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Moving expenses tax deduction: a primer

Moving expenses tax deduction: a primer

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal or tax advice.

Always consult with a tax professional for your specific circumstances.

Understanding the nuances of specific deductions can be a challenge. One such area that has seen significant changes in recent years is the moving expenses tax deduction.

This article delves deep into the meaning, overview, qualifications, and the process of deducting moving expenses from your taxes.

What are moving expenses?

Moving expenses, as defined by the IRS, encompass the various costs that taxpayers incur when they relocate for a new job or are transferred to a different location.

These expenses are not just limited to the obvious costs of packing and transporting belongings.

They can include a wide array of associated expenses, such as:

  • Packing supplies: This includes boxes, bubble wrap, packing tape, and other materials necessary to secure belongings.
  • Professional movers: Hiring a moving company to assist in the physical relocation of goods.
  • Vehicle rentals: Renting a truck or van for the purpose of moving.
  • Temporary storage: If there's a gap between moving out and moving into the new place, items might need to be stored temporarily.
  • Travel costs: This can include fuel, tolls, and lodging expenses if the move requires an overnight stay.
  • Insurance: Protection against potential damage or loss of belongings during the move.
  • Utility fees: Costs associated with setting up or transferring utilities like water, electricity, or internet services.

"Moving expenses are more than just the cost of hiring a truck; they encompass everything from packing tape to the pizza you might buy for friends who help you move." - Tax Expert Insights

The evolution of moving expenses tax deduction

Historically, the US tax system was more lenient towards individuals relocating for work.

Taxpayers could deduct a significant portion of their moving expenses from their taxable income, providing some financial relief during what is often an expensive process.

However, the landscape of tax deductions saw a seismic shift with the introduction of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) in 2017.

This legislation, aiming to simplify the tax code and reduce rates, had broad implications for various deductions, including those for moving expenses.

From 2018 through 2025, the TCJA effectively eliminated the moving expense deduction for the vast majority of Americans. This means that, for most, the costs associated with relocating for a job can no longer reduce taxable income.

However, there's a silver lining for a specific group: active-duty members of the US Armed Forces. If their relocation is due to a military order, they can still claim this valuable deduction.

While the TCJA has streamlined many aspects of the tax code, it's essential to be aware of the nuances, especially when it comes to deductions that were once commonplace but are now restricted." - Financial Analyst

Qualifying for the moving expenses deduction

Are moving expenses tax deductible in 2024?

To be eligible for the moving expenses tax deduction, taxpayers must satisfy specific criteria set by the IRS:

  1. Relation to the start of work: The move should be due to a change in job location or the commencement of a new job. Typically, the move should occur within one year of the taxpayer starting the new job.
  2. Distance test: The new workplace should be at least 50 miles farther from the taxpayer's old residence than the previous job location was. For instance, if the old job was 10 miles from the old home, the new job should be at least 60 miles from the old home.
  3. Time test: After the move, the taxpayer should work full-time for at least 39 weeks during the first 12 months. For self-employed individuals, they should work full-time for at least 78 weeks during the first 24 months.
  4. Special provisions for armed forces: Active-duty members of the US Armed Forces who relocate due to a military order don't need to meet the distance or time tests. They can directly use IRS Form 3903 to claim the deduction.

How to deduct moving expenses from your taxes

  1. Determine eligibility: Before diving into the paperwork, review the criteria to ensure you qualify for the deduction.
  2. Gather documentation: Maintain a dedicated folder or digital archive for all moving-related receipts and records. This can be invaluable during tax season and in case of any future audits.
  3. Utilize IRS Form 3903: This form is the cornerstone for claiming moving expenses. Ensure you understand each section and fill it out meticulously. Once completed, it should be attached to your federal tax return.
  4. Deductible expenses breakdown:
    • Packing and transport - costs related to packing materials, hiring movers, or renting moving vehicles.
    • Storage and insurance - any expenses for storing items during the move and insuring them against potential damage.
    • Travel and lodging - costs for traveling to the new location, including hotel stays. However, meal expenses during the move are not deductible.

Non-deductible moving expenses

While the IRS allows for many moving-related deductions, there are specific expenses that taxpayers cannot deduct:

  • Meals: Any food or drink expenses during the move are not deductible.
  • House-hunting: Costs related to trips taken to find a new residence are not deductible.
  • Lease agreements: Any fees or penalties for breaking a lease at the old residence or costs to initiate a lease at the new residence are not deductible.
  • Real estate transactions: Expenses related to buying a new home or selling the old one, including agent commissions, are not deductible.

Tip: Always consult with a tax pro to ensure you're accurately distinguishing between deductible and non-deductible expenses.

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Key takeaways

  1. The moving expenses tax deduction has undergone significant changes due to the TCJA of 2017.
  2. Active-duty members of the US Armed Forces are the primary beneficiaries of this deduction.
  3. Proper documentation and understanding of deductible and non-deductible expenses are crucial.

To sum up

Navigating the complexities of moving expenses and their tax implications requires a thorough understanding of the current tax laws.

While the TCJA has limited the scope of this deduction, it remains a valuable tool for eligible taxpayers, especially members of the US Armed Forces.

As always, consulting with a tax professional can provide clarity and ensure compliance with all IRS regulations.

See how it works.

Ines Zemelman, EA
Founder of TFX