Travel Nursing Advice Column - Questions and Answers about Pay, Stipends, Reimbursements and Taxes

See questions and answers about travel nursing pay, stipends, reimbursements and taxes from travelers here, or ask your own.

Question

I've heard from other travelers that they got these enormous housing allowances. Are they exaggerating? Is there room to negotiate the housing stipend?

Response

In general, housing stipends are a pretty set piece of a pay package. One thing to keep in mind with housing allowances is that they are greatly affected by the cost of living in the city of the contract. For example, if the other travelers you spoke with were placed in New York, San Francisco, or another high cost of living city, this could be why the stipends they described were so generous.


Question

I am returning to travel nursing after a five-year hiatus and have 20 years nursing experience with 13 years in ICU. The last time I traveled I took what they gave me but I want to know how to negotiate with a travel company - can I ask for more per hour or is that set by the hospital?

Response

First, welcome back to travel nursing! You have a great deal of experience and that makes you very marketable in the industry. You can always attempt to negotiate with your recruiter, but should keep in mind that each point of possible negotiation – hourly pay, housing allowance, etc. – is just one piece of an overall pay package. All of these factors bundled together may or may not leave room for your agency to negotiate. Further, changing one factor, such as hourly rate, may conversely affect another. Here is a link to an excellent breakdown of travel nursing pay negotiation that may help you: http://travelnursingblogs.com/travel-nursing/travel-nurse-should-i-be-able-to-negotiate-my-wages-with-my-recruiter/ Good luck!


Question

I recently signed a contract to work for a hospital and for many reasons decided not to move forward with the contract two days before my start date. My travel company called and told me the hospital was going to fine me $2,500. Is this really something they can do?

Response

Your contract is with your company not the hospital, so no the hospital can’t fine you. However, the hospital may have a clause in their contract with the travel nursing company that fines them if there is a backout and they may be trying to pass this on to you. You need to check your contract and see if there is any mention of this in there. If so, the amount of the fine would typically be taken from the next check(s) you receive if you continue to work with the company. Otherwise it will be difficult for them to collect this from you. But be prepared that they may decide to take action against you to get it, so you may want prepare yourself for that possibility.

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Question

The position I'm thinking about applying to is only 20 miles from my home, do the agencies allow extra hourly pay if they're not paying for housing, utilities etc.?

Response

As for travel nursing close to home, there are select opportunities depending upon agency and hospital policies. Many hospitals and agencies do have radius rules in place to prevent permanent staff from converting to travel contracts. These radius rules can vary between 50-100 miles. Check with your agency for their specific rules and they should also be able to help you determine particular hospital radius rules. In the case that your agency is not paying for housing and related costs, they may or may not offer extra hourly pay; but one way or the other this will be a factor when negotiating your compensation package. You will find some companies are more open to negotiating pay while others only offer set pay packages, so that is something you will want to find out up front when you are talking to them. Good luck!

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Question

What is the pay scale for travel nursing to Alaska? Is there hazard pay? Isolation pay? How flexible are the schedules?

Response

Pay for travel nurses is always different based on a lot of factors, like your company, specialty and location just to name a few, but this link should give you a range to look at. Travel Nursing Pay in Alaska (http://www.simplyhired.com/a/salary/search/q-travel+nursing/l-alaska) Most companies offer health insurance for their travelers, but I have never heard of hazard or isolation pay for a travel nurse. The schedules are somewhat flexible, but it is important to keep in mind that as a traveler you are there to help fill gaps and that at times can mean working the least desirable shifts.

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Question

Is it legal to charge a nurse for sick time and housing when out sick while working an assignment?

Response

This is multi-faceted. Basically, your agency makes money when you work and you make money when you work. But of course if you are not working then no money is made. Now some things, like housing and travel costs, are provided based on the assumption that you will be working a certain number of hours per week. So, some of those costs may not get recouped by agencies.

However, it would be legal, if all of those expectations and numbers are spelled out in your contract for that assignment. Which means that depending on the circumstance it may not be ethical, but may still be legal. This is why it is so important that you make sure to read every contract carefully and ask questions about anything sets off a red flag as you read it or anything you don’t understand.

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Question

With all these travel advertisements of nurses making $45 per hour, why am I only making 28 with 4.5 years experience?

