View Full Version : Income TAX Questions for Reserve Officers

06-30-2009, 10:07 PM
For those of you reserve officers who receive a small stipend per month (say, $50), is that considered income even though you volunteer?

Secondly, can you write off purchases made for the job, again, even though it's a "volunteer" position?

Has anyone actually done this?

Thank You.

06-30-2009, 11:31 PM
Looks like the answer is YES to the first question.

This IRS publication should help with the second question:

07-01-2009, 9:29 AM
Ask your department if they are giving you a 1099 IRS form for misc. income. It depends if the department considers it a reimbursement for your personal expenditures made within the scope and course of your duty, or if it is pay. My guess is that it might not be pay, based on the number of hours volunteered vs. the minimum wage or like work=like pay protocols.

Talk to a cop tax specialist. There are many CPA's and tax consultants who know the wherefores and whatnots of legitimate and marginally legitimate deductions for cop work. There are probably cops in your agency who do taxes for people on the side.

You will often hear cops boasting about writing off everything from hunting guns, ammo, trips to Front Sight (or similar firearms training), the Soldier of Fortune convention, clothing for plainclothes work, holsters for off duty use, etc. etc. Some are OK, others will have you tap dancing in front of some smarmy IRS auditor. I've personally seen SWAT members dinged by IRS for trying to write off expensive rifles...because they were not used in the course of duty and they had been issued a duty rifle.

I suspect many (most) such writeoffs stay under the radar, but I wouldn't take a chance. Check with someone who knows the particulars.

07-01-2009, 11:02 AM
When I was going to school I worked for a security guard company.

There was a guy I worked with (late 70s-early 80s) who tried to deduct all kinds of things as work related. He got audited.

Things the auditor allowed:

- uniforms and leather.
- boots.
- ammo.
- range fees.
- union dues.

things the auditor did not allow:

- shoes.
- NRA membership.

He had a side business selling Amway that he also tried deducting things against.


- magnetic sign for his car.

Not allowed:

- car. putting a magnetic sign on the car to advertise your Amway business apparently does not mean you can deduct 100% of the cost of the car as a business expense.

The company used to give an extra 5 cents an hour as a uniform cleaning allowance that was taxable because it was folded into your wages. My understanding was it would not have been taxable if it was handled separately but that would have cost the company more than $2 a week to do so they handled it by giving you a nickel an hour extra.

I think when all was said and done he had to pay like $100 in extra tax and $300 in penaties.

07-01-2009, 1:01 PM
Another good deduction is a safe to keep your firearm (off or on duty) in while at home.

Also most P.D.'s require you to have a hard line telephone. You can deduct 1/2 of the baseline bill if they have this requirement.

Or for everyone a fire safe to keep your tax records and returns in.

Perfectly good and legal deductions. Get a big one!!! no problem if you also store a few firearms and other items there along with your tax records!!

07-01-2009, 2:48 PM
Lots of people who own planes and horses become reserves because there is a large tax incentive to do so. Don't get me wrong, they like the work as well but they get to write off a huge amount of their hobby. Boarding, grooming, transportation, feed, fuel, hanger, maintenance etc. There are tons of stuff you can write off as job related expenses.

Fire in the Hole
07-01-2009, 2:58 PM
ilbob, let me get this right. He could write off boots but not shoes? Hmm...

07-01-2009, 8:20 PM
The general rule for tax deductions is they have to be only for duty use. That includes equipment, uniforms and training. So yes you can stay at Thunder Ranch for a month and deduct it and the amo cost. All such deductions appear on your tax form as contributions to charity.

07-01-2009, 10:06 PM
Thanks guys. I forgot to ask the recruiter, and will probably shoot him an e-mail. At the recruiting/orientation meeting, he mentioned it would likely cost about $1,000.00 out of pocket to become a reserve officer. For example, shoes and gym clothes have to be purchased and are not reimbursed. He also told us what gear we would get and what we would have to purchase as extra if we wanted it. So I was curious. Thanks and keep more info coming!

07-02-2009, 8:00 AM
ilbob, let me get this right. He could write off boots but not shoes? Hmm...

Maybe he was wearing the shoes when he went to the audit. It was 30 years ago, don't recall many details.

I generally went to a surplus store and bought surplus combat boots for $5 a pair. Most comfortable footwear on the planet IMO. Too bad you can't get them surplus anymore. I would still be wearing them.

I think a large part of his problem was getting tax advice from his Amway up line. I remember him bragging about how putting the magnetic Amway sign on his new car turned the car into a deductible advertising expense.

At that time I never even came close to having enough deductions to do anything but pay taxes.

07-02-2009, 8:28 AM
shoupdawg, have you thought about going full time. Same hiring process, same academy and you get paid with a pension. If your thinking about becoming a Reserve because you want to give LE at try, I would just go Regular. Sometimes it is a longer road if you become a Reserve and a year later decide you enjoy it enough to want to go full time. Just a thought.

07-02-2009, 8:56 AM
At the recruiting/orientation meeting, he mentioned it would likely cost about $1,000.00 out of pocket to become a reserve officer.
That really depends on the agency. Some require you purchase all equipment yourself (including uniforms) while others issue all the basic gear.

07-02-2009, 11:30 AM
If your a gadget guy like most cops, you will spend a grand or more every year your in service. Your firearms are a deduction and that will eat a bit of that budget up.

07-02-2009, 8:51 PM

Yes, I've actually thought of it but to be honest, I can't afford my bills on a cop's salary. (Bought real estate at the wrong time.)

Ryan, we're provided one long sleeve and one short sleeve uniform.

As unfortunately, you have to use a glock .40 and can't use your own firearm.

07-19-2009, 6:26 AM
There is a lot of misinformation in this thread. Just because people have gotten away with certain deductions doesn't make them allowable. Also, don't spend JUST for a tax deduction, do it if you need to. Deductions only give back 10-35%..spending unnecessarily is being penny wise and pound foolish

07-19-2009, 1:21 PM
Try and find a tax professional in your area that specializes in Law Enforcement tax returns. There are too many specialized circumstances that allow or disallow deductions. My guy has a great worksheet that outlines what I can deduct and I just fill out how much I spent based on my recepts. A good tax professional can advise you if your reserve equipment spending is deductable. I would assume it is, but cannot say for sure.

07-19-2009, 8:51 PM
There is a lot of misinformation in this thread. Just because people have gotten away with certain deductions doesn't make them allowable.
Please enlighten us and clearly identify what posted here is misinformation and why. Otherwise all you're doing is spreading FUD.

07-20-2009, 4:42 AM
I dont know how a safe for your firearm is deductible. Unless it is a requirement for your job that you have one at home..? The plane fares people mentioned isnt deductible if it used to commute to your job. Regarding uniforms, items that can be worn outside of work generally are not deductible expenses.

07-20-2009, 12:38 PM
Safe: If you do not own any firearms and have kids, I could see claiming a reasonably-sized safe to store your duty-issued weapons. CA law requires firearms be locked if you have kids. Yes individual gun locks are cheaper but you could make a case you wanted to prevent any access.

Airfares: No one mentioned plane fares. Socalsheepdog mentioned reservists who use their private planes for duty use can write off some (but not all) of their expenses.

Boots: Duty boots are deductible. Other clothing is not generally allowed, but if you can make a strong case they are only used for work-related purposes they can pass. (Example: buy a hi-viz reversible rain coat that's stored in your dept. locker when not in use.)