No deduction for long-distance commuting caused by economic hardship
By Julian Block
Lawrence and Susanne Washburn lived with his mother in her apartment in New York City. When the mother decided to sell the apartment and move into a nursing home, the couple moved to lower-cost Vermont out of economic necessity.
The Washburns kept working in Manhattan, Larry as an attorney and Susanne at a part-time job with Time magazine, which required her Wednesday-Friday presence. So on Wednesday mornings, both drove the 215 miles from Vermont, spent Wednesday and Thursday nights at a friend's Manhattan apartment, and returned to Vermont on Fridays.
The Washburns argued that they were compelled by economic hardship, not personal preference, to live in Vermont; consequently, their weekly drives were deductible as business expenses. Nyet, nyet, and nyet, said the IRS, the Tax Court and the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. The couple's only place of business was Manhattan; Vermont's unquestionably being a less expensive place to live does not convert what is otherwise nondeductible commuting into deductible business travel.