Actually, You Can’t Write These 13 Things off on Your Taxes

You might not be able to write off as many expenses as you thought.

counting taxes with colleague
Updated July 18, 2024
Fact checked

We receive compensation from the products and services mentioned in this story, but the opinions are the author's own. Compensation may impact where offers appear. We have not included all available products or offers. Learn more about how we make money and our editorial policies.

Tax season often brings a flurry of questions and misconceptions about what expenses can be written off. Many taxpayers are surprised to learn that some commonly believed money moves are, in fact, not allowable.

To avoid disappointment and potential issues with the IRS come tax time in 2025, it's crucial to understand which expenses are not deductible. Here are 13 things you cannot write off on your taxes, despite what you may have heard.

If you’re over 50, take advantage of massive discounts and financial resources

Over 50? Join AARP today — because if you’re not a member you could be missing out on huge perks. When you start your membership today, you can get discounts on things like travel, meal deliveries, eyeglasses, prescriptions that aren’t covered by insurance and more.

How to become a member today:

  • Go here, select your free gift, and click “Join Today”
  • Create your account (important!) by answering a few simple questions
  • Start enjoying your discounts and perks!

Important: Start your membership by creating an account here and filling in all of the information (Do not skip this step!) Doing so will allow you to take up 25% off your AARP membership, making it just $12 per year with auto-renewal.

Become an AARP member now

Babysitter costs

dusanpetkovic1/Adobe mother with her preschooler boy

While childcare expenses can be significant, costs for a babysitter for personal reasons, like a night out or a weekend away, are not tax-deductible.

The Child and Dependent Care Credit exists, but it only applies to expenses incurred while working or looking for work. Personal babysitting costs, however, do not qualify. Therefore, make sure you distinguish between work-related and personal childcare expenses.

Pet care expenses

hedgehog94/Adobe dog walker enjoying with dogs

Pets are beloved family members, but their care is not tax-deductible. This includes costs such as food, veterinary bills, grooming, and pet insurance.

One exception might be animal-related expenses associated with your business or if you donated pet food or supplies to a qualifying charity. Otherwise, standard pet care expenses will not provide any tax relief.

Homeowners insurance

Vitalii Vodolazskyi/Adobe homeowners insurance policy and model of home

Homeowners insurance is a necessary expense to protect your property, but it does not qualify as a tax deduction on your federal income tax return. While you can deduct mortgage interest and property taxes, insurance premiums do not make the cut.

It's important to understand that protective measures for your home, though vital, are not incentivized through tax deductions.

Resolve $10,000 or more of your debt

Credit card debt is suffocating. It constantly weighs on your mind and controls every choice you make. You can end up emotionally and even physically drained from it. And even though you make regular payments, it feels like you can never make any progress because of the interest.

National Debt Relief could help you resolve your credit card debt with an affordable plan that works for you. Just tell them your situation, then find out your debt relief options.1

How to get National Debt Relief to help you resolve your debt: Sign up for a free debt assessment here. (Do not skip this step!) By signing up for a free assessment, National Debt Relief can assist you in settling your debt, but only if you schedule the assessment.

Try it

Commuting costs

Song_about_summer/Adobe Driver hands on steering wheel

Daily commuting expenses to and from your primary place of employment are not deductible. This includes costs for public transportation, fuel, tolls, and parking.

Only certain travel expenses incurred while on business trips or temporary work assignments may be deductible. For everyday travel, you'll need to absorb these costs without expecting a tax break.

Child support payments

S Fanti/peopleimages.com/Adobe girl holding hands with father

Child support payments, while essential for supporting your children, are not tax-deductible for the payer. Conversely, the recipient does not need to report these payments as taxable income. 

It's a common misconception, but child support is neither deductible nor taxable. Remember to differentiate child support from other potentially deductible expenses like alimony.

Home improvement costs

nd700/Adobe man painting the house

Generally, you cannot deduct home improvement costs from your federal taxes. Improvements that add value to your home, extend its life, or adapt it for new uses must be added to the property's basis.

