Taxing Lessons From Court Decisions

Decisions — Do You Know Where You’re Going To?

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Image source: By Jbeyerl (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain
Image source: By Jbeyerl (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain

In tax law, the only thing transportation, travel and commuting expenses have in common is that you’re away from home when you incur them.

Transportation expenses (section 162(a)) are generally deductible, and include transportation fares of all kinds, such as taxi and bus fares and the cost of operating and maintaining an automobile to the extent you use the vehicle for business purposes.

Travel expenses (section 162(a)(2)) is a broader category that includes transportation expenses, meals and lodging, and miscellaneous expenses such as baggage claims and tips. Travel expenses are deductible if the expense was incurred away from home, was reasonable and necessary, and was incurred in pursuit of a trade or business. In general, your home is the area or vicinity of your nontemporary principal place of employment.

Commuting expenses (section 262) are expenses you incur when you travel to and from your home and workplace. Commuting expenses are generally personal and nondeductible, though there are exceptions.

For example, you can deduct transportation expenses incurred in going between your home and a temporary work location outside the metropolitan area where you normally live and work. You can also deduct commuting expenses between your home and a temporary work location, regardless of distance, if you have one or more regular work locations away from your home. A work location is temporary if it is realistically expected to last (and does in fact last) for one year or less. A work location is “regular” if you work or perform services there regularly. (For a helpful discussion of temporary vs. regular work locations, see Office of Chief Counsel Advice 200026025.)

In Bartley (T.C. Summary Opinion 2015-23), the taxpayer worked as a construction superintendent from May 2009 to March 2011. His employer’s main office was approximately 60 miles from the taxpayer’s residence. The taxpayer’s job required him to regularly work at two jobsites away from the main office and even further away from his home. All the jobsites were in the Los Angeles metropolitan area, as was the taxpayer’s home. His employer did not provide the taxpayer with a company vehicle or reimburse him for driving to work and the taxpayer drove directly to the jobsites from his home.

On his 2010 federal income tax return, the taxpayer claimed a deduction for commuting expenses of $24,448.

Based on the definitions above, do you think the court decided
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Taxing Lesson: If you don’t know where you’re going to, you might not get what you’re hoping for.

Note: Taxing Lessons provides a summarized version of sometimes lengthy court decisions. The full case may include facts and issues not presented here. Please use the link provided to read the entire case.

This information should not be considered legal, investment or tax advice. Taxing Lessons and Top Drawer Ink Corp. do not provide legal, investment or tax advice. Always consult your legal, investment and/or tax advisor regarding your personal situation.


Sorry, wrong answer :(
Right answer!
For the IRS.

The taxpayer worked well over a year at two jobsites. There are no facts to suggest that the work at these two sites would end within a short time. Furthermore, we do not accept the taxpayer’s argument that these two sites should be broken into component parts for purposes of satisfying the rules. Therefore, they are not temporary work locations, and the exceptions to the general rule that commuting expenses are not deductible do not apply to these sites.