Can I Write Off Hotel Expenses for a Job?

The Internal Revenue Service allows normal expenses incurred as part of a job to be written off of income when filing income tax. Hotel expenses can generally be included as part of these, provided that the hotel is away from your normal work area. Filers must be careful to only deduct expenses that are legitimately part of their work.

Tax Home

For the purposes of travel deductions, the IRS requires you to have a "tax home," which is the metropolitan area where most of your work takes place. Your tax home does not need to be in the same city where you formally reside; for example, if you live in Philadelphia and routinely take the train to New York City for work, New York would be your tax home and you would not be able to deduct hotel or travel expenses from working there. Your tax home changes to wherever you are working most often or if you change jobs or locations.

Employee Deductions

Employees of companies who are required to travel can deduct unreimbursed expenses from travel, including all of their hotel expenses and half of the cost of their meals. However, if the company reimburses expenses or provides a per diem allowance to an employee, only the amounts paid over and above these reimbursements can be legally deducted. You may also deduct the same costs when traveling as part of a job search or interviews.

Self-Employed Deductions

Self-employed people can take the same deductions as employees on their Schedule C self-employment tax form and frequently have higher travel deductions because no parent company reimburses their expenses. However, when these expenses are billed through to the client, the same rules apply as with an employee on an expense account: Any payments made by clients count as regular income, and only the excess is deductible.

Combined Travel

You can deduct combined business and personal travel as long as these expenses are separately itemized. For example, if you take a trip to a conference and then spend a few days sightseeing, the entire airfare is generally deductible because the round trip would have been purchased solely for business purposes, but hotel nights and meals for the days after the conference are not legitimate business expenses. Likewise, a hotel room can be shared with family members if it is the same hotel room you would have booked solely for business, but additional hotel expenses for family members or additional travelers are not deductible.

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About the Author

Ellis Davidson has been a self-employed Internet and technology consultant, entrepreneur and author since 1993. He has written a book about self-employment for recent college graduates and is a regular contributor to "Macworld" and the TidBITS technology newsletter. He is completing a book on self-employment options during a recession. Davidson holds a Bachelor of Arts in American civilization from the University of Pennsylvania.

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