Response

Well, the thing to keep in mind is that those are advertisements and they are most likely advertising the highest salary they have, not the average. The other thing to keep in mind when it comes to travel nursing pay is that it is based on a lot of different factors, including specialty, location, experience, how difficult of a time the hospital has had filling the spot, how the company structures its pay packages just to name a few. So pay varies all over the country and from company to company. What is important is to make sure you are being paid fairly by your travel nursing company. You should contact a few other agencies and see what kind of pay they are offering in your area and specialty. In fact working with multiple agencies is something you should be doing anyway as it will help you make sure you are being treated properly on all aspects of your travel nursing assignment. Hope that helps.

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Question

I am looking at taking a travel nursing job and my recruiter says the pay is 34/hr but housing will be about 1200/month where I will be assigned and the 1200 will come out of my check before it get it. I currently make about 22/hr but I live at home free of charge. If I am to take this travel job I will not come out much better having to pay 1200 a month in rent, the extra 12 dollars an hour will basically go for my housing. My question is do most travel agencies really provide housing that does not come out of what you make and still pay good rates such as 34/hr or do they make this pay rate and provide housing that comes out of your check. This is very confusing to me. Thanks for your help.

Response

Compensation is one of the most important aspects to many travelers. Companies offer a wide variety of pay packages, with differences in hourly pay, stipends for things like housing and travel, benefits such as medical insurance and other items. It is important to be aware that all of this comes from one pie, so to speak. Agencies charge a rate to the hospital, and then pay the traveler from what they charge. So you will have to weigh the entire program to see if what you are getting is a good deal for you. As you found out in this location, housing is at $1200. That will vary, of course, depending on location, as will other aspects of your pay. You are right to look it all over and see what will be beneficial to you. If this one has you making about the same as staying at home, then your decision is based on what other elements of travel nursing are attractive to you (like the location, the hospital, new experiences, etc.), or look for another assignment that will pay you better.

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Question

How far my a travel nursing contract be from my home to qualify it as a travel assignment where I can collect per diem for housing and such?

Response

No, there is no mileage rule. The IRS guidelines state that you must stay overnight in the location to qualify for per diems and other non-taxed stipends. If you are commuting, however, then you do not qualify for tax free monies, no matter what the distance.

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Question

I live on the state border of Florida and Georgia. I am going to LLC my self and work as an independent contractor. If I LLC myself in Florida can I work as an independent contractor in georgia

Response

Independent contractors are facing some exacting scrutiny in recent times, and this will continue. So just a caveat that many agencies and many hospitals will not work with independent contractors. But directly to the question, any business must register to do business in the state that the business is to be conducted. Rules, fees, taxation and other elements are different in each state, and keeping up with them is sometimes a full-time job. So as you travel to different locations, you will need to register to do business in each state. Be sure to speak with a CPA and legal council before working in this fashion.

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Question

How much does a traveling nurse get paid in a year ?

Response

Pay for a travel nurse is dependent on a number of factors. Specialty, cost of living in that location, agency you work for, etc. For an average annual salary (assuming you take consecutive assignments back to back) it is around $61,000. Again that is average and not based specifically on your specialty. For a more accurate average, visit simply hired and search for “your specialty” travel nurse. Eg: ER travel nurse. Simply hired is a pretty rough estimate, so talking with an agency is your best bet for a pay quote. Also, agencies will quote your salary per hour, not annual. Hope that helps and good luck. Back to top

Question

I was taking to a nurse who told me that a friend of hers lived in upstate NY, but traveled to NYC 4 to 5 days a week to work at a hospital down there, as the pay was a lot better, and was able to come home on days off. It sounds wonderful, is it common for travel nurses?

I have read that it is common to be put on an 8 week or 13 week assignment, but I assumed you had to always be close to the hospital in which you were working.

Response

You are correct, travel nursing assignments are typically anywhere from 8-26 weeks long, but the norm is 13. However, it is possible to work as a traveler and still be close enough to go home on your days off. Being a travel nurse at its essence just means you are an independent contractor. The travel part comes into it when you take an assignment that is far from your permanent home, but there is no rule saying you have to travel to get a travel nurse contract.

When it comes to higher pay though there are some benefits you may or may not be allowed depending on how close to your home you live. You will want to check with your recruiter on this.

In the end though the answer is, if you can find higher pay and better benefits working in a different part of the state and you are comfortable just going home a few days a week then you should look into it.

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Question

I want to know how much do Traveling Nurses get paid in Alaska?

