No matter how distant – commuting expenses aren’t deductible

The Tax Court has once again ruled that regular commuting expenses are nondeductible personal expenses, no matter what the mitigating circumstances might be.

William Cor was an engineer living in Las Vegas. He worked at a remote test site in the desert. There was no direct public transportation to the job site.

Cor commuted by car and calculated that he drove approximately 160 miles round-trip, four days a week. Although he kept no records of his commuting expenses, he claimed $50 an hour, or $150 per day, for a daily commute of three hours. The amount works out to almost $1 per mile, which is about double the standard mileage allowance the IRS generally allows for travel deduction purposes – but not for commuting expenses.

Although the court agreed that Cor endured a more costly and much longer commute than average in both mileage and time, the drive to the job was still a personal commute between home and work. The expenses of the commute were not deductible, regardless of the distance traveled or the lack of housing near the job site (William Cor v. Commissioner, TC Memo 2013-240, Oct. 22, 2013).

Since the commuting expenses were personal, any reimbursement by an employer to defray those expenses would be subject to income and employment taxes, as would any increase in salary to induce employment. Cor was also liable for a 20 percent negligence penalty.