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I am a non-US citizen and resident, moving to the US to work for a few years starting January 2016. In 2015 I am considered a nonresident alien with no taxable income in the US. In 2016 I will be considered a resident alien with taxable income.

I'd like to make the move to the US in November 2015, i.e. while I'm still a nonresident alien with no taxable income in the US. Is it possible for me to deduct moving expenses (plane tickets, etc.) from my 2016 taxes?

IRS Publication 521 states that "If you were not reimbursed, deduct your moving expenses in the year you paid or incurred the expenses.". If I understand correctly, this means that if I'm paying for the plane tickets I will not be able to deduct them in 2016 (unless I move in 2016).

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That is correct, for expenses for which you're not asking for reimbursement you'll deduct in the year paid or accrued (which is 2015, in your case).

If you do submit reimbursements, you can wait until the employer reimburses you before deducting the un-reimbursed portion, and in this case you can wait and deduct in 2016 (because that's when you're starting the actual work, so you won't be reimbursed before that). From the IRS pub 521:

Choosing when to deduct. If you use the cash method of accounting, which is used by most individuals, you can choose to deduct moving expenses in the year your employer reimburses you if:

  • You paid the expenses in a year before the year of reimbursement, or

  • You paid the expenses in the year immediately after the year of reimbursement but by the due date, including extensions, for filing your return for the reimbursement year.

How to make the choice. You choose to deduct moving expenses in the year you received reimbursement by taking the deduction on your return, or amended return, for that year.

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