Some Commuters Claim Car Costs

Article excerpt

Count on the IRS to be unyielding when it comes to deductions for the cost of commuting between home and work. It matters not that you work in a remote area unaccessible by public transportation or suffer from a disability that bars use of public transportation.

For instance, IRS rulings denied deductions for taxi fares needed to transport physically disabled persons to and from their jobs. Similarly, no write-offs become available just because you need a car for faster trips to work or for emergency trips. Fortunately, the tax collectors do not always have the final word.

A case in point: The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit rejected the pro-IRS reasoning of the Tax Court and allowed Salt Lake City police captains Jon R. Pollei and Harry W. Patrick to deduct driving costs from their homes to stationhouses.

The case was spawned by a cost-cutting campaign undertaken by Salt Lake City. As part of those efforts, the city required command-level officers to use their personal cars during expanded duty tours that began as soon as they left their homes and ended when they returned home.

The city outfitted these unmarked cars with special gear, including sirens, emergency lights and radios, equipment that made it possible for the two captains to monitor police calls, observe responses of subordinates to calls from dispatchers and respond more quickly to emergency situations.

The Tax Court ruled that the IRS correctly characterized the between-homes-and-stationhouses trips as commuting, not business, because the captains did not do any work, whereas the Tenth Circuit noted that the city gave them no choice, requiring commanding officers to perform supervisory and patrol duties during those trips. …