Can I count my cell phone as a business expense?


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What Cell Phone Expenses Can Be Deducted

Researching how to write off cell phones for business? The good news is that just about any cell phone cost can qualify for a small business cell phone deduction. Therefore, the following cell phone expenses can be deducted as long as their use relates to your work:

  • Cell phone
  • Monthly plan
    • Calls
    • Data and internet
  • Cell phone accessories, such as:
    • Case
    • Protective screen
    • Car mounts
    • Ring lights
    • Bluetooth headset
    • Chargers
  • Apps

As stated, the important thing to keep in mind is that the expense relates back to business operations in some way. For example, you can’t purchase a game on your cell phone and then write it off as a business expense. The app expense must relate to operations in order for you to claim it as a deduction. 

FYI, if you’re new to the world of small business tax deductions, there are 22 small business tax deductions you should know as we move through 2023. 

How to Differentiate Personal Vs Business Uses

For most people, browsing Instagram and answering calls from their parents are not business related activities (unless they’re doing social marketing or are in business with family). Therefore, it’s important to differentiate how much of your cell phone usage is actually business related. The safest way to determine this is to do the math.


Let’s say a small business owner wakes up at 6 in the morning, and is at work by 8. She works from 8-5, and takes a one hour lunch break. From 5 PM to 10 PM she is with her family. She goes to bed at 10 PM every day and has weekends off. 

She is, therefore, awake for 112 hours every week, and actively works for 40 of those hours: 

40/112 * 100= 36%

The most amount of her monthly cell phone expenses she should deduct is 36%. However, this calculation does not include any deductions for apps and accessories, which we discuss below.  

How to Include Cell Phone Depreciation

Depreciation is the act of recovering the cost of an asset over a certain period of time. With the passing of the JOBS Act in 2010, cell phone users can depreciate the cost of their phone over a 7 year period instead of a 10 year period using the straight line method. This means you would take the total cost of the phone and divide it by 7. You would then deduct that amount from your taxes for a total of seven years.

To include depreciation, you will need to fill out form 4562, and transfer the amount over to line 13 of Schedule C (assuming you are a sole proprietor).

How Much of Your Cell Phone Expenses Can Be Deducted?

The answer to this depends on which expenses are in question and how much of your cell phone is used for business purposes. If it’s a cell phone that you only use for business, then 100% of the expenses can be deducted. While it may be tempting to get a separate line so you can deduct all of the expenses, just keep in mind that any savings you would receive via deductions would likely be outweighed by the costs of an additional line. 

Most people use a single line phone for both personal and business use. If this is the case, then you can only deduct the percentage of time you use your phone for business purposes. For example, if 60% of your phone usage is for personal use, and 40% is for business, then you can only deduct 40% of your bill for tax purposes. 

New Phone Costs and Deductions

Cell phones were once considered listed property, which means that the IRS considered their use to be personal even though they were used in a business setting. This mindset has since changed since the passing of the JOBS act. Tax filers are no longer required to keep detailed notes to claim phone deductions. However, they can only write off the percentage they use their phone for business purposes. 

Can You Deduct Phone Accessories and App Purchases?

Yes, as long as the accessories and apps were purchased exclusively for work they can be deducted. In fact, because they are business expenses, you can deduct 100% of their costs. 

There are many apps and accessories that can be deemed a business expense, so there is no need for an ‘official’ exhaustive list. So long as the accessory or app helps you operate your business it can be considered a business expense. For example, accessory examples include protective covers and cases, car mounts, and ring lights, while apps like DocuSign and Dropbox would be legitimate apps to write off as a business expense.   

Where Can You Deduct Phone Costs?

In order to take the small business cell phone deduction, you will need to fill out form Schedule C which can be found on the IRS website. Schedule C is not just to claim cell phone deductions. Its primary function is to report business income and expenses. If you own a small business, you may also use it to report the cost of goods sold (aka COGS) and any depreciation expenses you may have incurred. 

