IRS Commuting Rule: Mileage Rules & Commute Definition

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IRS Commuting Rule: Mileage Rules & Commute Definition

If you drive your car for work, you can take a mileage deduction on your taxes. Yet, many people don’t know the IRS has some strict rules on what is deductible business driving. There’s no such thing as a “commuting to work tax deduction.” But there are circumstances where your drive from home could be tax deductible. Learn about the IRS commuting rule

IRS Commuting Rule: Commute Definition

The IRS defines your commute as “transportation between your home and your main or regular place of work.” Your “home” is the place where you reside.

Your trip between your home and your regular or main job is never deductible. A trip between your home and temporary work location is deductible if your main job is at another location. Your commute between home and second job is never deductible on a day off from your main job. Your trip between your regular job and temporary job is always deductible. Likewise, so are trips between your main and second job. You can always deduct drives between temporary work locations and a second job.

Example: Ryan is a real estate agent in the Denver area. When he drives from his house to his office, those trips are not deductible. But he can deduct trips from his house to open houses or drives from his office to meet clients. Of course, Ryan must keep track of his miles in order to back up his deduction.

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How To Know If Driving From Home is Tax Deductible

The basic rule that the IRS follows is that commuting is a personal expense that is never deductible. Commuting occurs when you go from home to a permanent work location—either your:

  • office or other principal place of business, or
  • another place where you have worked or expect to work for more than one year.

Example: Kim runs her business from an office in a downtown office building. Every day, she drives 20 miles from her suburban home to her office and back. None of this commuting mileage is deductible.

It is still considered commuting even if a trip from home has a specific business purpose. If you need to haul inventory or supplies from your home, some of those costs are deductible. This could include the costs of renting a trailer or other equipment.

You can’t deduct a commuting trip because you work during the trip. Making business calls or listening to work-related tapes won’t cut it. Having advertising on your vehicle won’t convert a commute into a business trip either.

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The Commuting to Work Tax Deduction

The IRS commuting rule makes it tougher to figure out which drives from home are deductible. Here are some of the things you should know about drives that are tax deductible:

  • Commuting is never deductible
  • Working during your commute doesn’t make your trip deductible
  • A qualifying home office can nullify the commuting rule
  • Travel between home and a temporary work location is deductible.

Commuting to Work Tax Deduction: Made Possible with a Home Office

One way to avoid the harsh IRS commuting rule is to have a qualifying home office. In this event, you can deduct the cost of any trips you make from your home office to another business location. The commuting rule doesn’t apply if you work at home because you never commute to work. With a qualifying home office, you’re already at your work.

Your home office will qualify as your principal place of business
 if it is the place where you earn most of your income or perform the administrative or management tasks for your practice. You can increase your deductions for business trips with a qualifying home office.

Example: Kim maintains a home office where she does the administrative work for her business.  She also has an outside office where she does her other work. She can deduct all her business trips from her home office. This includes the 20-mile daily trip to her outside office. Thanks to her home office, she can now deduct 100 miles per week as a business trip expense. This was a nondeductible commuting expense before she established her home office.

How About a Temporary Work Location?

The IRS commuting rule also doesn’t apply when you travel between your home and a temporary work location. A temporary work location is any place where you realistically expect to work less than one year. It can be inside or outside of the metropolitan area where you live.

Example: Sally has an office in a downtown office building; she does not have a home office. Acme Corp. hired her to perform consulting work. This requires that she drive to Acme’s offices, 10 miles away from her home. The project is expected to last three months. Sally may deduct the cost of driving from home to Acme Corporation’s offices.

Temporary work locations are not limited to clients’ offices. Any place where you perform business-related tasks for less than one year is a temporary work location. Stopping at a temporary work location converts the entire trip into a deductible travel expense.

Example: Eleanor’s business office is in a downtown building. She has no home office. One morning, she leaves home, stops at a client’s office to drop off some work, and then goes to her office. The entire trip is deductible because she stopped at a temporary work location on her way to her office.