Response

Travel nursing pay is dependent on a lot of factors, like specialty, experience, location, hospital size, just to name a few so it is hard to say for sure. I suggest you call some travel nursing companies and find out what they are paying for your specialty in the area you want to go and go from there. Back to top


Question

A friend and I are talking about traveling together. We have different specialties. One in the ER and one in the ICU. Will this be possible? I know many companies place in the same cities, should we try to be placed with one company or go ahead and accept placement with different companies? Do many people do this?

Response

Traveling with a friend is actually fairly common, but that does not mean it is not difficult. How hard it is has varying degrees, for instance, it is less difficult if you don’t want to be at the same hospital too. So first thing you should do is list out exactly what parameters you are willing to be negotiable on and which ones are hard and fast. For example, does the same hospital matter? Do you have to work the same shift? Do you both need the same days off? Etc. Once you know exactly what you want, the key is to communicate this wish up front to your recruiter and give them plenty of time to work on it. Ask them to be realistic about how likely they think it is for them to accomplish and tell them your plan. Obviously a recruiter will have a big incentive to place two of you so they should be willing to work hard on making it happen. Start with smaller companies who are more flexible. If they seem hesitant or cannot get it done, try one of the larger companies who have more jobs. If it is still difficult then I would look at doing it with multiple companies.

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Questions

After leaving a full-time, OR position that I had been employed at for 6 years, I decided to take up travel nursing and my first assignment was in Colorado, and began in June of 2012. The hospital has offered me a permanent position or the opportunity to sign another 13 week contract, which would be my 3rd contract with them. I consider it to be a great offer, but with the traveling tax benefits it's hard to make that commitment. I love the job, the people, and the area. We are about the get into the busiest season since I work in a ski resort town, so I feel like the offer may not be as great in a few months if I sign on another 13-week contract and wait until the spring to potentially sign on permanent since they are not as busy. Additionally, they may not want to sign another contract since the volume of cases is not there. While I've heard conflicting advise, I was wondering how long I am able to stay in one location (Colorado) as a traveler and still get the tax free income. Also, I currently maintain a permanent address in Connecticut, a non-compact state. If I were to sign on permanent, which I would have to find my own housing and sign a year lease, could I take up travel nursing in a couple of years and claim Connecticut as my permanent address since I would have given up my lease and no longer have a permanent address in Colorado? I appreciate any advise you can offer me.

Response

Wow, that is a lot of questions. First off you need to decide how important the money is for you and how much you want to stay in Colorado. Only you know what will make you happy, but definitely don’t take the decision lightly. As for the specific questions you asked, here you go. You are correct that as the hospitals headcount goes down the permanent offer may not be there. You could ask around and talk to the permanent nurses and see what other years have been like there to help guide you. Next, you can only stay in one location for a year as a traveler after that the government no longer views you as a temporary resident and the tax advantages available to travelers will not be available to you any longer. Finally, you would no longer be able to claim Connecticut as your permanent address until you move back there and reestablish residence. Hope this helps.

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Question

On my first assignment with LRS healthcare. And first ever travel assignment. I have been less than happy with this company but am wondering is the "nature of the beast"? Last week I was put on call by the hospital. The company paid only a fraction of the per diem and expenses even though I was required to remain Close to the facility. When I was cancelled a night in June, I was paid the full per diem and expenses. This is my last week on this assignment.

I have been on assignment 26 weeks and whenever I have had an issue, I have been told "I will look into it" and nothing ever is done. I am talking to other agencies for next assignment but I'm wondering if I have any recourse for the pay discrepancy?

Response

Sorry to hear you are having a bad experience. There are better companies out there and you should look at some review sites to see what other travelers have to say about the travel nursing companies they have worked with. Here are some sites you can find reviews on:

Travel Nursing Central

Travel Nursing Blogs

Healthcare Travelbook

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Question

Is travel pay based on cost of living? I accepted an assignment that pays about the same amount that I get paid now, and I dont have to float every shift or rotate day and night.

Response

Generally yes, pay will be higher in more expensive states such as Alaska, Hawaii, California and New York. While in Midwestern or southern states, the pay might be less.

With that said, while on paper you will be making the same rate per hour traveling as you would perm, you really aren’t. Traveling offers a lot of benefits such as paid housing, free health insurance, paid utilities and travel reimbursement. So your net pay should be significantly more considering you do not have to pay for bills you normally would. Also, some companies offer sign-on bonuses, completion bonuses, and even loyalty bonuses. This is why the pay of a travel nurse can be extremely lucrative.

I suggest using the Cost of Living Calculator for Travel Nurses to compare your current location to your assignment location. Remember to keep in mind the costs will you be saving from the company’s reimbursement.

