In this week's Ask the Tax Expert, a reader asks about the IRS definition of a "temporary work location." This can be important to know if you plan to take a mileage deduction and drive from your home to a temporary work location.
Q. I'm a W-2 employee for an agency that contracts me out on assignments. My agency is in New Jersey and I live in Massachusetts. My current assignment is scheduled to last only two years. It's also about 15 miles from my home. Can I claim a deduction for my travel to and from this temporary office?
- Michael, Springfield, Mass.
A. No, you can't. Travel from home to a regular work location is ordinarily not deductible. The IRS considers this to be commuting. Commuting is a personal expense and is never deductible.
The exception to the IRS commuting rule is when you travel from home to a temporary work location. Yet, the IRS defines a temporary work location as a place where you realistically expect to work less than one year. Your situation is not a temporary work location because your assignment is expected to last two years.
Your situation probably still wouldn't qualify for a temporary work location even if your assignment was expected to last less than one year. This is because a temporary work location can be inside or outside of the metropolitan area where you live. But, if the location is inside your metropolitan area, you must have an outside office or other regular work location away from your home. With no outside office, you could only deduct your mileage when you travel from home to work assignments outside your metropolitan area.
Your metropolitan area is 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. Since you're only traveling 15 miles from home, you likely within your metropolitan area.