I'm fresh out of college and am currently in my first full-time job. I would like to get a few books to improve myself in my job (I'm a developer). Are there any tax-related benefits to this, or would I be better off borrowing them from my local library?

  • 2
    If the two options you're comparing are a) purchase the books and hopefully realize a tax benefit, and b) borrow the books from the library for free, the latter is going to be cheaper. Potential tax savings (if there are any, and I don't think there are because the books aren't related to a course) won't be enough to offset the cost of the books. If you can get them for free from the library, you'll save the most money that way. Jul 31, 2013 at 13:25
  • @JohnBensin I didn't include the tag taxes because of its wiki, since I already have the tag income-tax.
    – BLaZuRE
    Jul 31, 2013 at 13:27
  • Good point. Regardless of the tag, I still think borrowing the books from the library will save you more money than attempting a tax deduction, since the latter will save you at most your marginal tax rate, which isn't 100% (and therefore not enough to cover the cost of the books) Jul 31, 2013 at 13:32
  • Point taken. It was worth a try, considering my parents were given a form from the college to write off with my tuition, scholarships, and I could include cost of textbooks in there.
    – BLaZuRE
    Jul 31, 2013 at 14:13
  • 2
    Side note: As a fellow programmer I want to warn you against books on specific technologies since they tend to just sit on a shelf gathering dust. Blog posts are a much better bet for those topics. Books on programming practices in general (e.g. Code Complete, almost everything in this list) are a great choice though since they help make you better no matter what framework or technology you're working with. Jul 31, 2013 at 18:06

2 Answers 2


As some of the comments indicated, you could ask your employer to give you a book buying budget, but if not....

As a developer there are books that should sit on your shelf, one those being Design Patterns. A quick search of Amazon or Half.com show these books retail new for about $40, or you can buy used for $20 or less. Buy used and realize your savings that way.

Another way to realize tax savings is to setup a company and do some side work. Any money you earn could be used to offset the cost of books or other resources and part or all of some of your expenses can be written off.

The ability to write off work related expenses has basically disappeared, unless you have a lot of them and you itemize your taxes.


Some companies pay for access to the electronic versions of the O'Reilly Books or Safari Books online or something similar as part of their package of benefits. When you leave the company you will lose access to the books, but that will also be true if the company buys the hard copy version of the book for you.

You might have to dig around the corporate website for the information. They sometime lump it in with the page describing some other corporate discounts. Or ask HR.

From your viewpoint it is the same cost as the library, but they don't expire in a few weeks.

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