Also, the Best Places to Live offers information on lowest costs of living and the best palces to live in general.

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Question

What should the travel stipend be for the Whittier, California area?

Response

If you are talking about Per Diem allowances you should always refer to the GSA Per Diem Rates website. It will have the most up to date information on allowances for meals and incidentals and housing. Here are the results for Whittier, CA. http://www.gsa.gov/portal/category/100120 If you are talking about a travel stipend provided by your company those are based on mileage and are something you will need to negotiate into your contract and will vary from company to company.

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Question

I am coming upon close to my one year cutoff as a travel nurse on a current assignment after renewing three times so far and need some advice on whether or not I should stay here and work PRN in the current state or go back to my tax home state and work. I really did not want to go back to my tax home if I didn't have to but know that I will have to leave for a specific amount of time to obtain the tax benefits. Is it still possible for me to stay here without returning to my tax state? What are my other options and/or what have other travel nurses done in the past regarding this issue?

Response

A travel nurse can stay in any location as long as they want to and work assignments, PRN or otherwise. The issue though comes in that after being in one location for a year, in most cases the IRS no longer considers you a “traveler” and you cannot receive and tax free stipends or per diems. The guidelines are a little vague but if you would like to continue to receive tax free monies in this location, it will take some kind of extended period at your permanent tax home before returning to this location.

For any tax advice you should contact a tax accountant or tax attorney. Click here to send your tax question to a travel tax expert.

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Question

I started a travel nurse position on Aug. 30th. On Sept. 19th I clocked out and fell in the hospital parking garage and broke both ankles, one is a spiral fracture, somewhat displaced but no surgery yet. My company took over two weeks to file work comp and the whole time my recruiter told me to just show up on the job, even 3 days after it happened, without any regard to my situation.( I couldn't drive, was on pain meds, couldn't even walk!). The hospital never called me, my co-worker was walking in the garage with me and didn't even help me(I walked to my car and drove home.) Now I was finally contacted by work comp and of course my contract had per- diem pay and housing stipend so my only wage to go by is the actual 10.00 an hour rate. My doctor hasn't released me to work and he said even if he did I would be light duty for a long time. The HR dept. with the hospital finally called me and told me my recruiter wasn't communicating with them well and he wasn't helping me like he should. He offered to refer me to a lawyer!

Now I am one 1/2 hours away from my assignment, recuperating at my son's home. The hospital HR said nurses can't return on light duty, I was working as a nurse for a oncology doctor, in a clinic, not like a floor nurse but still can be procedures and quite a bit of walking. I lost my apartment due to no income, had to put my 10 year old in another school and no work comp checks are in the horizon yet. I can't even get my pain meds and nausea meds now. This has been quite a nightmare. I wish I could just end the contract, especially since I have no idea when I will be able to work again.(I am 52) The company recruiter told me since they are a new company they didn't know they had to file work comp, and they have never handled a case like this. Today I got an email telling me I need to take an online Oncology test ASAP, as they forgot to have me take it. Do I have any rights? There is nothing in the contract saying I can cancel it. I do not trust these people, and I certainly do not believe they have my best interest at heart.

Response

A. Sorry to hear about your terrible situation. Your travel nursing company is not handling this situation well at all. If you contacted them when the injury happened, you should not be having any issues getting meds, treatment and lost wages taken care of by the agency’s WC insurance. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

1. If this has been filed by now, and you have been contacted by WC, you should be able to get all the information needed to be taken care of (claim number, insurance carrier information, etc.). If not, call the WC back and get this or demand it immediately from the agency. Even though it is late, all of the items should get taken care of.

2. You should contact a lawyer in this case to make sure that the agency is doing things the way they need and to make sure that WC is moving along since you haves had to wait. It is surprising that the contract has not been canceled because of the length of time off, but on your part, do not cancel this while you are still working through the WC. Since you are restricted to light duty and the client has no light duty, you are not in any breach by not showing up.

3. When it comes to the testing, this again shows another way your current company does not have their act together. If for some reason you do not pass the test, and your agency tries to make something out of it because of the injury, see point 2 and call some legal representation.

Hope this helps. Click here if you need help choosing a new travel nursing company

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Question

I am interested in becoming a travel nurse. However, do I have to travel outside the state ( I live in Tampa) or can I choose to be a travel nurse within the Tampa Bay geographical area including Pinellas county etc.?

