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Tax Season Tips for Travel Nurses

Attention all travel nurses – the date to file your taxes is April 15, 2024.  

If you’ve been a travel nurse for some time, you’ve probably had to deal with travel nursing tax issues in the past. You’re also likely aware that travel nurse tax rules can be especially tricky. Understanding how travel nurses are taxed is complex and requires a good deal of tax law knowledge. For starters, traveling nurses often must file their taxes in multiple states, which can be daunting and frustrating, especially when you have multiple residences

To help make this tax season less frustrating, we’ve gathered six tips for the 2024 tax season. Read on to find out how to make your 2023 tax filings simpler and understand topics like travel nurse tax homes.

1. File taxes on time

Though a very simple tip, it still needs stating. Taxes are due on April 15 this year, so make sure you file on time. To beat the deadline, gather all necessary assets, like W-2s, receipts, contracts, and any other sources of income and tax documentation. As soon as you compile all your documents for the year, you can either complete the taxes yourself or have a professional prepare your documents.

While taxes are never fun, especially travel nursing taxes, filing late will cost additional money in fees and penalties. So, it’s better to just get them done as soon as possible. Consider filing well before the due date in the future so you can receive your refund early and leave plenty of time to provide additional information if necessary. Also, you can minimize the risk of random audits by the IRS.

2. Track your expenses

To ensure the most accurate tax filing possible, it is essential to track your daily expenses, even during travel and long shifts, as well as your mileage. If you find yourself struggling with this task, consider using a mobile app to help you keep track of your spending. By tracking diligently and consistently, you will be able to calculate your travel nurse taxes and deductions with greater accuracy.

Another key aspect of this is ensuring you know what your per-diem is (if you have one) in each of your contracts. If properly outlined and accounted for, per-diems are paid on a tax-free basis. However, there are specific points that you need to meet to count per-diems as tax-free. Make sure you speak to your tax professional and meet the qualifications before you accept per-diems in any new contracts.

3. Stay organized (keep your documents together)

It is essential that you save all your receipts and contracts! This includes receipts from dining, fuel, utilities, uniforms, and any other expenses related to your travel nursing duties. Again, you can use mobile apps to scan receipts, track, and store them to make things easier. Organizing receipts on a weekly or monthly basis will save you a lot of time and stress come tax season.

Keeping your contracts is also important because they will outline the stipulations of each employment. Be sure to read them as well, so you know the tax implications of the contract.

4. Don’t change your address mid-travel

Whenever possible, use your permanent residence for tax purposes (assuming your permanent residence hasn’t changed). This tip applies even if your travel nursing assignments lead you to work in multiple states or if you live in a temporary residence in a different state longer than you resided in your permanent residence for the year. Temporary residences are just that, temporary. Using your permanent residence eliminates confusion.

5. Filing with a tax home

While a tax professional can provide much more in-depth information about this, establishing a tax home is important for travel nurse taxes. The IRS defines a tax home as “the entire city or general area where your main place of business or work is located, regardless of where you maintain your family home.”

You can qualify for a tax home one of two primary ways: 

  • You can prove you have a tax home if your primary area of residence is also your main area of income. 
  • You visit your primary residence at least once every 12 months and can prove that you are paying for expenses to maintain your primary home.  

Because nurses typically travel out of state, option two is likely most relevant for you. If you cannot establish a tax home, you may be taxed on stipend payments or other parts of your compensation package. Again, speak to a tax professional and review your contracts closely to fully understand what they entail.

6. Consider getting help from a tax professional

Travel nurse tax rules can be tricky. Hiring a tax advisor or professional – especially one with expertise in travel nursing taxes – can make the process easier. Though tax software can be used, if you are filing in multiple states, there are overrides and state-specific tax laws of which you may not be aware.

By hiring a competent tax professional, you can be assured no accidental errors will be made. Tax professionals can also gather additional information from previous contracts, payroll, or other agencies if you need it. Look for a tax expert that specializes in travel nursing tax rules to ensure a smooth tax filing season. A professional can also help in case you are audited.

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