Can I deduct hotel stays on my taxes if I stayed in hotels while homeless and searching for a job?

Jan 31, 2019

I lost my apartment to a house sale and was "homeless" for two months. Then I lost my job due to an inability to find a new residence with very little saved. I haven’t worked in two years, and used whatever money I could borrow to pay for hotels while looking for a new address (total 10 months in hotels). Without a permanent address, I couldn’t apply for new job, and so the vicious cycle started. Can I get reimbursed for my hotel stays? I even had to use hotels in another state while looking for living arrangements and a job.

I am sorry to hear about your circumstances. Unfortunately, the recent tax legislation passed effective for the 2018 tax year no longer allows deductions for job search expenses. 

However, if you had any qualifying expenses in 2017 or 2016, you may be able to go back and amend those tax returns to claim them on Form 1040 Schedule A as a miscellaneous itemized deduction. The expenses must be related to a job search in your previous line of work. As a miscellaneous itemized deduction, the total qualified expenses must be greater than 2 percent of your adjusted gross income in order to obtain the deduction. Also, if you did not itemize deductions in 2017 or 2016, the total of all of your itemized deductions would need to be greater than the standard deduction for you to receive a tax benefit.

For the hotel costs you incurred, they would need to be considered qualifying travel expenses related to a job search to get a deduction. The travel would have to be to a location away from your “tax home.” Your tax home would be the general city or area where you were living and working in. If you traveled outside of this area and stayed in hotels while looking for work in 2016 or 2017, the costs would qualify. The IRS provides guidance on qualifications for job search expenses, as well as additional detail on travel expenses. 

Best of luck to you.

For more resources, check out PICPA’s Money & Life Tips, Ask a CPA, or CPA Locator.

Answered by: Dominic T. Cutuli, CPA, is a principal with H2R CPA in Pittsburgh.

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