Response

You can take a contract job anywhere, but it if you are close enough to your home that you can go home every night then you are not really working a travel assignment. Which means you will also not be eligible for any of the tax advantages you would be eligible to receive if you were farther from your permanent home. These include things like tax-free housing while on assignment as well as for travel reimbursements and meal allowances. In addition some hospitals have mileage restrictions of what is considered a travel nurse. So if living close to home is your goal, just be aware you are not getting the full financial advantage of being a travel nurse.

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Question:

Is it normal for your company to take out the amount of your housing from your check? The web site says housing supplied. But does that just mean that they find it and take the money out of your check? From what my recruiter has said it is up to the hospital or clinic what kind of housing I get and weather I am charged or not. Is this normal?

Also I have a learning disability, I don't really need any accommodations but will sometimes transpose letters when hand writing, and sometimes even in the computer, as you can probably see in my spelling. Is this something that could be a problem with getting a travel job? And should I make sure and explain to my interviewer. It has never been a problem with another job I have had. I have 5 years clinic and 2.5yrs as a peds homecare/school nurse as a LPN. Thank you.

Response

First on the housing, that is kind of a complicated question. Most likely the money that is paying for your housing is not coming out of your check directly. But instead it is coming out of what the company bills the hospital for your services. This is normal for most companies. The money that a company makes from a travel nurse is allotted differently at every company, but ultimately that is where all benefits, pay, insurance etc. have to come from.

Some companies do offer a housing stipend where you get paid the money directly and it is up to you to find and set up your own housing. But if you are just staring out as a traveler this is probably not the best option.

As far as the hospital or clinic deciding what kind of housing you get and whether you are charged or not does not sound right. You may want to talk to different companies.

When it comes to working with a learning disability that is something you should discuss with your recruiter. There are quite a few tests you will have to take like the PBDS for instance that require writing as well as any electronic charting you may be required to do. So start with talking with your recruiter and see what they suggest. Just make sure your recruiter is looking at the whole of your qualifications so the quality of what kind of nurse you are shines through, regardless of any learning disability.

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Question:

I am new as a travel nurse. I am offered a job in Barstow CA, and I am getting paid $16.79/hr as my regular rate and overtime rate $25.19/hr. I was a nurse since 2004, telemetry nurse, 1 year meds/surg nurse & 4 year ED nurse. I work before in San Francisco, in meds/surg department. I am getting paid $42/hr (this was back on 2005). I think I am getting paid low. I don't if I'm wrong. I will be working as an ED nurse 12/hrs, night shift.

Response

That does sound low for California, but obviously every situation is different and pay for travel nurses can vary typically anywhere from $20 to $40 per hour. It is hard to say exactly though without knowing more details of your pay package. Are you having to have money taken out for insurance? Are you contributing to your 401k? Are you taking company housing? Is your company one that takes advantage of per diem allowances allowed by the government?

There may also be a middle man your company is having to go through to get the position (typically called a VMS) that may be lowering that position's potential pay as well. If you feel this is low it is definitely something you should talk with your recruiter about and make sure you fully understand how your pay works. You should never start any travel nursing assignment you are uncomfortable with.

You may also want to call around to some other agencies and see what they are offering for jobs in that area just so you have a gauge. Be careful of letting another company submit you for the same job though. That is usually frowned upon and could cost you the job altogether.

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Question:

Do travel nurses get paid alot, and what universities do you recommend to get a travel nurse education?

Response

It depends on your definition of getting paid a lot. How much a travel nurse is paid can depend on their specialty, experience and location, but ultimately, yes, travel nurses typically get paid more than perm nurses do. Especially when you factor in the benefits, bonuses, stipends and per diem allowances many travel nurses are able to take advantage of. Here are two articles that cover travel nurse pay very well: As far as what school to go for travel nursing, the key is to go somewhere that will make you a great nurse in general, because that is what will make you a great travel nurse. Start with this list:

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Question

Can you truly make good money?

Response

Pay rates for travel nurses vary by many factors including location, facility, experience and specialty. However, many feel the benefits such as flexible schedule, paid housing and being able to travel are the most important reasons to become a travel nurse. See this travel nursing blog for average salaries for travel nurses: Travel Nurse pay – how much more can you make?

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Question

Dear TNC, I want to let you know that you have had a HUGE influence on me for getting the courage to finally try Travel Nursing. It is something I've been dreaming of doing for years! I bought your book, "Hitting The Road" about 3 years ago. Family circumstances didn't allow for me to travel then, but I have finally taken the steps to get started. I interviewed with a clinical coordinator today and am just waiting to hear back about compensation etc.

