Can I Write Off Shipping Costs on My Taxes?

Can I Write Off Shipping Costs on My Taxes?

Athena Valentine Lent
February 29, 2024
February 29, 2024
Icon check
Reviewed by
Isaiah McCoy, CPA
Tax guide
Can I Write Off Shipping Costs on My Taxes?
Athena Valentine Lent
February 29, 2024
February 29, 2024
Icon check
Reviewed by
Isaiah McCoy, CPA

I’m an author, and one new cost that I’m dealing with is shipping my books out — whether that’s to potential reviewers, coaching clients, or as prizes for giveaways. Being an author means getting your book in front of as many people as possible, even if it costs you some cash. It stings, but I feel much better about it knowing the shipping is a tax write-off

If you do any type of self-employed work (even a side hustle) and have shipping costs as part of your business expenses, you might be able to write them off. (Surprise!) Taking all the write-offs you’re entitled to is essential to make your money go further, especially in today’s economy. 

Here’s how to figure out whether your shipping costs are deductible — and, if they are, how to claim the deduction.


When self-employed people can deduct shipping costs

Michael Coronado, the vice president of accounting firm Pronto Income Tax, explains it like this: You can deduct the cost of shipping if it’s a legitimate business expense related to promoting your work, shipping products to customers, or mailing contracts or essential documents.

“This is considered a cost of doing business,” Coronado says.

For online sellers shipping items to customers, these expenses might include:

  • Shipping supplies like tape, envelopes, and bubble wrap
  • Label-making supplies like paper, labels, markers, or printer ink
  • Shipping fees — including if you prepaid for labels on third-party apps like Poshmark, Mercari, and eBay

The main point? The expense should have been incurred in order to send your item to your customer.

Are shipping costs part of COGS? 

No. The cost of shipping goods to a customer is not part of COGS, or the cost of goods sold. Instead, it should be deducted as a shipping cost.

First, let’s define COGS. This acronym refers to how much a product or service costs to produce. If you sell homemade knitwear, for example, the cost of yarn and knitting needles would factor into your COGS. If you sell printables on Etsy, the cost of the software you use to create your products is part of your COGS. Independent contractors are allowed to deduct COGS on their taxes using box 38 of Schedule C. (More on Schedule C in a second.)


Here’s where it gets a little complicated. If that software needs to be shipped to you (and you pay for shipping), that cost is part of COGS. However, once you’re shipping the products to a customer, the cost of shipping is no longer part of COGS. You can still write it off, but it’s a shipping deduction.

Deducting shipping costs as a travel expense 

If you’re shipping something related to an upcoming business trip, it’s deductible as a travel expense. For example, if you’re shipping items for a conference display or sending them off to be handed out at a vending table, they fall under this category. I once had to pay to ship books to a conference for a book signing (being an author can get expensive!), and I now know to add such expenses to my travel write-offs. Other deductible travel expenses include transportation, meals, and accommodations. For more information, check out Keeper’s guide to travel expenses, so you can make sure that you’re writing off everything you can. 

Deducting shipping costs for business-related gifts 

Send gifts to customers or vendors? We have good news: Business gifts are allowed as a tax write-off, with a limit of $25 per person per year, according to the IRS. However, “incidental costs” like shipping and wrapping are not included in this limit. In other words, shipping and wrapping for gifts are non-deductible expenses. 

How to deduct shipping costs using Schedule C

“Shipping costs are typically reported on Schedule C, which is the form used for reporting income and expenses for sole proprietorships and single-member LLCs,” Coronado says. As a business owner, whether you’re full-time or part-time, this form is essential. (Read Keeper’s guide to Schedule C if you want a comprehensive how-to.)

You’ll account for shipping-related tax deductions on Line 27a — “other expenses.” This line mentions Line 48, which should be the details behind the amount you enter for Line 27a. 

If you’re wondering what your other deductible expenses might be, Keeper does a fantastic job of helping you navigate the entire tax process. I started using Keeper in 2023 (yes, I pay for my subscription!), and it’s really helped me sort out my expenses. Investing in your business is worth it!


When shipping costs can’t be deducted 

It’s essential to understand that shipping cannot be deducted for personal purposes. If I send a book to a family member, for example, I can’t deduct the shipping cost. But if it’s related to a business activity — you’re mailing your newest Etsy customer those rad stickers they purchased, for instance — you can write off everything you bought in order to get your goods to your customer. 

Coronado also noted that if someone else pays for shipping (your client or customer, for instance), you cannot write it off. The same goes for if you’re reimbursed for shipping — only expenses that you actually pay for are eligible.

It’s crucial come tax time to know what you can and can’t write off. Shipping supplies, postage, and other expenses related to getting your product to your consumer can all be added to that write-off list. 

Here’s to your shipping success!

Athena Valentine Lent

Athena Valentine Lent


Athena Valentine Lent is an award-winning personal finance columnist for Slate Magazine and the author of "Budgeting For Dummies," published May of 2023. Athena became passionate about financial representation for the Hispanic community after teaching life skills in a Title I school where there was no financial literacy being offered. She's now an advocate on issues such as the Latina wage gap and multigenerational housing through her website, Money Smart Latina. Besides Slate Magazine, Athena has written for BuzzFeed, Prudential, Experian, T. Rowe Price, The College Investor, GOBankingRates, and Money Under 30, and now Keeper. She’s also the community liaison for FinCon, an annual conference for content creators and brands in the financial industry. When not working, you can find her reading a Stephen King novel with her main man, a polydactyl cat named Harrison George.

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Can I Write Off Shipping Costs on My Taxes?
Can I Write Off Shipping Costs on My Taxes?
Can I Write Off Shipping Costs on My Taxes?
Can I Write Off Shipping Costs on My Taxes?

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