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Writing off job-related moving costs

Unemployment figures released last week were still bad, but not as bad.

Part of the reason may be that some folks have found work in new places.

Moving materials A recent survey by the outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas found that slightly more than 18 percent of job seekers who got work in the second quarter of 2009 moved in order to take their new positions.

That compares with 14.3 percent in the first quarter of the year. During the same time period last year, the number of job-related relocations was 11.4 percent.

I totally agree with Seeking Alpha that this is a good sign: "One of the enduring strengths of the economy has been the willingness to strike out and move to where employment opportunities were better."

In announcing the job relocation survey results, Challenger noted that while many folks who move still are likely to lose money on the sale of their homes, the overwhelming desire to get back to work appears to be outweighing the perceived real estate risks.

And if the move-for-work trend continues, it could actually help improve some housing markets. Challenger says it could reignite home sales in parts of the country with plentiful job opportunities.

Moving tax tips: One of the nice things about moving for a job is that you can deduct some of those costs. Even better, you don't have to itemize to claim these expenses.

You must, however, meet a couple of basic requirements.

The move has to be work related. You can't simply write off a change of scenery.

You also must meet the IRS' time and distance tests.

"Time" means you have to work at your new location for at least 39 weeks in the first year after your move.

"Distance" requires that your new job be at least 50 miles farther from your previous residence than your last office was from that home. Basically, the IRS isn't going to help pay for a move that simply provides you an easier commute.

If you're reentering the full-time workforce, you can claim the deduction even if you don't have a job when you move.

If you're married and file jointly, only one spouse needs to meet both the time and distance tests.

Filing basics: As for filing itself, you do have to fill out another piece of tax paperwork, Form 3903.

And, no surprise here, the IRS has plenty of moving deduction do's and don'ts. Here are some of the more interesting ones.

Costs to transport pets are deductible.

So is the cost to have your car hauled to your new home.

If you drive your vehicle to your new locale, you can deduct actual driving costs (such as gas and oil) or keep track of miles and write them off at, for 2009 filings, 24 cents per mile. Just make sure you don't dally. The IRS says your route should be the most direct from your old home to your new residence.

If you're moving to take your first job, you can deduct allowable moving costs. But in one of the oddities of tax law, you cannot deduct any job search expenses you incurred to land your first-ever paying position. Go figure.

Insurance to cover your move, as well as the fee for up to 30 days of storage, also can be claimed.

But don't try writing off other expenses.

You can't claim any expenses incurred in buying or selling a house or breaking a lease. That forfeited apartment security deposit is yours alone to cover.

And in-transit meals aren't deductible. The thinking here is that everyone eats, so why should movers get a break for lunch on the road while stationary diners don't?

Move moving material: The IRS has moving expense details in Publication 521 (this is still the 2008 version, but the basics will be the same for 2009 returns). The tax agency also provides an online "tax trail" that walks you through the tax issues related to a move.

You can find additional info in this Bankrate story, this Lawyers.com item and from blogger William Perez at About.com Tax Planning.


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