I do have a question for you though! One of the travel companies I'm working with, has told me that it is the hospital that pays the travelers the same rate, and not the travel company. As a result, there could no negotiation about the compensation.
This particular facility is only going to pay me $6.00 more per hour than I've been making in my home town. And this facility is clear across the country. I told them that I wasn't going to pack up my family and move across the US for that.
The facilty itself sounds great, as for what I'm looking for in my specialty. But I've been an RN for 20 years, with 10-1/2 of those in ER specialty. My gut feeling says to hold out for something better. Although it is for 13 weeks only.
Any advice you could give would be appreciated!

Again, Thank You for all your tips and information about Traveling!

Sincerely,Debra

Response

Thank you for writing. I am so glad you were encouraged to travel by reading my book. It's music to my ears.

Unfortunately, your amount of experience in your specialty may make you more marketable as a traveler, but it doesn't determine your pay. The agencies pay according to specialty area. The ER is one of the higher paying specialties.

You may find that if you travel with a different company, you may be able to find a better rate of pay. Pay varies depending on what area of the country you work in and somewhat on the company you work for.

Did you end up taking an assignment with this company?


Question

I own a house in Colorado and am taking my family to Texas to travel. I am thinking about renting my home while we are away. I am wondering how that affects my "Tax Home" status? Would it be better if I claime my parents home as my "tax home"? What are my options? Could you help me?

Jason

Response

Not being an accountant, I referred this one to our travel tax specialist. This was his Response

Absent the exceptions that follow, renting your home changes the dwelling from a primary residence to an investment property. Since someone else is allowed to occupy the home, it is their primary residence, not yours.

There are exceptions

1) Partial rental: A partial rental maintains a portion of the home for your unhindered 24/7 use and availability. For example, if you have a three bedroom home and rent two of the bedrooms, maintaining one for yourself, it is still your home and primary place of lodging. For travelers with families or spouses, this may be difficult for privacy reasons.

2) Vacation rental: did you know you can rent your primary home for 14 days tax free? Our tax code has allowed these "vacation rentals" for years. The balance of the days, your home needs to be clear of tenants, but a few short term rentals along the way will not change your tax home status.

3) A house sitter. You can always have a trusted friend or relative use the home at a rental rate below market value.

In each of these 3 exceptions, the dwelling must be accessible and available to you at all times.

In regards to changing your tax home, you cannot just claim a residence. You either have a dwelling that you incur significant expenses maintaining and use for your lodging or you do not. One of the three requirements of a tax home are the use of the claimed home as your primary and historical place of lodging. A rental from a family member is possible, but the following must be taken into account:

1) There must be a duplication of living expenses while away from home. This means that if you are renting from a family member, the rent must be fair market rent for the area that you are renting even during your absence. The classifieds or local apartments are good places to check for the market rate. In your records, you should keep a record of this in case of an audit.

2) Rent paid is rent received, so the person receiving the rent should consider this when doing their own tax returns. It is also an audit consideration as the IRS can pull the returns of anyone who is paid rent to assure compliance. A written rental agreement is important proof of this arrangement.

3) Zoning ordinances should be considered. The IRS is well within their right to inspect the property and zoning if an audit brought any of this into question.

4) If you have a parent or relative that needs assistance with maintaining their home, sharing expenses may be one approach. Consider ALL expenses, not just utilities. For singles and couples without children, this is also an alternative to a rental arrangement.

For information, referr to IRS Publication 463 for reference.

Joseph Smith EA/RRT
Enrolled Agent/ Respiratory Therapist
Admitted to practice before the IRS
TravelTax LLC
www.traveltax.com
Box 1643, Norfolk NE 68702
866.272.7871 Toll Free
Fax 877.TRAVTAX Toll Free

Any tax advice contained is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, by the recipient for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed under the Internal Revenue Code or applicable state or local tax law provisions.

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Question

I have an issue with my current agency. A friend and I traveled to this 13 week assignment and the hospital was pressuring my friend to determine if she was renewing her contract. We gave our agency a verbal agreement on the stipulation that our next contract have some revisions made to it. Well the revisions are not to our satisfaction and we gave our agency 3 weeks notice that we would not be renewing and now the agency claims that if we do not fulfill the contract that we will be charged for the 13 weeks of housing that has supposedly already been arranged for??? Can they do this without correcting and revising our contract???

