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I'm exploring a new job opportunity. The position will require me to be on-site at a location about ~2hrs away from my home and working 12-14 hour days for 3 days per week. As such, a hotel near the location will probably be my home away from home.

The position is a contract position but I'd be paid as an hourly employee and given a W2. The contract is for one year in duration but is expected to be extended annually for an indefinite period of time.

My understanding (from reading IRS topic 511) is that my tax home will be the city in which I work. Since I will always be working on-site and I reasonably expect to be working there for more than one year, I won't be able to deduct hotel expenses, meals, or mileage on my vehicle (I'll be driving to the city itself and my office, but I don't travel during the day for the job).

My questions are:

  1. Am I correctly interpreting the tax situation in that I'm not going to be able to leverage my travel costs to receive any tax break?
  2. Taxes aside, what would be the best way to manage the financial outlays of frequent self-funded business travel? I'm looking at the potential hotels in the town to find the one with the best rewards program and comparing it against using a site like Hotels.com with a fixed free night punchcard. I'm also looking at credit cards with hotel booking bonus categories.
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I will answer #2.

Have you looked into renting a room? Being that you will pretty much be sleeping/working, this might be the best choice. You can rent a furnished room, probably, for the cost of about 5 nights in a decent hotel. It is hard to beat a ~42% discount. You may be able to lower the cost of the rental being that you will only be there about half the month.

Failing that you could reduce costs by only staying 2 nights per week at the location. Drive in the first AM, and drive home the last PM. Also I would talk to a hotel manager about your plans and see if they can give you special rates if you are going to stay on a regular basis. Also some chains will offer extra reward points if you do not have your room cleaned. Provided you had sufficient towels, you could easily go three days without having a room cleaned.

As far as the optimal credit card strategy, I think the first choice would be to see where you are going to rent a room (it could be at a hotel), and then go from there. There are way to many variables to consider at this juncture. Besides that is kind of the tail wagging the dog as it tends to be much more efficient to save off of a rate than to achieve better rewards.

  • I have looked into the room rentals. Unfortunately the area I'd be working in is....well, 'rural' would be a compliment. There are a few whole apartments for rent, but the cost comes out to about the same and I'm pulled towards hotels for the personal safety aspect (both my own safety and the idea of leaving personal items behind). I'm definitely going to see if I can work out some kind of a bulk purchase or frequent discount with the manager of whatever hotel I settle on - I've never done anything like that before so it'll be an interesting experience. – Brian R Apr 17 '18 at 17:56
  • @BrianR sure, plus you would have to furnish an apartment. If the costs are about the same, then I would agree that a hotel or motel is a much better option. – Pete B. Apr 17 '18 at 19:01

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