, or entertainment expenses.

If you meet both of these requirements, enter the expenses directly on line 20 of Schedule A (Form 1040). (Special rules for expenses of certain performing artists and fee-basis officials and for impairment-related work expenses are explained later.)

Using Form 2106-EZ.   This form is shorter and easier to use than Form 2106. Generally, you can use this form if:

  • You were not reimbursed for any of your expenses, and
  • You are using the standard mileage rate if you are claiming vehicle expenses.

If you do not meet both of these requirements, use Form 2106.

Performing artists and fee-basis officials.   If you are a qualified performing artist, or a state (or local) government official who is paid in whole or in part on a fee basis, you can deduct the cost of your qualifying work-related education as an adjustment to gross income rather than as an itemized deduction.

Include the cost of your qualifying education with any other employee business expenses on line 34 of Form 1040. You do not have to itemize your deductions on Schedule A (Form 1040), and, therefore, the deduction is not subject to the 2%-of-adjusted-gross-income limit. You must complete Form 2106 or 2106-EZ to figure your deduction even if you meet the requirements described earlier under Form not required.

For more information on qualified performing artists, see Publication 463.

Impairment-related work expenses.   If you are disabled and have impairment-related work expenses that are necessary for you to be able to get qualifying work-related education, you can deduct these expenses on line 27 of Schedule A (Form 1040). They are not subject to the 2%-of-adjusted-gross-income limit. To deduct these expenses, you must complete Form 2106 or 2106-EZ even if you meet the requirements described earlier under Form not required.

For more information on impairment-related work expenses, see Publication 463.

Employer-Provided
Educational Assistance

If you receive educational assistance benefits from your employer under an educational assistance program, you can exclude up to $5,250 of those benefits each year. This means your employer should not include the benefits with your wages, tips, and other compensation shown in box 1 of your Form W-2. This also means that you do not have to include the benefits on your income tax return.

CAUTION: You must reduce your deductible educational expenses by the amount of any tax-free educational assistance benefits you received for those expenses.

Educational assistance program.   To qualify as an educational assistance program, the plan must be written and must meet certain other requirements. Your employer can tell you whether there is a qualified program where you work.

Educational assistance.   Tax-free educational assistance benefits include payments for tuition, fees and similar expenses, books, supplies, and equipment. For courses beginning on or after January 1, 2002, the payments may be for either undergraduate- or graduate-level courses. The payments do not have to be for work-related courses.

Educational assistance benefits do not include payments for the following items.

  1. Meals, lodging, transportation, or tools or supplies (other than textbooks) that you can keep after completing the course of instruction.
  2. Education involving sports, games, or hobbies unless the education has a reasonable relationship to the business of your employer or is required as part of a degree program.

Benefits over $5,250.   If your employer pays more than $5,250 for educational benefits for you during the year, you must generally pay tax on the amount over $5,250. Your employer should include in your wages (box 1 of your Form W-2) the amount that you must include in income.

Working condition fringe benefit.   However, if the payments also qualify as a working condition fringe benefit, your employer does not have to include them in your wages. A working condition fringe benefit is a benefit which, had you paid for it, you could deduct as an employee business expense.

Recordkeeping

FILES: You must keep records as proof of any deduction claimed on your tax return. Generally, you should keep your records for 3 years from the date of filing the tax return and claiming the deduction.

If you are an employee who is reimbursed for expenses and you give your records and documentation to your employer, you do not have to keep duplicate copies of this information. However, you should keep your records for a 3-year period if:

  1. You claim deductions for expenses that are more than your reimbursement,
  2. Your employer does not use adequate accounting procedures to verify expense accounts,
  3. You are related to your employer, or
  4. Your expenses are reimbursed under a nonaccountable plan.

Examples of records to keep.   If any of the above cases apply to you, you must be able to prove that your expenses are deductible. You should keep adequate records or have sufficient evidence that will support your expenses. Estimates or approximations do not qualify as proof of an expense. Some examples of what can be used to help prove your expenses are:

  1. Documents, such as transcripts, course descriptions, catalogs, etc., showing periods of enrollment in educational institutions, principal subjects studied, and descriptions of educational activity.
  2. Canceled checks and receipts to verify amounts you spent for:
    1. Tuition and books,
    2. Meals and lodging while away from home overnight for educational purposes,
    3. Travel and transportation, and
    4. Other educational expenses.
  3. Statements from your employer explaining whether the education was necessary for you to keep your job, salary, or status; how the education helped maintain or improve skills needed in your job; how much reimbursement you received; and the type of certificate and subjects taught, if you are a teacher.
  4. Complete information about any scholarship or fellowship grants, including amounts you received during the year.

Illustrated Example
Using Form 2106-EZ

Victor Jones teaches math at a private high school in North Carolina. He was selected to attend a 3-week math seminar at a university in California. The seminar will improve his skills in his current job and is qualifying education. He was reimbursed for his expenses under his employer's nonaccountable plan, so his reimbursement of $2,100 is included in the wages shown on his Form W-2. Victor will file Form 1040.

His actual expenses for the seminar are as follows:

  Lodging $1,050  
  Meals 526  
  Airfare 550  
  Taxi fares 50  
  Tuition and books 400  
    Total Expenses $2,576  

Because Victor's reimbursement was included in his income, he files Form 2106-EZ with his tax return. He shows his expenses for the seminar in Part I of the form. He enters $1,650 ($1,050 + $550 + $50) on line 3 to account for his lodging, airfare, and taxi fares. He enters $400 on line 4 for his tuition and books. On the line to the left of line 5, Victor enters $526 for meal expenses. He multiplies that amount by 50% and enters the result, $263, on line 5. On line 6, Victor totals the amounts from lines 3 through 5. He carries the total, $2,313, to line 20 of Schedule A (Form 1040).

Since he does not claim any vehicle expenses, Victor leaves Part II blank. His filled-in form is shown on the next page.

How To Get Tax Help

You can get help with unresolved tax issues, order free publications and forms, ask tax questions, and get more information from the IRS in several ways. By selecting the method that is best for you, you will have quick and easy access to tax help.

Contacting your Taxpayer Advocate.   If you have attempted to deal with an IRS problem unsuccessfully, you should contact your Taxpayer Advocate.

The Taxpayer Advocate represents your interests and concerns within the IRS by protecting your rights and resolving problems that have not been fixed through normal channels. While Taxpayer Advocates cannot change the tax law or make a technical tax decision, they can clear up problems that resulted from previous contacts and ensure that your case is given a complete and impartial review.

To contact your Taxpayer Advocate:

  • Call the Taxpayer Advocate at
    1-877-777-4778.
  • Call, write, or fax the Taxpayer Advocate office in your area.
  • Call 1-800-829-4059 if you are a
    TTY/TDD user.

For more information, see Publication 1546, The Taxpayer Advocate Service of the IRS.

Form 2106–EZ for V. Jones

Form 2106–EZ for V. Jones

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