Response

I know that paying for housing is a common consequence for not completing your contract. However, it sounds like you don't really have a new contract and you have completed or almost completed your old contract.

It's good on your part to give them plenty of notice. I am not a lawyer, but it doesn't sound right to me. I would make sure that you document everything in case you decide to fight this at a later date. Save any emails that you send or recieve.

Make sure you send the notice that you won't be renewing in writing even if you have already told them verbally. Include the date in your letter, the reason you will not be renewing and the fact that you haven't signed any contract to renew and note the date that the renewal would have started had you agreed etc. Make sure the letter is detailed with all the agreements etc. Be objective and matter a fact in your letter (just stating the facts).You may be able to email it and then save their Response to the letter to show that they recieved it. Or you may want to make a copy and send it via certified mail (or both).

Either way, you get documentation that they recieved your notice along with an explanation and they recieved it in advance. You may want to summarize the letter with a therefore........I don't believe I am obligated for any expenses incurred for a contract I have yet to sign and that the terms were not completely met by them.

If they try to call you about the matter, you may want to tell them that you are finished discussing this matter on the phone and that all communication regarding the renewal and your paying for this apartment needs to be done in writing. They can email you about the details or any further complaints they have so you have it all documented. Let them know that if you are going to be pressured about paying for this housing that you want it all in writing. Let them know you mean business.

They may stop pressuring you or if they continue to press, you at least have documentation of all the events so you get the fair legal consequeces rather than what one person says against the other.

Let this be a lesson for everyone in the future that to avoid misunderstanding, do all negotiations with companies in writing from the very beginning. Save the communications and you will be in a much better position to negotiate and also protect yourself.....if needed.

It is difficult for companies too, because they have to make committments and sometimes financial committments with certain time frames based on what a traveler agrees on. When the negotiations don't go smoothly or as expected they can find themselves in a difficult situation. This should also be a lesson to them to get those contracts signed and communicate more effectively to make sure everyone is happy with the agreement.

These misunderstandings can easily happen and that is why contracts are so important. They help to clarify what each party wants and on what terms.

This is my advice for now. Good luck and let us all know what you end up doing and how it all turned out. Just email. I am always here. There are many other travelers out there who can learn from your experience and apply it to their own situations.

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Question


Is a housing subsidy taxfree in north carolina?

Response


Whether the housing subsidy is taxfree or not is more dependent on if you have a permanent residence to claim as your home and how far it is from your assignment. It must be at least 50 miles from where you work. The state shouldn't matter.
 
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Question


My name is Danielle De Barberie. I have just recieved your book and think it is wonderful. It is helping me in so many ways. So Thank You. I am new to traveling and I really appreciate all you have done. I have a few questinos about taxes though. In your book you reccomend Hicks Financial. I entered my name on the website to be contacted by Hicks Financial, and I was contacted by someone else in another firm, with another agency. His name is Joe Smith, and his firm is called Travel Tax. Do you reccomend him also, or only Hicks Financial? Your input would be greatly apprecitaed. Thanks again for all you have done.

Response


Good question. I am glad you found the book helpful.
Hick Financial is the first travel tax specialist I found. Since then, I have also discovered Travel Tax and Kobaly.com. I would recommend any of these since they specialize in your unique line of work. I am not sure if one is better than the other or more efficient etc. If you do decide to get your taxes done by one of these companies I would love to hear your feedback.

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Question


Hi, I am about to start travelling in CA this coming May and am currently talking with several travel companies about agency-supplied housing vs. taking the stipend instead. My traveller-friends are all encouraging me to push for the highest stipend and assure me that in California, $2,200 is pretty standard. The agencies are saying that $1,600 is standard. My travel friends are also telling me that most people get "screwed" on their first assignment until they get to know the ropes a little better and talk to other travellers about what is acceptable vs. not. I'm hoping that you guys will be able to help me with this!

Response


As long as you are happy with your hourly rate and the stipend covers the cost of your housing than you are doing great. If you get more in your housing stipend then you are more likely to get a lower hourly rate or less of a benefit somewhere else. Every company is different so it is hard to say what a "standard" stipend would be for California. What I can tell you is that $1600 should cover your housing expenses in most places in California. That is what you really need to make sure of. Don't accept the housing stipend until you know how much your housing is going to cost you. If you go to http://www.apartments.com/search/oasis.dll?page=region&state=ca&partner=google, you can find out the average cost of apartments in the area you are going to.
I hope this helps you in making your choices.

