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What Are Bad Debt Expense Deductions

Deductible Business Bad Debt Expense

A deductible business bad debt expense refers to any loan or extension of credit you make in your trade or business in the capacity of an employee, which you are unable to collect. These types of uncollectible bad debt expenses are deductible on your federal income taxes, but only if you itemize your deductions on Schedule A. Any bad debt expenses you claim are included in your itemized miscellaneous expenses and are subject to the 2 percent adjusted gross income-AGI limitation. This means that when you total up all of your miscellaneous expenses, including your deductible bad debts, only the portion that exceeds 2 percent of your adjusted gross income-AGI is actually deductible.

Bad Debt Expense Related to Your Job

Although it’s probably not the most common situation, if you ever make a loan to the company you work for and it fails to pay you back, you can include the amount of the outstanding loan balance in your business bad debt expense deduction. However, you must wait until the debt becomes worthless before you can claim a deduction for it. There is no quick and easy test for determining whether a loan is worthless and therefore, warranting a bad debt deduction. Generally, you need to take a common-sense approach. If you’ve made multiple attempts to collect the debt from your employer for months after it should have been paid back, you should go ahead and take the deduction. But if your employer is only a few days late on a payment and has a recent history of making all other payments on time, then it’s unreasonable to claim a business bad debt deduction on your Schedule A.

Your Bad Debt Expense Deduction and Business Motives

One caveat to claiming the business bad debt expense on your federal tax return is that the motivation for making the loan or extension of credit must relate to your job. In other words, you cannot claim a deduction for the bad debt if it doesn’t somehow relate to keeping your job. This can include your boss alluding to your termination if you fail to make the loan or an imminent loss of business that keeps you employed.

Reference: IRS Publication 535: Business Expenses