Getting to work can be expensive for those who live a considerable distance from their places of employment. It would be nice if you could claim a tax deduction for some or all of the costs associated with commuting to your job, but most people cannot. Commuting to and from work is considered a personal expense, so it's not tax-deductible any more than that cup of coffee you grabbed on your way.
The only people who may be able to claim a deduction for unreimbursed employee expenses include Armed Forces reservists, qualified performing artists, fee-basis state or local government officials, and employees with impairment-related work expenses.
However, if you are self-employed, there may be some deductions you can still take for mileage.
For those who qualify, the deduction is actually an adjustment to income (above the line) rather than an itemized deduction list on Schedule A.
Changes to Mileage Deductions
In previous tax years, self-employed people, most businesses, and even many individual taxpayers were able to deduct mileage for business purposes. Unfortunately, from 2018 to 2025, many of these deductions for individuals have been eliminated.
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (TCJA) eliminated most miscellaneous itemized deductions, including the one for miles driven for work purposes. If the TCJA is not renewed in 2026, these deductions may return.
Traveling Away From Home Deduction
What you can deduct begins with your tax home—which the IRS describes as your regular place of business (or post of duty), and includes the entire city or general area where the business or work is located.
Commuting might qualify as an itemized deduction if your employer requires that you travel from one business location to another, such as from your regular place of employment to a branch office or anywhere else to do business on your employer's behalf. Your employer can't reimburse you for the mileage, however, and you can't deduct expenses associated with traveling from your own home to your tax home.
Assigned to Temporary Work
The IRS allows a deduction for mileage when a taxpayer is traveling away from their tax home for a temporary assignment. If you drive from home to your regular place of employment, it's not deductible, but if your employer requires that you work somewhere else, this mileage may be deductible.
How Travel Miles Work
If you travel 800 miles a month from home to work on an offshore oil rig, this does not qualify. Even if the location of the rig changes, your commuting expenses would be a nondeductible personal expense because each rig is your regular place of employment and tax home.
However, if your employer puts you on desk duty in its home office for a period of time with the understanding that you will return to work on the rig in less than a year, travel to this location qualifies. If you have to drive from the home office to the rig to do an errand for your employer, this qualifies, as does driving from the office—or from the rig, for that matter—to a client's or customer's location or a business meeting.
Standard Mileage Rate vs. Actual Expenses
The standard mileage rate deduction for the 2020 tax year is 57.5 cents per mile. You have the option of claiming this or a percentage of your actual vehicle expenses instead, including gas, insurance, parking, tolls, repairs, and depreciation.
The percentage is your business miles versus personal miles. If you drive 36,000 miles a year with 18,000 miles dedicated to business use, you can deduct 50% of your actual expenses.
If you qualify, you can claim this deduction as an employee business expense using Form 2106. If you qualify but failed to claim the deduction, you can generally go back up to three years and amend your tax returns.
You must itemize rather than take the standard deduction to claim this expense, and your total employee business expenses must exceed 2% of your adjusted gross income. You can claim a deduction for the balance over this amount.
The rules change dramatically if you're self-employed. Whenever you leave your business location, whether you work from home or maintain a business location elsewhere, you can begin tallying up your miles and costs from the moment you leave that place as long as you're traveling for business purposes. In this case, you can claim a standard mileage rate of 57.5 cents per mile for tax year 2020.
The business use rule still applies, though. If you visit a client 20 miles away from your place of business, you can take a deduction based on 40 miles for the round trip. But if you make a side trip on your way home to stop for dinner with friends, and if the restaurant is 10 miles out of your way, your deduction is still based on 40 miles. You would claim your business mileage on Schedule C; you would not have to itemize to claim the deduction.
You can claim 17 cents per mile for miles driven for medical care purposes for tax year 2020, but you can only deduct the portion of your overall itemized medical expenses that exceed 7.5% of your adjusted gross income.
The TCJA will expire at the end of December 2025 unless Congress takes steps to renew it. Should it expire, miscellaneous itemized deductions might return to the tax code in 2026, but you're more or less out of luck until that time if you must travel for work purposes and you're not self-employed.