By Julian Block
Usually, the Internal Revenue Service adamantly opposes deductions for commuting costs between home and work. The tax collectors consider those outlays to be nondeductible personal expenses, no matter how necessary. It makes absolutely no difference if your work location is in a remote area not serviced by public transportation or that disability or illness rules out using public transportation.
This hard-nosed approach was underscored in a ruling that denied deductions for cab fares required to transport a physically disabled person to and from work. Similarly, no write-offs become available merely because you need a car to get to work more quickly or in emergencies.
Is it possible to get around these restrictions if you install a telephone in your car and make calls to clients or business associates or hold business discussions while driving to work? The IRS says that does not transform the trips from commuting to business.
Nor can commuting legitimately be called something else because someone suffers racial discrimination, a point of law on which the IRS has the backing of the Tax Court. The court held that racial bias did not entitle a black Californian to deduct his personal costs of commuting 17 1/2 miles from his home in Huntington Beach to a job in Orange, where he had been transferred by his employer. Robert Brown cited racial discrimination against blacks as the reason for his inability to buy a home in Santa Ana, two miles from his job. But the court said it made no difference that he was forced to commute; the tax laws authorize no relief for someone whose nontax rights are violated.