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
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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.

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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.

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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/ 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.

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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.

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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.