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Tax-Turtle Taxpayer Can't Deduct Travel Expenses.

(Parker Tax Publishing February 12, 2015)

The Tax Court held that because a truck driver taxpayer was a "tax-turtle" with no permanent residence, his travel expenses were not incurred while he was away from home and were therefore not deductible. Jacobs v. Comm'r, T.C. Summary 2015-3.

Background

Shalom Jacobs has been a truck driver since 2002. His trips were mainly long haul "over the road," meaning he spent a significant number of weeks and months on the road and was paid by the mile. When he wasn't on the road, Jacobs considered his home to be in Cottage Grove, Minnesota, where he stayed in the guest room of his longtime friend Shimon Casper. Jacobs claimed he contributed around $10,000 per year for living expenses at the Casper household, though he offered no evidence to substantiate his claim.

Jacobs admitted he had some taxable income in 2009 that he did not report, but claimed he was entitled to travel expenses that would offset most of his income for that year. The IRS disagreed, and refused to allow Jacob deductions for travel expenses after concluding Jacobs was living on the road.

Jacobs argued his residence was in Cottage Grove, Minnesota with the Caspers and that his expenses were for when he was on the road away from them. The IRS argued that Jacobs didn't reside in Cottage Grove, but was either living on the road without a permanent residence or in California during 2009 when he was between jobs.

Analysis

A taxpayer may deduct reasonable and necessary travel expenses incurred while away from his home in the pursuit of a trade or business, although no deductions may be claimed for any personal, living, or family expenses. A taxpayer must have adequate records for all claimed deductions, and must also show he was actually away from home when the expenses were incurred (Code Sec. 274). A taxpayer who is constantly in motion is considered a "tax turtle" - someone with no fixed residence who carries his "home" with him - and is not entitled to business deductions for traveling expenses (Kroll v. Comm'r, 49 T.C. 577 (1968)).

In determining whether Jacobs had a tax home, the court relied on a three factor test put forth in Rev. Rul. 73-529: (1) the business connection to the locale of the claimed home; (2) the duplicative nature of the taxpayer's living expenses while traveling and at the claimed home; and (3) personal attachments to the claimed home.

The court could not find any business connection to the location of Jacobs' supposed residence at the Casper household. Further, the court stated that any use of the Casper household address for mailing, voting, or other incidentals Jacobs claimed (but did not provided evidence for) was for his convenience only, and not for any business reasons. Although Jacobs claimed to have incurred living expenses while at the Casper residence, the court found that he lacked evidence showing he financially contributed to the Casper home, and further noted that the expenses duplicated those that he incurred on the road. Finally, the court noted that Jacobs's records for 2009 indicated he spent more time in California than in Cottage Grove, and the court found it especially telling that Casper, in his testimony, said that Jacobs occupied the "guest room," the same room other visitors used when they visited.

As Jacobs was not able to substantiate his claim that the Casper residence in Cottage Grove was his tax home, the court found instead that Jacobs was an itinerant worker - a tax turtle - whose tax home followed him on the road and that he was therefore ineligible to deduct his travel expenses.

For a discussion of travel expense deductions, see Parker Tax ¶ 91,105. (Staff Editor Parker Tax Publishing)

Disclaimer: This publication does not, and is not intended to, provide legal, tax or accounting advice, and readers should consult their tax advisors concerning the application of tax laws to their particular situations. This analysis is not tax advice and is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, for purposes of avoiding tax penalties that may be imposed on any taxpayer. The information contained herein is general in nature and based on authorities that are subject to change. Parker Tax Publishing guarantees neither the accuracy nor completeness of any information and is not responsible for any errors or omissions, or for results obtained by others as a result of reliance upon such information. Parker Tax Publishing assumes no obligation to inform the reader of any changes in tax laws or other factors that could affect information contained herein.

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