Tax and Budget Tips for the Savvy Travel Nurse
You are likely to be making more money as a travel nurse than you were before, and the excitement of being in a new location can distract you from keeping track of your budget.
Make a Goal to Keep Track of Work Related Expenses.
Experienced traveling professionals know that there are lots of reasons to stay on track while you're on the road, and technology is making budgeting easier than ever.
As of 2018, there are tons of apps out there to help you keep an eye on your travel-related expenses. You'll want to log your expenses for housing, meals, work-related communications, even services like dry cleaning and laundry.
If you're keeping a mileage log to document your mileage to and from your place of employment, record your odometer reading at the beginning and end of the year. If you start traveling sometime in the middle of the year, record your mileage from that point on. We haven't tried this app , but it has high user ratings and costs less than several other competitors. Then again, there's always the good-old analog pen and paper method - free, and super-private.
What is a Tax Home?
If you have even BEGUN to look into a travel nurse job, you have probably heard the phrase "tax home." In order to qualify for non-taxable stipends or reimbursements, you must have what the IRS calls a tax home. A tax home is a residence that you maintain and pay reasonable market rates for while you are working on a travel assignment in another location.
Depending upon your tax situation, you may decide to return to your tax home between assignments -- or in some cases at least once a year. Many RNs will take an assignment or other nursing employment in the vicinity of their tax home in order to meet this requirement. You will also want to document the dates and details of your trips back home and your employment there. In general, if you are claiming a tax home, you will not want to work in another location for an extended period of time. Consult a tax expert to confirm the time frames required for you to maintain a tax home and be eligible for tax-free stipends.
The IRS allows for a fixed amount for meals (and groceries). If you exceed that amount, you may be considered to be living beyond your means and not eligible for reimbursement.
Keep copies of all of your assignment contracts. All of them should include a start and end date, which provides documentation that your work was short-term.
Don't let the tax implications intimidate you!
If you want to enjoy the benefits of improved take-home pay, don't let the paperwork scare you! (You're a nurse, you know all about paperwork.) Traveling is, in many ways, about the adventure and the enriched lifestyle. Tens of thousands of travelers do it every year ... and they ask experts to help them with the paperwork. There are tax preparers who specialize in working with travel nurses; a quick internet search will locate many for you to contact. One of the best ways to find a reliable provider is to ask your fellow travelers for a reference.
In the meantime, here are a few tax-home related resources: