How to Deduct Commuting and Travel Expenses

The Internal Revenue Service doesn't allow taxpayers to deduct ordinary commuting expenses. However, other non-commuting travel expenses incurred for work purposes are deductible. Employees can deduct travel expenses as unreimbursed employee expenses on Form 2106, while self-employed taxpayers deduct them on Schedule C.

Commuting vs. Travel Expenses

According to the IRS, transportation expenses from your home to your main work location are never deductible. However, travel from your work location to a second job or another work location is deductible. For example, if you visit a client or go to an offsite business meeting, the mileage between your main office and the client location is deductible. Transportation costs between your home office and a temporary work location also are deductible, as long as your regular job site is at another location and the temporary work situation won't last more than a year.

Tip

Business travel for any work purpose, such as a trip for a conference, training or trade show, also is deductible.

Deduction for Vehicles

Taxpayers have two different options for calculating travel expenses associated with a car. First, they can take a relative proportion of the actual gas, maintenance, repairs, insurance, registration, licenses, depreciation and other expenses involved in owning and operating a car used for business. To do this, you must keep track of all of these expenses, the amount of miles you drove for work and the amount of miles you drove for pleasure. For example, if you had $2,000 in total vehicle expenses for the year and 30 percent of the miles you drove during the year were for work, you could deduct $2,000 multiplied by 0.3, or $600 in travel expenses.

It's burdensome to keep track of all that information, so the IRS also offers a standard mileage deduction. The standard rate, currently 57.5 cents per mile as of this publication, is designed to reflect the average cost of owning and operating a car. To use this method, multiply the amount of miles you drove for work by the standard rate. For example, if you drove 1,000 miles for work during the year, you may deduct 1,000 multiplied by 0.575, or $575 in transportation expenses.

Other Transportation Costs

If you didn't travel by car or incurred incidental fees while traveling, those expenses also are deductible. Valid deductions include:

  • Subway, bus, trolley and taxi fare
  • Train, rail and plane tickets
  • Rental car or leased car payments
  • Airport parking or parking lot fees
  • Highway or bridge tolls

Note that any fines or fees you incur for breaking the law over the course of travel -- for example, getting a speeding ticket or a parking ticket from the city -- can't be written off.