The Takeaway

If you are self employed or use your cell phone for business purposes, then you can deduct cell phone expenses. To make it as easy as possible, save all of your receipts — especially if you have monthly app subscriptions or purchase multiple accessories. In some cases, getting a small business loan can help with your expenses and purchases used to grow your business. 

This article originally appeared on and was syndicated by

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How to automate your small business taxes

How to automate your small business taxes

The taxability of a given product or service can vary from state to state, and in some cases, such as in Colorado, taxability can even vary from city to city. Location isn’t the only complication businesses face when calculating sales tax. Specific products and services can also have special or reduced rates and fees that need to be calculated at the point of sale

This is why mapping products and services to an appropriate tax category in any automated tax system are both very important and very powerful.

Sales tax is often complicated. Properly mapping products and services in your tax system will ensure that the correct taxability determination, accurate tax rate, and any applicable fees are being calculated for every sales transaction. (Curious how sales taxes affect your bottom line? Check out our sales tax calculator.)

The need for mapping products and services to tax categories is most apparent in these major areas:

    In the US, four states provide general exemptions for clothing, three states provide an exemption as long as the clothing is under a certain dollar amount, and one state taxes luxury clothing at a higher rate. The definition of what qualifies as clothing (clothing accessories, work clothing, protective equipment, etc.) is not uniform from state to state, so an item may qualify for the clothing exemption in one state but not in another.

    To further complicate the issue, in 2018 sixteen states had sales tax holidays that provided exemptions for certain articles of clothing for limited periods of time.

    Looking at the states with clothing dollar amount thresholds, we see that Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, and Rhode Island are all subject to different thresholds. The thresholds are $50, $175, $100, and $250, respectively.

    These states not only differ in thresholds, but they may also differ in how purchases that are over each unique threshold are treated.


    Massachusetts has a 6.25% sales tax rate for the entire state. For clothing, only the amount over the $175 threshold is subject to sales tax.

    • Sales Transaction A: $100 Blouse. No sales tax applies because blouse is under $175.
    • Sales Transaction B: $200 Blouse. Sales tax applies only to the portion over the threshold; $25. $200 – $175 = $25 * 6.25% = $1.56 Sales Tax

    New York

    New York has an 8.875% sales tax rate in NYC and other rates vary depending on the location of sale. For clothing, the entire amount is taxable if the item is over the $110 threshold.

    • Sales Transaction A: $100 Blouse. No sales tax applies because the blouse is under $110
    • Sales Transaction B: $200 Blouse. Sales tax applies to the entire item price; $200. $200 * 8.875% = $17.75 Sales Tax

    If the taxability of clothing seems complex, it gets even more complicated as you look at more and more states. For example, one article of clothing that costs $1200 would be subject to different thresholds Massachusetts, New York, and Rhode Island, as well as taxable at a special rate in Connecticut, while being fully taxable in some states and exempt in others. Clothing rules can be more problematic than you think.

    This shouldn’t make you worry. Properly mapping your clothing products to the correct clothing tax category in an automated sales tax system will ensure that the proper taxability determination, rate, and threshold rules are applied across all taxing jurisdictions.

    In 2018, seventeen states had sales tax holidays that exempted certain categories from state sales tax for limited periods of time. These categories included items like: back to school supplies, energy star appliances, and hurricane preparedness items.

    Sixteen of these sales tax holidays exempted clothing. As a small business owner, you have to keep in mind that the sales tax holiday exemptions have similar intricacies as the year-round exemptions, including the definition of what qualifies as clothing for each holiday and how the thresholds vary from state to state.

    For example, Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Iowa, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia exempt clothing up to $100 during their sales tax holidays, while South Carolina has an unlimited exemption, Massachusetts exempts up to $2,500, and Ohio and Wisconsin exempt any clothing item under $75.

    Your automated tax solution will automatically account for these sales tax holiday rules, as long as your products are set up correctly. In other words, in order for an exemption to properly calculate during a sales tax holiday, the item being sold must be properly mapped to the appropriate tax category.

