Let’s be real, paying a bank fee is about as popular as paying your tax bill. There’s some good news, though: If you’re a freelancer, gig worker, or otherwise self-employed, those annoying bank fees can actually save you money on your taxes.
It’s true. Many bank fees count as a business expense, which means you can write them off on your taxes — if you do it correctly!
When can you deduct your bank fees as a business expense?
You can write off your bank fees as a business expense if the following things are both true:
- ✓ They’re fees that are “ordinary and necessary” to your line of work
- ✓ They’ve happened on a business bank account
But what does this really mean? Let’s take a closer look at both these requirements!
✓ If your charges are “ordinary and necessary”
The IRS defines business expenses as costs that are both ordinary and necessary for you to operate your business. That generally means they have to be typical of your industry.
A freelance web developer, for example, would have a hard time proving steel-toed boots are ordinary and necessary. Why? Almost no other web developers are writing them off.
Bank fees are usually considered ordinary and necessary — as long as they get charged through the normal course of running your business. (We’ll go over some examples that don’t count in a bit!)
✓ If they’re on a separate business bank account
Your bank fees are only tax-deductible if they’re on a business bank account.
Sorry, but fees on your personal account don’t qualify — even if you can prove they were related to your business.
You don’t have to open a business bank account just because you’re self-employed. But if you find yourself paying overdraft fees regularly as a result of your business, it might be time to look into a dedicated business account.
That way, you can at least get some of that money back at tax time.
When is a bank fee not tax-deductible?
Your bank fees won’t be tax-deductible if:
- ✘ They weren’t incurred for work purposes
- ✘ They’re considered excessive by the IRS
Let’s talk through these with a couple of examples.
✘ If your charges were incurred outside of work
For example, say you’re a DoorDash driver who travels to Bangladesh — a country where DoorDash doesn’t operate. Any foreign bank fees you pay there would clearly not be tax-deductible.
✘ If your charges were excessive
This is a bit of a gray area. We’re talking about bank fees that typically count as work expenses, but racked up at such high levels that the IRS raises an eyebrow.
This was the situation in the 1991 Tax Court case of Bailey v. Commissioner. The Baileys, who owned a laundromat, tried to write off almost $70,000 in overdraft fees, calling them ordinary and necessary expenses.
The court ruled against them, arguing that the “unreasonableness of the amounts” they were overdrafted made their bank fees out of the ordinary and definitely not necessary.
You’re probably not paying tens of thousands in overdraft fees. But it can still be hard to know what counts as “ordinary and necessary.” That’s why Keeper exists. It scans your transactions, and automatically writes off the ones you can deduct from your taxes based on what you do for work!
5 bank fees you can write off
Now that you know what doesn’t count, let’s break down the most common business banking fees you can write off on your taxes.
🗓️ Maintenance fees
Starting with the most obvious: If your bank charges you a monthly fee just to have an active account, that expense is both ordinary and necessary!
Even the best banks for small businesses sometimes have maintenance fees. They’ve got to fund their business somehow. Besides, if the service is excellent and the fee is small, working with a trustworthy bank can often be worth the cost.
💵 Overdraft fees
Suppose you drive for Uber and you gave your car a tune up, but forgot to check your account before you swiped your business credit card at the repair shop. You now have a $35 overdraft fee.
Is this tax-deductible?
The key is making sure the purchase that got you an overdraft fee is something you bought for work. Getting neon rims doesn’t help you get a higher star rating, so an overdraft fee for that purchase wouldn’t qualify. But changing your oil would.
Just be careful not to go overboard. The occasional lapse is fine. But like we mentioned above, racking up thousands of dollars in overdraft fees will make the IRS ask questions.
Truly outrageously excessive overdraft fees can result in an IRS audit letter landing in your mailbox (or even a day in tax court)!
↩️ Transaction and transfer fees
Usually, business accounts are allowed a certain number of transactions, deposits, and transfers a month for free. Once you go beyond that, they start charging.
Since these transactions are literally the cost of doing business, feel free to write them off on your taxes!
📦 Returned item fees
Maybe your customer bounced a check. Or maybe you’re an indie author who sold a bunch of ebooks on Amazon, only to have readers return them all – leaving you owing money to the retail giant.
No matter what happened, it hurts to pay for someone else’s mistake. However, being able to write it off should help soften the sting.
✈️ Business travel-related charges
Bank fees that occur because of travel are 100% tax-deductible. Of course, that’s assuming you’re traveling for work. (Sorry, no sneaky romantic holidays for you!)
The most common travel-related bank expenses are:
- 💱 Exchange fees
- 🗺️ Foreign transaction fees
- 🏧 ATM fees
But we all know banks love to charge travelers, so if your bank throws anything else at you while you’re away, definitely write it off!
How to deduct bank fees on your taxes
Now that you know you can deduct bank fees, you’re probably wondering where to list them on your return.
The simplest answer is to let Keeper file your taxes for you! But if you’d rather do it yourself, this part is fairly straightforward.
Bank fees go on your Schedule C
Where: Line 27a or line 10; line 24 if they’re travel related.
Like all business expenses, bank fees will get accounted for on your Schedule C. This form essentially breaks down your business’s profits and losses. It’s also where you fill in all your business write-offs.
On Schedule C, you’ll break your write-offs into different categories, each of which go on a different line on the form.
Bank fees usually fall under line 27a, “Other expenses,” or line 10, “Commissions and fees.” But if you paid for them while you were traveling for work, you can put them one line 24a, for “Travel."
And there you have it! While it’s never fun to pay extra money just to run your business, at least you can rest easy knowing those fees get offset with savings on your taxes.
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At Keeper, we’re on a mission to help people overcome the complexity of taxes. We’ve provided this information for educational purposes, and it does not constitute tax, legal, or accounting advice. If you would like a tax expert to clarify it for you, feel free to sign up for Keeper. You may also email firstname.lastname@example.org with your questions.