Commuting or Mileage

Today TaxMama hears from Guy in the TaxQuips Forum with an interesting situation. “My wife took a part time job at the local community college campus about two miles from our house in 2010. Once every week or two she would travel to the campus at another town about 40 miles away. For this travel she would either drive a college owned vehicle (if available) or receive a reimbursement for the mileage. Then the August 2010 earthquake damaged the local building. It has been closed since then and may remain closed for up to another year. She now has to make the 80-mile trip three days a week instead of working just 2 miles from home and does not get the use of a vehicle or mileage reimbursement. Are her transportation expenses tax deductible?

 

Dear Guy,

We hear from Bill Kotchish, aka Tax Shack. He says, normally, the extra miles she now has to drive would be non-deductible commuting mileage (just like the 4 miles she used to drive).  But, I am an aggressive type and would take the following position:  the extra miles are for the convenience of the employer, especially since it’s temporary.  Thus, you could claim the excess mileage (80 – 4 = 76) as an Unreimbursed Employee Expense on Form 2106.  Amounts on this form carry to Schedule A and has the further limitation of 2% of Adjusted Gross Income; therefore, you may or may not see a tax benefit.

TaxMama® would probably agree with Bill, since the job location is temporary. However, I would also look at how long that ‘temporary’ will be. If the old location is not scheduled to be repaired and re-opened within a year, I would not claim the mileage. That time frame would indicate a long-term switch to a new location.

But, if the repairs were scheduled to be completed in less than a year – even if they did not complete them within that time, I would treat it as a temporary work location.

Either way, Guy, it IS an aggressive position. You might not win it in audit. But it IS a reasonable position. So you would not incur penalties – just interest. I’d go for it – for one or two years, at most.

 

And remember, you can find answers to all kinds of questions about job-related mileage and other tax issues, free. Where? Where else? At www.TaxMama.com.

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