BYOD and taxes

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The son of a good friend of mine is a master mechanic for a major auto dealership chain. He owns his own tools. His employer doesn’t. He takes off the cost of his tools as an employee business expense on his taxes every year. He collects tools as some of us collect tablets and smartphones.

Tax season, and my friend’s son deducting his tools got me thinking about the current state of full-time employees, bring-your-own-device (BYOD), and those who are denied personal tax deductions on their United States federal taxes.

Full-time employees face the intersection of BYOD and taxes where the

The self-employed have an advantage because they can write off device purchases as a business expense on their federal taxes. David sees a trend of full-time employees needing a side business under which they can deduct mobile device purchases and associated costs.

Note: I’m not a tax accountant, so check with a tax professional before setting up a side business.

The trade off for BYOD users is will it be cost justifiable for them to spend money to write their devices off? Android tablets and smartphones dropping in price make this a consideration for some users. David says his gut feeling is it might be too expensive in tax preparation costs for people to write off such inexpensive devices.

As a freelance writer, I have the opportunity to write off devices. Even when I’ve been a full-time employee, I still pursued freelance projects on the side and was able to deduct device purchases and related expenses on a Schedule C on my federal taxes. I’ve had colleagues do the same, and David himself mentioned doing the same thing during different chapters of his career.

While I hope to see the United States Internal Revenue Service recognize BYOD expenses in the tax codes, it’s still a far off possibility from my perspective. Until that time comes, if ever, companies moving to BYOD (and their employees) will need to consider the BYOD value proposition and the costs it may place on employees who may not want to personally bear such expenses.

Should the United States federal tax codes change to accommodate the growth of BYOD programs in businesses? Sound off in the comments.

Image by Jaelynn Castillo via

An earlier version of this post appeared on The Mobility Hub (site now offline).

Will Kelly is a technical writer and analyst based in the Washington, DC area. He has worked with commercial, federal, higher education, and publishing clients to develop technical and thought leadership content. His technology articles have been published by TechBeacon, CNET TechRepublic, Government Computer News, Federal Computer Week,,, and others. Follow Will on Twitter:@willkelly.

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