Road to Deductions Can Be Bumpy for Commuters

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Julian Block
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Usually, the IRS adamantly opposes deductions for commuting costs between home and work. The agency considers those outlays to be nondeductible personal expenses, no matter how necessary. It makes absolutely no difference if a person’s work location is in a remote area not serviced by public transportation or that disability or illness rules out using public transportation.

This hard-nosed approach was underscored in a ruling that denied deductions for cab fares required to transport a physically disabled person to and from work. Similarly, no write-offs become available merely because a person needs a car to get to work more quickly or in emergencies.

These commuting restrictions also eliminate a deduction for payments to a carpool, whether each member takes a turn driving his or her own car or only one does all the driving. On the other hand, you needn’t report payments from riders unless they exceed your expenses.

Is it possible to get around these restrictions if you make calls to clients or business associates, or hold business discussions while driving to work? The IRS says that doesn’t transform the trips from commuting to business.

The agency does make some exceptions to its blanket ban on deductions for commuting expenses. One of those exceptions authorizes a limited measure of relief for someone who needs to haul bulky tools or equipment that can’t go in a car. You’re allowed to deduct the additional costs for hauling equipment, such as the charge for renting a trailer that’s towed by your car. The car costs, though, remain nondeductible commuting expenses.

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