Posted December 21, 2015
The Watson CPA Group has been preparing tax returns since 1997 for airline pilots and flight attendants across the country for a variety of airlines and aviation companies. We pride ourselves in tackling the most challenging tax situations including flight crew taxes, flight attendant taxes and airline pilot taxes – all for a reasonable fee range of $300 to $450. Combining a CPA-prepared tax return with the direct experience and participation of an airline pilot maximizes the quality of your tax return. Having said that, we try to maintain historical fees for returning clients.
Per Diem Deduction
Per diem allowances and deductions are huge. We calculate your per diem allowances using both methods recognized by the IRS (city by city or standard daily rate) and use the method that maximizes your deduction. Most tax preparers are unfamiliar or simply will not take advantage of this incredible tax deduction. In fact, correctly deducting per diem allowances alone increases our average pilot and flight attendant tax refunds by several hundred dollars.
How does per diem work? is a common question that we get. Please see our Per Diem FAQs for more details regarding your pilot and flight attendant per diem deductions including examples of per diem rates and calculations.
Some airlines such as United, Frontier, Delta, etc. or those who use Sabre as their crew scheduling backbone can provide a report detailing your overnights and the associated per diem allowance (such as a FLICA or FrontLine report). We are generally comfortable with their calculations and will use the computed per diem allowance amount. In these situations, our fee will reduced by $10 for domestic crewmembers and $25 for international crewmembers.
We have also a free online per diem calculator where you can calculate the IRS per diem allowance by simply inputting your schedule. And the best part, it’s free! Only North America, Alaska, Hawaii and Caribbean destinations are available.
Flight Crew Travel Expenses
Dry cleaning and rollaboards are obvious allowable deductions but have you considered your shoe shines or printer supplies? Or cell phone, laptop / iPad and Internet charges? There are numerous expenses associated with being a crewmember which are recognized by the IRS as employment related deductions and we will take full advantage of them! We have developed an exhaustive Flight Crew Expense Report to list all your pilot tax deductions and flight attendant tax deductions.
Myth Buster #1- Van Tips are not deductible! The IRS already gives you $5 per overnight for incidentals in your per diem deduction (and higher for international destinations). Shhhh! Let’s not tell them we usually tip less!
Myth Buster #2- Crashpads are not deductible. Unless you are on a TDY or temporary work assignment, crashpads are considering commuting costs and are not deductible. Same with parking passes. Read the Tax Court Case about a United Pilot if you like. Don’t believe the hype. Sure, your buddy has been deducting it for years- still doesn’t make it right.
Most pilot and flight attendant tax returns are prepared for $300 to $450 depending on your situation, level of readiness and organization. Using our simple, customized online submit forms will ensure comprehensive and economic tax preparation. Our fee always includes your state tax return, per diem calculations and travel expenses.
If you have a rental, small business, several stock sales, canceled debt, K-1s, multiple states, etc. additional fees will apply. Please review our Fee Structure page or Personal Tax Preparation page for more information. We are not out to gouge anyone- we just need to be reasonably compensated for our time, just like you as a pilot or flight attendant.
The Watson CPA Group are tax and business consultants, not just number crunchers. Anyone can balance a checkbook. Anyone can slam together a per diem calculation. Anyone can put the right number in the right blanks. But we take a consultative approach to flight crew tax preparation. You can always find someone to do it for less- of course. However consider the solid back-end support which you will get with the Watson CPA Group that other flight crew tax preparation companies might not provide. Read more about our Value Proposition here.
We are a resource that is always available throughout the year. Have a question? Need advice? Received a notice from the IRS just before Happy Hour on a Friday? You can contact us anytime, day or night. We prefer day of course.
Our fee is not just for tax preparation- it offers the continuous peace and mind of knowing that you are not alone in your tax world. We are airline minded people who are also small business owners and have rentals properties- we can speak your language, not just in a theoretical sense but in a practical down to earth manner.
Moreover, our goal is to always prepare a comprehensive and accurate tax return but equally important is your understanding of how a tax return ‘works’- to the extent necessary, we want you to be comfortable with your tax consequences so together we can successfully plan for your future.
Please see our Flight Crew FAQs for additional answers to your frequently asked questions and concerns. We also encourage you to contact Jason Watson, former DEN Pilot, via email at email@example.com.
We promise a response within a few hours, not days, not weeks.
Pilot Taxes DIYers
If you want to prepare your own taxes, we can still offer assistance for completing your crewmember expenses and per diem calculation for you on Form 2106. Our fee for this is $150. Please contact us for more information.