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Question


I am currently living in the Corpus Christi area of Texas. Is there anyway I can get a list of persons or companies that are adept at preparing the taxes of a travel nurse in this area. Thank you so much.

Response


It is difficult to find accountants that specialize in travel. The two most prominent ones I know about at this time is Traveltax (www.traveltax.com) in NE and Kobaly (www.kobaly.com) in CA. However, you can make copies of your documents and then mail them to the accountants to do. They do taxes for travelers all over the United States. Kobaly even has an organizer you can download to organize all your information right into the computer for your taxes. A travel tax specialist is worth the money. Good luck.

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Question

I have an idea for a journal or receipt log that can be used for keeping up with tax stuff such as gas, miles, expenses; then you can record the totals of data needed from the journal/log to tax forms. Just an idea; sometimes keeping up with all those receipts is a headache and then the receipts can be stored in a yearly file. Maybe the amounts of monthly cell bills, dry cleaning bills and other stuff can be listed too. It might make it easier at tax time. :) Is there a book specifically for travelers about tax stuff that will help us get organized?

Response

See if this is what you have in mind. You can go to www.kobaly.com and download their free organizer. Let me know if this is what you are looking for.

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Question


I am just starting to travel and am wondering about the pay scale. Is there one based on years of experience? Is this something that you usually negotiate with your agency? And how much flexibility is there?

Response


The pay scale is usually based on your specialty, but not years of experience. The rate is sometimes negotiable especially if you are willing to give up some of the other benefits offered.

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Question


I am on assignment in Boston. The GSA per diem rate is $50/day. I am only getting $40/day. Am I getting ripped off? Who sets the per diem rates for your contract? The hospital or your company?

Response


I am not familiar with the term GSA per diem daily rates. I assume you are talking about the daily tax deduction you recieve for working away from home as a traveler. This is one of the greatest financial benefits of being away from home.

This daily deduction is determine by the IRS. It is rare that a company would be giving you this money ahead of time. Perhaps they are offering this benefit to you as a way to provide you with more money sooner. However, sounds like they may be keeping a little money for the service. In that case, I would say that $40 dollars a day is not up to standards according to your information. If they are giving you less than the allotted amount, it may be worth your while in the long run to discontinue their special plan and have your accountant do the daily deduction for you at the end of the year for the full $50 dollars a day. It can really add up.

Per diem is a tax free amount of money given to a worker each day while on a temporary assignment. It covers daily living expenses. GSA (General Services Administration) sets the per diem rate for Gov't employees, and the IRS uses this as the guideline as to the maximum that will be allowed to be tax free. It is based on the location. High cost areas are $50/day, lower cost areas could be as low as $35/day. The rates are subject to change every year in October. There are 2 parts to per diem: housing, and meals & incidentals. Since our company provides housing as a separate paid item, the per diem we get is actually for the meals & incidental portion.

When I quizzed our company about the $40/day per diem, their answer was, "That's all they will pay" (meaning the hospital). I thought the agency set the per diem rate, wage rate, etc. Do you know how all this works?

I am not completely sure how they work it because not many companies offer this kind of a plan. I seriously don't think the hospital sets the rate. I would think the agency sets the rate based on some kind of deduction they get from the IRS since this is really a tax issue.
Regardless, you should be able to deduct the difference ($10) at the end of the year when you file your taxes as long as your pay checks are itemized to show that you are getting paid a $40 dollar a day living expense and the GSA is really $50.

One resource you may want to try is www.hicksfinancial. He is an accountant that specializes in travelers taxes and he has his own website now.

I will continue to research and please continue to keep in touch if you make any further discoveries as well.

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Question


Do you know of any companies that will provide a rental car? I'm nervous about driving clear across the country by myself.

Response


Companies do not provide a rental car as a standard. However, you can negotiate for one. Often you can trade one benefit for another. Get creative....especially if they offer a benefit you don't need. Also, tell them that if they figure out how to provide a rental car for you.....you will travel with them. This will motivate them and believe me they have ways. This is a competitive business and they want you to work for them.

Note: If they give you a car allowance...make sure to call and find out what the car rentals in the area cost. One time a company provided a car for me in Alaska. They gave me a car allowance that sounded great. When I got there....I discovered that it was double that to rent a car there.

Also, you may want to consider traveling with a friend. With the travel allowance they pay.....if you travel low budget (motel 6)...you can often pay for your friends food and airline ticket back (or 1/2). The trip can be a great experience. Many people would love to go and see part of the country and then fly back.


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