    The majority of US states impose special rules on food. Most states exempt food for home consumption from sales tax entirely. Arkansas, Illinois, Missouri, Tennessee, Utah, and Virginia have special reduced rates for food for home consumption. Arizona and Louisiana exempt food at the state level but tax it at the general rate at the local level (some exemptions/reduced rates apply).

    While individual states are ultimately responsible for defining the exact scope of special sales tax rules related to food and beverages, food for home consumption is generally accepted to include staple grocery items and foods which are not prepared prior to purchase and are not meant to be consumed on-premises. Candy and soft drinks can be included or excluded in this definition, depending on the state.

    Many states, including Member States of the Streamlined Sales Tax Agreement, exclude prepared food, dietary supplements, and alcoholic beverages from the definition of eligible food for home consumption.

    Example: A liter of soda is fully taxable in Minnesota and Illinois, while fully exempt in Massachusetts.

    Example 2: A loaf of bread is exempt in Minnesota, taxable at a reduced rate in Illinois, and exempt in Massachusetts.

    Again, properly mapping food items to the correct tax category will ensure that the proper taxability decision and reduced or full rates are applied across all jurisdictions.

    While most states provide an exemption for food for home consumption, food intended to be consumed on-site in places such as in a sit-down restaurant or when ordering take-out is generally taxable. Some states tax this type of food at the general rate, while others have special rates, called a Meals Tax.

    Many local jurisdictions also impose a meals tax, even in states that have no other local taxes, such as Massachusetts or in states with no state sales tax, such as New Hampshire.

    In an automated sales tax system, these rules will seamlessly be applied to your transactions once you have mapped all of your products and services accurately.

    Medical products is another area where states enact special tax rules. Many states provide a sales tax exemption for prescription drugs. The definition of what qualifies as a prescription drug, just like clothing and food, can differ from state to state.

    For example, some states such as Missouri, exclude over-the-counter prescription drugs from their exemption. Other states such as Texas, exempt all drugs, regardless if they are or are not given under a prescription.

    Why mapping is important in this area is because some states have a very broad definition of what qualifies as a “drug.” States are also increasingly providing exemptions for other medical items, such as feminine hygiene products.

    Properly mapping a medical product to the most specific tax category in your automated tax system will ensure that the proper taxability determination is being applied across all jurisdictions and that your customers are getting all of the exemptions that the states have to offer.

    Products that are not exempt in any jurisdiction and are not covered by any sales tax holidays may still need to be mapped in your automated tax system to ensure not only a comprehensive collection of all relevant taxes but also of all applicable fees.

    States may impose fees on items such as lead-acid batteries, tires, electronic items, bottled water, soda or alcohol containers, and E-911 charges.

    Mapping to the proper tax category for these types of items will ensure that the proper taxability, as well as any applicable fees, are calculated by your automated system.

    The treatment of software and related services differ significantly from state to state. Prewritten software provided in tangible format is taxable in every jurisdiction with a sales tax. The treatment of software transmitted electronically, on the other hand, varies from state to state and can vary for a variety of reasons, including whether the software is custom, prewritten, transferred with tangible personal property, or comes with upgrade, updates, or technical support services.

    The treatment of Software as a Service (SaaS) and other software related services also varies widely from state to state.

    Similar to clothing, food, and medical items, not only does the sales tax treatment differ for SaaS, but the definition of what qualifies as SaaS and other software related services differs by state. This is another reason why it is critical to pick the most specific tax category that matches the products your business sells.

    Software-related services may also be subject to special rates, such as the 1% Connecticut rate for computer and data processing services, or in Texas, where data processing services are only taxable at 80% of the base.

    Automated Tax systems provide a significant number of software and software services tax categories where the underlying taxability is maintained across all jurisdictions and helps your business ensure the proper calculation of rates and taxability.

    Given the many variables and complexities around sales tax product and services categorizations, the solution is probably not DIY. When set up properly using a comprehensive software, you can take all of your compliance issues and turn them into an automated process that seamlessly and effortlessly calculates the right tax, at the right rate, for every transaction.

    This article originally appeared on the Quickbooks Resource Center and was syndicated by

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