IRS Publication 463, Temporary Assignment or Job

You may regularly work at your tax home and also work at another location. It may not be practical to return to your tax home from this other location at the end of each work day.

Temporary assignment vs. indefinite assignment. If your assignment or job away from your main place of work is temporary, your tax home does not change. You are considered to be away from home for the whole period you are away from your main place of work. You can deduct your travel expenses if they otherwise qualify for deduction. Generally, a temporary assignment in a single location is one that is realistically expected to last (and does in fact last) for one year or less.

However, if your assignment or job is indefinite, the location of the assignment or job becomes your new tax home and you cannot deduct your travel expenses while there.

An assignment or job in a single location is considered indefinite if it is realistically expected to last for more than one year, whether or not it actually lasts for more than one year.

If your assignment is indefinite, you must include in your income any amounts you receive from your employer for living expenses, even if they are called travel allowances and you account to your employer for them. You may be able to deduct the cost of relocating to your new tax home as a moving expense. See Publication 521 for more information.

Exception for federal crime investigations or prosecutions. If you are a federal employee participating in a federal crime investigation or prosecution, you are not subject to the one-year rule. This means you may be able to deduct travel expenses even if you are away from your tax home for more than one year.

For you to qualify, the Attorney General must certify that you are traveling:

  1. For the federal government,

  2. In a temporary duty status, and

  3. To investigate or prosecute, or provide support services for the investigation or prosecution of, a federal crime.

You can deduct your otherwise allowable travel expenses throughout the period of certification.

Determining temporary or indefinite. You must determine whether your assignment is temporary or indefinite when you start work. If you expect an assignment or job to last for one year or less, it is temporary unless there are facts and circumstances that indicate otherwise. An assignment or job that is initially temporary may become indefinite due to changed circumstances. A series of assignments to the same location, all for short periods but that together cover a long period, may be considered an indefinite assignment.

The following examples illustrate whether an assignment or job is temporary or indefinite.

Example 1. You are a construction worker. You live and regularly work in Los Angeles. You are a member of a trade union in Los Angeles that helps you get work in the Los Angeles area. Because of a shortage of work, you took a job on a construction project in Fresno. Your job was scheduled to end in 8 months. The job actually lasted 10 months.

You realistically expected the job in Fresno to last 8 months. The job actually did last less than 1 year. The job is temporary and your tax home is still in Los Angeles.

Example 2. The facts are the same as in Example 1, except that you realistically expected the work in Fresno to last 18 months. The job actually was completed in 10 months.

Your job in Fresno is indefinite because you realistically expected the work to last longer than 1 year, even though it actually lasted less than 1 year. You cannot deduct any travel expenses you had in Fresno because Fresno became your tax home.

Example 3. The facts are the same as in Example 1, except that you realistically expected the work in Fresno to last 9 months. After 8 months, however, you were asked to remain for 7 more months (for a total actual stay of 15 months).

Initially, you realistically expected the job in Fresno to last for only 9 months. However, due to changed circumstances occurring after 8 months, it was no longer realistic for you to expect that the job in Fresno would last for one year or less. You can only deduct your travel expenses for the first 8 months. You cannot deduct any travel expenses you had after that time because Fresno became your tax home when the job became indefinite.

Going home on days off. If you go back to your tax home from a temporary assignment on your days off, you are not considered away from home while you are in your hometown. You cannot deduct the cost of your meals and lodging there. However, you can deduct your travel expenses, including meals and lodging, while traveling between your temporary place of work and your tax home. You can claim these expenses up to the amount it would have cost you to stay at your temporary place of work.

If you keep your hotel room during your visit home, you can deduct the cost of your hotel room. In addition, you can deduct your expenses of returning home up to the amount you would have spent for meals had you stayed at your temporary place of work.

Probationary work period. If you take a job that requires you to move, with the understanding that you will keep the job if your work is satisfactory during a probationary period, the job is indefinite. You cannot deduct any of your expenses for meals and lodging during the probationary period.

 

Information courtesy of the Internal Revenue Service.