Any potential tax write-offs for long-distance commuters?
December 31, 2011 2:06 PM   Subscribe

US-ian Tax questions: After a long hunt, this year I finally found a job (yay) several time-zones away from my husband and family (boo). The travel, additional housing, etc costs have consumed a lot of my income. Are any of those additional expenses potential write-offs for my taxes?

I tend to be pretty conservative about write-offs so I'd rather steer clear of any write-offs if they are questionable. I'm a W-2 employee, we're not home owners, employer doesn't cover any travel/commuting/relocation expenses. However, I've never been in this position before so I thought it would be worth asking. We have filed separately in the past but are open to filing jointly if that would save us time or money.

Obvious caveat applies, you are not my accountant. Thanks!
posted by arnicae to Work & Money (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I was advised to keep all my expenses related to the move when I shifted for a W-2 job, I believe you may be able to deduct them if your employer does not reimburse you.
posted by infini at 2:22 PM on December 31, 2011

Your relocation expenses are deductible but I don't think the back & forth expenses are (but I really have no idea). Here is the IRS publication on it.

If you aren't using a professional to do your taxes you can use something like Turbo Tax which I feel like asks really good questions for doing them yourself.

Keep all your receipts until you find out for sure.
posted by magnetsphere at 2:25 PM on December 31, 2011

I commuted San Francisco to NYC for 10 weeks. Out to NYC on Sunday Night and back to SF on Thursday after work. Company paid for my airfare, I paid everything else. None of he everything else was deductible.

One thing we looked into was to have the company pay for everything. They would be able to deduct it. Then they would give me a either a 1099 or add to my W-2, the amount they laid out they would not have otherwise. Then, the cost to me would have been just the taxes on the amount (30%?) not the entire amount. By the time we figured it out, it was really too late to implement, but I think it was legit.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 3:02 PM on December 31, 2011

Generally speaking, if you are a W-2 employee, no those things are not deductible expenses. I'd also suggest something like TurboTax if you're having trouble making sense of the tax laws.
posted by jessamyn at 3:20 PM on December 31, 2011

For a ton of details about what's deductible, I recommend Deduct It from Nolo Press.
posted by ceiba at 3:53 PM on December 31, 2011

As another resource, you should look at IRS Topic 514 - Employee Business Expenses. Important line from the topic: "Although commuting costs are not deductible, some local transportation expenses are." And generally speaking, oftentimes two people will pay a higher income tax by filing separately than they would by filing jointly. Look into your own situation and do the math both ways to see what works best. All disclaimers that this is not official advice, etc. etc.
posted by texano at 8:48 PM on December 31, 2011

I would look at starting a business in one of those locations and only returning to that location for business purposes.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 10:30 PM on December 31, 2011

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