Local Assignments and Tax-Free Lodging during COVID

lodging

During the COVID crisis, several healthcare providers are taking local assignments to help with the surge of affected patients. They have valid concerns about exposing their family or those they share a home with to the virus.

Can they receive tax free housing even though they are working locally?

The answer is yes.  Tucked away in the Regulations (Section 1.162-32(a)) is a little-known provision for local lodging primary designed to accommodate local business meetings, conferences, training and other related activity. In addition to these situations, it also allows the lodging to be provided when the facts and circumstances of a situation require local lodging. The current COVID pandemic is such an event that would fit those limitations.

There are a few items to note.

  • The lodging should be a dwelling that the employer/agency/hospital provides in kind. In other words, they pay for the lodging directly. That can be a hotel, house or apartment.
  • The lodging must be a necessity rather than a personal preference
  • The lodging cannot be lavish or extravagant
  • There cannot be a greater social or personal benefit beyond the provision of a place to stay to fulfill one’s duties at the care facility.
  • These limitations do not allow giving a per diem in place of directly paying the lodging provider or paying by receipt. Agencies are required to track their non-taxable lodging and meal reimbursements

Reference: https://www.law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/26/1.162-32

Youtube Channel – Episode 3: The difference between a Facility 50 Mile Rule and a Taxable Stipend 50 mile rule

The 50-mile rule to determine whether stipends can be received tax-free is basically a myth. ITs not about the distance, it’s about whether you require and pay for lodging at the assignment. However, hospitals (facilities) often have a distance rule and it frequently is 50 miles. See how this can create confusion in the conversation with the recruiter and what to ask.

It took 8 years, but the IRS finally updated the Per Diem Rules!

photo of person holding pen

Photo by Acharaporn Kamornboonyarush on Pexels.com

 

Wondering when the Per Diem Revenue Procedure was ever going to be updated? Well the IRS just updated it! Click the following link to go to new IRS Revenue Procedure 2019-48 which addresses per diems.  This replaces IRS Revenue Procedure 2011-47.

https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-drop/rp-19-48.pdf

Nice Try – Enjoy Your Audit in 2 Years

audit

With the removal of job expenses under tax reform I have seen this scheme just like I predicted after the new tax laws were passed. It’s summed up in one really lame statement I heard:

“I make myself a 1099 worker by filing exempt from tax withholding for my W2 job and then claim all my travel expenses on a Schedule C, Self Employment Form. All my friends do it!!”

Nice try…..

When Taxes are Lower – Refunds are Lower

refund

A good recent article

U.S. Treasury’s Mnuchin says tax refunds are flat from last year

By Susan Thomas and Jason Lange

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Tax refunds to Americans so far in 2019 are flat compared to the same period last year, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Thursday.

Mnuchin, who was speaking at a hearing in the U.S. House of Representatives on Trump’s 2020 budget proposal, did not provide specifics on the dollar value of refunds made this year.

“Tax refunds are flat on last year”, he said.

Previously released Treasury data has showed the government has refunded $142.4 billion to taxpayers this year through March 1, down 3.5 percent from a year earlier. The average refund made, at $3,068, was 0.7 percent higher than a year earlier.

A soft trend for tax refunds could present a messaging challenge for the Trump administration, which has been touting a tax cut enacted last as a major boost to household finances.

While tax rates have fallen for most households, for some Americans their annual rebate is a palpable interaction with the tax code.

Mnuchin said refunds should actually fall when tax obligations fall. Many Americans pay more taxes than they owe over the course of the year. If they were able to estimate exactly what they owe and instructed employers to withhold just that, they would not get a refund at the end of the tax year.

“The fact that refunds are the same means in essence that people did not adjust their holding enough to take advantage of the tax act”, Mnuchin said, referring to the tax law enacted last year. “Because taxes are down refunds should be down.”