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What is IRS Publication 521 on Moving Expenses?

IRS Link to Publication — Found Here

When it comes to relocating for work-related purposes, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) recognizes the financial burden it may impose on individuals. To alleviate some of the costs associated with moving, the IRS has established guidelines for tax deductions on moving expenses. These guidelines are outlined in IRS Publication 521, which provides valuable information on the methods and requirements for claiming these deductions. In this article, we will explore the key aspects of Publication 521 and shed light on the tests, reporting procedures, and eligibility criteria involved in claiming moving expense deductions.

Eligibility Criteria for Moving Expense Deductions

Publication 521 emphasizes that to qualify for moving expense deductions, the relocation must be necessary to either start a new job or maintain a job that requires relocation. It is important to note that personal moves unrelated to work purposes are not eligible for these deductions. The IRS has set forth two essential tests that individuals must pass to claim moving expense deductions: the Distance Test and the Time Test.

The Distance Test

The Distance Test requires that the new job location be at least 50 miles further from the employee's original residence than their previous job was. This requirement ensures that the move is a significant distance from the individual's previous place of employment. By implementing this test, the IRS aims to distinguish between local job changes and relocations that genuinely necessitate additional expenses.

The Time Test

The Time Test assesses the individual's commitment to their new job location. To satisfy this test, the employee must work for at least 39 weeks out of the first 12 months following the move. This requirement ensures that the individual has truly relocated for work purposes and has actively contributed to the new job location for a substantial period. However, it's important to note that the 39-week period does not need to be consecutive and can include weeks worked for multiple employers.

Deductible Moving Expenses

IRS Publication 521 provides comprehensive information on the various expenses that are considered deductible when it comes to moving. These expenses include travel costs, storage fees, transportation expenses, and labor costs associated with moving furniture and other belongings. It is essential to retain all relevant receipts and documentation to substantiate these expenses when claiming deductions.

Non-Deductible Moving Expenses

While Publication 521 outlines eligible moving expenses, it is equally important to understand which expenses cannot be deducted. Costs associated with purchasing or improving a new residence, expenses related to selling a previous home, or any expenses unrelated to the actual act of moving are not eligible for deductions. Additionally, any expenses that are reimbursed to the individual by their employer cannot be claimed as deductions.

Reporting Moving Expenses

To claim deductions for moving expenses, individuals must complete Form 3903, which is specifically designed for this purpose. This form requires individuals to provide detailed information regarding their moving expenses, including dates, amounts, and supporting documentation. It is crucial to accurately complete this form to ensure compliance with IRS regulations and to maximize eligible deductions.

Reimbursement Plans and Reporting

IRS Publication 521 distinguishes between two types of reimbursement plans: accountable reimbursement plans and non-accountable reimbursement plans. Under an accountable reimbursement plan, employees are reimbursed by their employer for actual moving expenses incurred. In this case, the employee does not report the reimbursement as income, and the employer deducts the expenses as business expenses. On the other hand, under a non-accountable reimbursement plan, the employer provides a fixed relocation package or a lump sum amount that does not require substantiation. In such cases, the reimbursement may be treated as income, and the employee must report it accordingly.

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Disclaimers and Limitations

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