Once you’re sure your drives from home are deductible, be sure to track all your miles. Without an accurate mileage log, the IRS can reject your mileage deduction—even if you have the right to take a commuting to work tax deduction.

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Stephen Fishman

Stephen Fishman

Stephen Fishman is a self-employed tax expert and regular contributor to MileIQ. He has dedicated his career as an attorney and author to writing useful, authoritative and recognized guides on taxes and business law for entrepreneurs, independent contractors, freelancers and other self-employed people. He is the author of over 20 books and hundreds of articles, and has been quoted in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Chicago Tribune, and many other publications. Visit Fishman Law and Tax Files for more information on his work.
Stephen Fishman

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MileIQ’s blog does not constitute professional tax advice. You should contact your own tax professional to discuss your situation.

  • Wesly Bateman

    Thanks for information, this was really helpful. Are there certain qualifications that need to be met, to be considered having a home office?

  • Cynthia Preyde

    We have a marketer who generally claims mileage from the main office. She also works out of her home, making calls etc (secondary office?) If she needs to run an errand she will claim the mileage from the main office to the store by her house even though there is the same store right by the main office. If she were to claim the mileage from the main office to the store it would be significantly less. How do I proceed with this?

    • Joshua Brost

      Hi Cynthia-
      Sadly, this isn’t so much a tax issue as it is an issue of internal policies. I would speak to your HR person.

  • Paul Grace

    I have a home office. One day I travel from the home office in Austin to San Antonio (SA) to look for potential customers, in my way I stop at a restaurant for lunch in SA, travel from the restaurant to downtown, from downtown to where one of the vehicles is located to put some gas (SA), to visit another potential customer (SA), back to home-office (Austin). All can be consider as business trips? I have two principal concerns with the return from SA to my home-office in Austin, an the lunch (is a lunch which I think is personal but is on my way to SA looking for business opportunities.

  • Tracy StDenis

    I am a freelance sign language interpreter. I receive assignments from agencies, businesses, etc. I never go to their offices but travel from my home to the location where I will interpret and then either return to my home or go to another location. Sometimes I will have several hours between assignments so I will go to an assignment, return home, go to another assignment. Often I will work for a specific business frequently throughout the year but never as an employee, only as a contractor. I know I can claim from my home to job to job to job – can I claim back to home? or home to job to home to job?? I do not claim a “home office” deduction on my taxes. HELP 😕

    • Joshua Brost

      Hi Tracy-

      I think you should submit this question to our tax expert:

      If I were to guess, I think you’re missing a big deduction by not claiming the home office. Without claiming that, I don’t think you’re able to claim any of your drives to or from home to a client location, unless that location is outside of your tax home. Stephen Fishman will be able to expand on that if you submit the question to him.

  • Nathan Miller

    If I drive from home to a meeting outside of my office, say a Starbucks, can I claim those miles from home? Or do I need to drive to my office, and then calculate my miles from my office to Starbucks?

    • Joshua Brost

      Hi Nathan-
      That’s a great question. As always, we recommend that you ask your tax professional directly. However, I’m fairly certain that you can claim the miles from home to your meeting without going to the office first.

      • kelly dery

        where in the IRC, which code or regulations is this found that listening to work related tapes during your commute still is not tax deductible?

  • Matt W Oneal

    I work as a remote employee from a home office, with a company provided vehicle. As such, I could commute as much as 500 miles one way to my first location. Is there a daily limits on commute miles and does that vary by state? When I stay overnight at a hotel, does my mileage from the hotel to my first stop also count as commute mileage? Any help or link to documents that outline that would be greatly appreciated

    • Mike

      Since you’re traveling in a company provided vehicle, you cannot claim that mileage as a tax deduction because you are not incurring the cost. You can deduct the actual cost of fuel, if it is not reimbursed (though I expect it is).

      Your company will deduct the mileage from their taxes since they were the ones who incurred the cost. The IRS doesn’t like to let people double dip.

      • Matt W Oneal

        So which miles do I need to claim as personal? Are these all company miles?

