Moving for work isn't cheap or easy, but it may be tax deductible. Unlike many tax deductions, you can write off moving costs on your 1040 even if you don't itemize. Your write-off includes the cost of shipping your possessions to your new home and travel costs for yourself and your family. You can write off more than one move, if each move meets the IRS guidelines.
If your new job is in the office building next door to your old job, forget about a write-off: It has to be at least 50 miles further from your home to justify a tax-deductible move. For instance, if your previous job was 10 miles from your house, your new job has to be 60 miles away or more. If you move a second time, the second new job has to be 50 miles further from the new house than the first new job, or no deal on the deduction.
You can't usually deduct expenses unless you move within one year of starting a new job. Once you move, if you're an employee, you must work within the same area full-time at least 39 weeks over the next year. A second move after 20 weeks means you've flunked the test, unless you were transferred for your employer's convenience. If you're self-employed, you have to work in the area at least 78 weeks in the first two years after the move.
If you move temporarily, but don't change your home, the rules are different. If, say, work requires going out of town for five months, followed by a six-month trip, the IRS considers that business travel, not a move. As long as each trip is less than a year and you intend to return home, you can deduct expenses for lodging, travel costs and food -- though the meal deduction is limited to 50 percent of what you spend.
Reporting the Write-Off
You add up your moving expenses on Form 3903 -- excluding anything your employer reimburses you for -- and deduct the total on your 1040. If you can claim multiple moves, use a different 3903 for each move. You don't have to wait until you've passed the time test to claim the deduction. If you move in December, you can claim the costs on this year's tax form. If you move again in 30 weeks and flunk the time test, you take back the original deduction by reporting it as income next year.
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