Moving Expenses Tax Deduction

Family moving into new home
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If you relocated to start a new job, or to seek work in a new city, you may be able to deduct the cost of moving expenses from one home to another. Qualifying expenses include costs for packing and shipping your household goods and personal property, and costs for travel and lodging. Meals are not deductible as a moving expense.

Moving expenses are deducted "above-the-line" in the adjustments to income section of Form 1040.

That means you don't need to itemize. You can take this deduction in addition to the standard deduction or in addition to any itemized deductions.

There are three criteria for deducting moving expenses.

Criteria 1: The move is closely related to starting work at the new location.

The IRS will allow a person to deduct moving costs if the person relocates within one year from the time he or she first reported to work at his or her new location.

Example: Sally moves from Seattle to Austin on July 1st. She starts working at a job in Austin on November 1st. Since she started working within one year of the time she moved, she meets the "closely related to starting work" test.

Note that the example works just as well if we reverse the time frame. Suppose that Bernard starts working in Austin on April 1st. Later, he moves all his furniture and belongings (which he had put in storage) from Seattle to Austin on July 1st.

He still meets the "closely related to starting work test." Why? Because he moved within one year from the time he started working at his new location.

Exception: people who work outside the United States, and then retire and relocate back to the United States, can deduct their moving expenses -- even though they are not starting work at their new location.

Criteria 2: The move is far enough to satisfy the distance test

First, measure the distance from a person's previous residence to their new workplace. Let's call this measurement A.

Second, measure the distance from a person's previous residence to their previous workplace. Let's call this measurement B.

If A is at least 50 miles larger than B, then the move satisfies the distance test.

"Your move will meet the distance test," the IRS explains, "if your new main job location is at least 50 miles farther from your former home than your old main job location was from your former home."

Example: Sally used to live and work in Seattle. When she lived in Seattle, her commute from her home to her job was 10 miles. Then she relocated to Austin. The distance from her previous home (in Seattle) to her new job location (in Austin) is about 2,129 miles (according to Google Maps). Since 2,129 miles is "at least 50 miles farther" than her old commute of 10 miles, Sally's move meets the distance test.

Exception: members of the military can deduct moving expenses even if they don't meet the distance test. To qualify for this exception, the person must be on active duty and relocate because of a permanent change of station.

See the Members of the Armed Forces section of Publication 521 for more details.

Criteria 3: Work at the new location long enough to satisfy the time test

People will satisfy the time test in two ways:

a. they work full-time as an employee for at least 39 weeks during the 12 months following their move; or

b. they work full-time as a self-employed person for at least 39 weeks during the first 12 months following their move and at least 78 weeks during the 24 month period following their move.

Exceptions: there are five exceptions to the time test.

  • Members of the military on active duty relocating due to a permanent change of station
  • People who work abroad and then retire and relocate back to the United States
  • People who are the surviving spouse of a person who worked abroad and relocate back to the United States after their spouse's death.
  • People whose job at their new location ends because they became disabled or died.
  • People who are transferred to another location for their employer's benefit, and people who laid off for any reason except willful misconduct.

Where to Claim the Deduction

Moving expenses are recorded on Form 3903 (pdf, includes instructions).

Moving Expense Deduction Link Directory:

In-Depth Resources

Reference Material Elsewhere

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First published January 3, 2006. Last revised March 3, 2015.