        • Mike

          The purpose of these deductions is to compensate for out of pocket expenses associated with your employment. Basically, if you make 50k a year, but you spend 10k a year to work that job, you’re really only making 40k. For that reason, the IRS let’s you deduct that 10k from your taxable income so that you’re only paying for the money that went in your pocket.

          So, if you aren’t paying for the maintenance of the vehicle, gas, or depreciation of the vehicle, you don’t get to deduct those costs from your income.

          What costs do you incur from driving the company car? Do they reimburse you for the gas, or do you have to pay that out of your own pocket?

          • Matt W Oneal

            My question is more to the point of which miles are considered personal miles for IRS purposes, and which are considered business miles. i.e. I travel to multiple locations over a multi state area from a home office, and have no company work location. if I leave my home office, which is my primary work location, and travel to a customer location, are those commute miles or business miles? the research I’ve read seems to say if my primary work location as a remote employee is home, then all miles I drive are business miles, aside from any personal use of the car on off hours. we record and report business miles and personal miles, and personal miles are considered a taxable benefit. I want to be sure I am not ” over-reporting” personal miles, or under reporting them

          • Mike

            Ah, I think I understand now. Yes, if you work out of your house then that counts as your principal workplace, and the miles from there to your clients are considered work expenses. In that situation, any use of the car that fulfills a business purpose would not be considered personal.

            Now, your company may have other internal policies for use of the vehicle, but the IRS will see that as business use so you are not liable.

          • Matt W Oneal

            thank you!!

          • Matt W Oneal

            and the company pays the fuel, repairs, and lease on this vehicle.

          • kelly dery

            where in the IRC, which code or regulations is this found that listening to work related tapes during your commute still is not tax deductible

          • Mike

            I’m not sure I understand the question. There is no specific statement that this is not tax deductible, but it does not fall within the confines of travel expenses that are. The IRC doesn’t define every action that is not tax deductible. That would be a very long list.

            In this instance, I believe it would be seen as personal development that didn’t cost you anything or, if it is required for work, that the company would pay for your time.

          • Kelly Ann Dery

            I see so if I want to cite the internal revenue code saying it does not fall within the confines, do u know which code number I may find this?

          • Kelly Ann Dery

            I actually was kind of hoping to get some more knowledge on a case I am working on and was hoping to get ur thoughts. Would you be comfortable giving me an email to which I could contact you with a larger question

  • Reckster

    You’ve probably had this question before.

    I am being offered a job with a primary office location in city A. However, two days per week I am expected to be in the employers office in city B, 40 miles away. This two location assignment is not temporary. I understand that I cannot deduct commuting cost from my home to city A. May I deduct the mileage between City A and City B for those days I must be in City B?

  • kelly dery

    where in the IRC, which code or regulations is this found that listening to work related tapes during your commute still is not tax deductible

  • Richie

    I travel for my job two many different sites throughout the year doing highway construction I never go to the office just the job site is this considered tax deductible

  • Miranda

    If you have a home office as well as an offsite office, can you claim the miles round trip? Or just the initial drive from office 1 to office 2?

  • Scott

    When traveling to an airport from home for business purposes, is the mileage reimbursed fully or must I deduct the mileage I normally travel to work?

  • Anderson Barbosa

    On days I need to visit a construction site, I expense the mileage from home to/from the job site (I don’t go to the regular work location at all). This happens twice a month at the most, and the mileage is billed to the client company. The client, through my employer, has now asked me to deduct my normal commuting miles when I expense job site trips. I imagine this is due to tax deduction purposes. Based on what I’ve been reading, shouldn’t I be allowed to expense ALL mileage when temporarily visiting a job site?

  • Gil Gonzalez

    I work at our main office but sometimes need to travel to our warehouse in another location to pick up parts, is my driving back and forth deductible ?

    • Marin Perez

      As always, consult a tax pro for tax-related issues. With that said, your drives between the office and supply facility should be deductible.

    • Marin

      Gil, please check with your tax professional before making any decisions. With that said, if the other location is considered a temporary work location or if you go to your main office first, then go to the supply warehouse, you can write off those miles.

