Ah, yes. I remember when everyone was jumping on the “sailortax” bandwagon. There were questionable practices with him before he got audited in my opinion. I checked into what he was selling and even as a layman I knew he was pulling a scam. Guys that were on live aboards were claiming per diem like they were on lunch bucket boats. Hard to argue to the IRS that you should be allowed per diem when you were getting fed by the cook 100 miles offshore.
I can’t afford a CPA. Even if I could I would have to school them on my line of work.
I use H&R Block. They give you a pretty simple sheet of what is deductable.
I have written off training, travel, room, board, clothes, you name it. It all falls under “job seeking expenses” or “work related expenses”.
Maybe a CPA schooled in Merchant Seamen could have gotten me a few dollars more but I am pretty happy with my past returns.
H&R Block is not all that bad. The trick for me has been to get someone that works for them year round and not just during the tax season. The “tax professionals” on the supervisory level are the ones that I use. I have used the same lady for the last several years.
It is up to me to know what is and isn’t a deduction. Those rules really don’t change that much every year. I havn’t had an expense in the last several years that I didn’t know if it was a deduction or not.
If I am not sure I save my reciepts and ask when it is tax time. They are not gonna steer you wrong or do anything fraudulant on purpose. And if they screw up they will pay the fines and even have a tax lawyer represent you for free during your audit.
I have not been audited yet. I don’t have to knock on wood. I have not tried anything sneaky or bought into any “snake oil” tax rules.
I think when the IRS sees that you have used a professional tax service like H&R Block they know that those people are not going to let you commit fraud on their watch. And when they see you have used them for the last 10 years in a row I think it puts the kabosh on any red flags that might otherwise get raised for 20k worth of “job seeking expenses” or “work related expenses”.
And in closing I would agree that no matter what you are right now any training you pay for is “job related”. Your job title to the IRS is Merchant Seaman. Anything you pay for to stay a merchant seaman or to advance as a merechant seaman is deductable. The IRS doesn’t know if the classes were required or optional to advance. They all go under “job seeking expenses” or “work related expenses”.
If you don’t throw up any red flags you will never have to split hairs on what the fine print says.