Q. I work as a substitute teacher throughout the district. The longest job at one location is 8 weeks. The school district pays me one monthly check for my work, after taking out taxes etc. Can I deduct my mileage to and from my house to the various school locations?
A. Maybe. Ordinarily, you aren't allowed to deduct the mileage when you drive from home to your workplace. It's considered personal commuting and that's never deductible. But, there are two important exceptions, either or both of which could apply to you.
If you have a tax-deductible home office, you may deduct all your mileage from home to any work location. This would certainly include the schools where you teach.
Just because you do much of your work away from home doesn't mean you can't have a tax-deductible home office.
All you need is a place in your home that you regularly and exclusively use to do administrative or management tasks for your teaching. This could include grading papers, lesson plans, bookkeeping, and scheduling. This works if there is no other place where you regularly perform these activities.
Also, your home office must meet the "convenience of the employer" test. The school district that employees you must not provide you with an outside office to do any of these tasks and require you to perform them at home. If you have such a home office, you can not only deduct your mileage from home but claim the home office deduction as well.
Even if you don't have a tax-deductible office, at some of your mileage may be deductible. You can deduct your mileage from home when you travel to a "temporary work location." This is any place where you realistically expect to work less than one year or no more than 35 days per year over several years. A school where you substitute for less than 35 days per year for several years can be a temporary work location.
A temporary work location can be inside or outside of the metropolitan area where you live. Yet, if the location is inside your metropolitan area, this exception applies only where you have an outside office or other regular work location away from your home. You don't appear to have this. The temporary work location exception would apply only when you travel outside of your metropolitan area to do substitute teaching.
Your metropolitan area is generally defined to be a region including a city and the densely populated surrounding areas that are socially and economically integrated with it. As a rule, your metropolitan area extends no more than 35 to 40 miles from your home.
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