  • Stephanie

    Is this even if you live really far from work? I.e. I have an employee that travels 75 miles one way to get to work…

    • Marin

      Stephanie, sorry for the delayed response. Yes, the IRS considers it a non-deductible commute even if you live very far away. The rationale is that where you live is a personal choice. I’m not quite sure I agree with that logic but that’s the general rule.

  • Susan

    Hi! I work for an estate sale company. Every week I travel to and from my home to a person’s house to set-up, price and run an estate sale. This is contract work and I file taxes quarterly. My question is, can I claim mileage to and from my home, since each house I am setting up is considered a “temporary” work location?? Thanks!

  • Ryan

    Say I travel a couple hundred miles to visit family for the holidays, while I am away I also work remotely. Can I claim these miles because I am working from a temporary work location?

  • YesYou2

    I have this challange for you if you will be so kind as to reply. I sell Cable Services door to door 6 days per week. 5 days per week I leave from my home to a location park my car, knock on doors, drive to another location, repeat until end of the day. I then drive home. Only on Friday’s do I go to a company office for a meeting. At my company office I do not have a desk or assigned work station. We have a shared set of computers. As needed we process reports that can only be run inside the office network. My specific questions is do I have a commute more than the 1 day per week I am required to attend a meeting at the company offices?

    My employer will soon change from a monthly car expense payment of $200.00 to an expense report driven form of reimbursement up to a maximum of $400.00 per month. We will be required to track our mileage and key that information into our expense system provided by the employer.

    I expect that the employer will summarily deduct from eligibility the mileage from my home to their offices for each of the 6 days of the week. This even though I ONLY go to the office on Fridays.

    Is this appropriate? Here is an example – I leave my home – I travel to maple street – I park my car on Maple and walk 3 miles around the neighborhood and knock on doors and sell cable. I then return to my car – drive to Elm St – Park – Knock – Return to Car – Travel Home. I have not gone to the company offices – this is my routine 5 days per week. Should I be reimbursed for all this mileage? Is it appropriate for my employer to reduce the mileage I claim for that day or those days not traveling to the office from each day of work?

    Why it matters so much – Example Monday – travel to Oak Rd – Park – Knock – Return home – Home to Oak is 5 miles – Oak to home is 5 miles for a total of 10 miles. Distance to the company office that I DID NOT GO TO on Monday is 15 miles each way for a total of 30 miles. If my employer reduces my mileage for this work day (Monday) by the commute distance that I did not travel and would not travel to or from based on my job description – this would completely offset my total mileage traveled from home to oak to home,

    30 miles per day for 6 days per week. (6 x 30=180 miles) vs (home to Oak, then home to Maple etc for each of 5 days) total of say 10 miles each day for 5 days) 50 miles in the field – 180 miles for commute.

  • Brian Montero

    I’m a care giver, so I have to drive a lot around town to get to my client’s houses. Reading the article I understand I can deduct all those miles driven. How about the miles from that temporary work to my home, are they deductable too? Thanks.

  • Steven Hafley

    I’m a private contracting courier, and I’m trying to figure out if I can deduct traveling from my house to the location I pick up a delivery. The place I pick up from varies day-to-day and throughout the day. Also, if I drop off a delivery 50 miles from my house, can I deduct the miles it takes me to get back home?

  • Kyle Kieffer

    Im in assembly work, independant contractor. All the materials and such are at a separate warehouse i’d say about 35 miles from my house. Im assuming the milage I drive to get to that particular warehouse and assemble there is commuting and not actually business related?

  • Yuri Lygotme

    I am a taxi driver, and like pretty much every taxi driver, sadly, I am self employed: the taxi company is just like a car rental business and I am a customer renting an yellowish car every day.

    So, every day I drive with my personal car to the taxi company to pick up a taxicab.

    Is this deductible?

  • Caitlyn

    I do baby sitting and the sitter is paying me mileage do I track from my house to hers and home or just my house to hers

  • Ladonna Richards

    what should I pay my employees as far as distance when they travel to court and work assignments. Should I pay them to travel to fundraising events on a day off?


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