Travel expenses are the ordinary and necessary expenses of traveling away from home for your business, profession, or job. Generally, employees deduct these expenses using Form 2106 (PDF) or Form 2106-EZ (PDF) and on Form 1040, Schedule A (PDF). You cannot deduct expenses that are lavish or extravagant or that are for personal purposes.
You are traveling away from home if your duties require you to be away from the general area of your tax home for a period substantially longer than an ordinary day's work, and you need to get sleep or rest to meet the demands of your work while away.
Generally, your tax home is the entire city or general area where your main place of business or work is located, regardless of where you maintain your family home. For example, you live with your family in Chicago but work in Milwaukee where you stay in a hotel and eat in restaurants. You return to Chicago every weekend. You may not deduct any of your travel, meals, or lodging in Milwaukee because that is your tax home. Your travel on weekends to your family home in Chicago is not for your work, so these expenses are also not deductible. If you regularly work in more than one place, your tax home is the general area where your main place of business or work is located.
In determining your main place of business, take into account the length of time you are normally required to spend at each location for business purposes, the degree of business activity in each area, and the relative significance of the financial return from each area. However, the most important consideration is the length of time spent at each location.
Travel expenses paid or incurred in connection with a temporary work assignment away from home are deductible. However, travel expenses paid in connection with an indefinite work assignment are not deductible. Any work assignment in excess of one year is considered indefinite. Also, you may not deduct travel expenses at a work location if it is realistically expected that you will work there for more than one year, whether or not you actually work there that long. If you realistically expect to work at a temporary location for one year or less, and the expectation changes so that at some point you realistically expect to work there for more than one year, travel expenses become nondeductible when your expectation changes.
You may deduct travel expenses, including meals and lodging, you had in looking for a new job in your present trade or business. You may not deduct these expenses if you had them while looking for work in a new trade or business or while looking for work for the first time. If you are unemployed and there is a substantial break between the time of your past work and your looking for new work, you may not deduct these expenses, even if the new work is in the same trade or business as your previous work. Refer to Publication 529, Miscellaneous Deductions.
Travel expenses for conventions are deductible if you can show that your attendance benefits your trade or business. Special rules apply to conventions held outside the North American area.
Deductible travel expenses while away from home include, but are not limited to, the costs of:
- Travel by airplane, train, bus, or car between your home and your business destination. (If you are provided with a ticket or you are riding free as a result of a frequent traveler or similar program, your cost is zero.)
- Using your car while at your business destination. You can deduct actual expenses or the standard mileage rate, as well as business-related tolls and parking fees. If you rent a car, you can deduct only the business-use portion for the expenses.
- Fares for taxis or other types of transportation between the airport or train station and your hotel, the hotel and the work location, and from one customer to another, or from one place of business to another.
- Meals and lodging.
- Tips you pay for services related to any of these expenses.
- Dry cleaning and laundry.
- Business calls while on your business trip (This includes business communications by fax machine or other communication devices).
- Other similar ordinary and necessary expenses related to your business travel (These expenses might include transportation to and from a business meal, public stenographer's fees, computer rental fees, and operating and maintaining a house trailer).
- Shipping of baggage, and sample or display material between your regular and temporary work locations.
Instead of keeping records of your meal expenses and deducting the actual cost, you can generally use a standard meal allowance, which varies depending on where you travel.
The deduction for business meals is generally limited to 50% of the unreimbursed cost.
If you are an employee, your allowable travel expenses are figured on Form 2106 or Form 2106-EZ. Your allowable unreimbursed expenses are carried from Form 2106 or Form 2106-EZ to Form 1040, Schedule A (PDF), and are subject to a limit based on 2% of adjusted gross income. Refer to Topic 508 for information on the 2% limit. If you do not itemize your deductions, you cannot deduct these expenses. If you are self-employed, travel expenses are deductible on Form 1040, Schedule C (PDF), or Form 1040, Schedule C-EZ (PDF) or, if you are a farmer, on Form 1040, Schedule F (PDF).
If you are a member of the National Guard or military reserve, you may be able to claim a deduction that reduces your adjusted gross income rather than an itemized deduction on Form 1040, Schedule A, for unreimbursed travel expenses paid in connection with the performance of services as a reservist. To qualify, the travel must be overnight and more than 100 miles from your home. Expenses must be ordinary and necessary. This deduction is limited to the regular federal per diem rate (for lodging, meals, and incidental expenses) and the standard mileage rate (for car expenses) plus any parking fees, ferry fees, and tolls. These expenses are claimed on Form 2106, or Form 2106-EZ and carried to the appropriate line on Form 1040. Expenses in excess of the limit can be claimed only as an itemized deduction on Form 1040, Schedule A.
Good records are essential. Refer to Topic 305 for information on recordkeeping. For more information on these and other travel expenses, refer to Publication 463, Travel, Entertainment, Gift and Car Expenses.
Page Last Reviewed or Updated: December 12, 2013