Deducting commuting costs is generally not allowed. However, there’s an exception carved out by the courts for the required transportation of work equipment and tools. The additional cost — incurred strictly to carry the work implements back and forth — is deductible as an employee business expense. (Self-employed individuals write off the cost as a business expense on Schedule C.)
Example: Joe works at a construction site in the city, and lives in a one of the trailers that the construction company provided for him. Previously, he took public transportation to work at a round-trip cost of $5 per day. Now, however, he is required to transport equipment back and forth from the job site in a trailer. It costs him $7 a day to drive his car each day and an additional $15 a day for the trailer rental.
According to the IRS, the $15 daily cost of the trailer rental is deductible, but Joe cannot deduct the extra $2 per day cost of driving his car. Reason: Only the additional cost for the same mode of transportation is deductible, even if a less expensive mode of transportation is available.
On the other hand, suppose Joe owns a truck and is able to transport the equipment without renting a trailer. In this case, Joe can deduct the additional cost of $2 per day if he can prove that he would have commuted by public transportation if he was not required to transport the work equipment.
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