This might help reduce taxable gain when you sell your home but does not provide immediate tax relief. Home repairs and maintenance costs are treated differently and are also not deductible. However, you may receive a tax break for making energy-efficient improvements.

Time spent volunteering

loreanto/Adobe garbage collection event in a park

Volunteering is admirable, but you cannot deduct the value of your time or services on your tax return. While you can deduct certain out-of-pocket expenses directly related to volunteering (like travel), the IRS does not allow for a deduction based on the hours you've volunteered.

It's essential to understand that your time commitment, though valuable, does not translate into tax benefits.

Gym membership fees

Oleksandr/Adobe modern gym interior

Staying fit and healthy is important, but gym membership fees are generally not deductible. Unless you have a medical condition that requires physical exercise as treatment prescribed by a doctor, and even then, the requirements are stringent and rarely applicable. Without a direct medical necessity, these expenses remain personal and nondeductible.

Plastic surgery

9dreamstudio/Adobe preparing for plastic surgery

Cosmetic surgery is generally not deductible unless it is medically necessary. Routine cosmetic procedures for appearance enhancement do not qualify for a tax write-off. Therefore, only surgeries that have a strong medical justification and supporting documentation can be considered.

Earn cash back on everyday purchases with this rare account

Want to earn cash back on your everyday purchases without using a credit card? With the Discover®️ Cashback Debit Checking account (member FDIC), you can earn 1% cash back on up to $3,000 in debit card purchases each month!2

With no credit check to apply and no monthly fees to worry about, you can earn nearly passive income on purchases you’re making anyway — up to an extra $360 a year!

This rare checking account has other great perks too, like access to your paycheck up to 2 days early with Early Pay, no minimum deposit or monthly balance requirements, over 60K fee-free ATMs, and the ability to add cash to your account at Walmart stores nationwide.

Don’t leave money on the table — it only takes minutes to apply and it won’t impact your credit score.

Apply for a Discover Cashback Checking account today

Non-qualifying charitable donations

drazen/Adobe woman sorting out clothes in donation box for charity

Donations to charities must be made to qualifying organizations to be deductible. Contributions to individuals, political organizations, or foreign charities (with some exceptions) are not deductible. Always verify that the organization is a qualified 501(c)(3) entity. Ensuring the recipient's status is key to knowing whether your donation is eligible for deduction.

Political contributions

Your Hand Please/Adobe places her vote in a ballot box

Contributions to political campaigns, parties, or action committees are not tax-deductible. This includes any funds given to influence legislation, support candidates, or cover campaign expenses.

The IRS is clear that political donations do not qualify for charitable deductions. Supporting your political causes must be done with the understanding that there's no tax benefit.

Business travel that involves personal travel

Jag_cz/Adobe commercial airplane flying above clouds

Travel expenses that mix business and personal activities must be carefully allocated. Only the expenses directly related to business activities are deductible. If you extend a business trip for personal leisure, the personal portion of your expenses cannot be written off. Accurate record-keeping and clear separation of costs are crucial in such cases.

Undocumented cash donations made to a qualifying charity

nazarovsergey/Adobe man looks in the wallet

Cash donations to qualifying charities must be properly documented to be deductible. This means having a receipt, bank record, or written acknowledgment from the charity. Donations without documentation, even if they were made to a qualified organization, ultimately are not deductible.

Bottom line

Borin/Adobe hand writing document

Understanding what you can’t write off on your taxes is crucial to avoid any issues with the IRS and to manage where you stand financially. By debunking these common myths about tax deductions, you can save yourself some heartache come tax season.

Have you checked your expenses to ensure they're eligible for deductions? Knowing the rules can help you maximize your legitimate tax benefits and avoid potential pitfalls.

Choice Home Warranty Benefits

  • First month free
  • Protection for unexpected expense
  • 24/7 claims hotline
  • Network of over 15,000 technicians

Author Details

Adam Palasciano

Adam Palasciano is a personal finance-obsessed and money-savvy individual who loves to hash out content on all things saving money. He specializes in writing millennial-friendly personal finance content, covering topics ranging from trending financial news, debt, credit cards, cryptocurrency, and more.