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Jean   Murray

Commuting vs. Travel - Make Sure You Know the Difference

By November 2, 2012

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A recent Tax Court case helps sort out the confusion between commuting and traveling. Since expenses for commuting are not deductible, and travel expenses are, it's important to know the difference.

The case involved a self-employed individual who traveled each day from home to temporary work sites up to 96 miles away, and back home each night. That's a long commute, but it's still commuting, not traveling. The Tax Court said that the the worker's home and the temporary work sites were all within the general metropolitan area of a large Midwestern city, so the trips were commuting.

Temporary travel, on the other hand, can be deducted as a business expense:

  • If you have an office or other work location and you travel to a temporary work location, regardless of distance. "Temporary" in this case is lasting one year or less.
  • The travel is to a temporary work location outside the metropolitan area where you live and normally work.
  • Your home is your principal place of business and the travel is to another work location. The IRS considers that your home is your principal place of business if you deduct expenses for business use of your home (not as an employee).

Read more about Commuting Expenses vs. Business Travel

Source: T.C. Memo 2012-200 (PDF)

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