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Business Tax

IRS Releases 2017 Version of Publication 521 on Moving Expenses

IRS Publication 521 (Moving Expenses (for 2017 Tax Returns))

The IRS has released its version of Publication 521 (Moving Expenses) for use in preparing 2017 tax returns. The publication explains what types of work-related moving expenses may be deductible on an individual’s federal income tax return and who can deduct those expenses. It also details how and when the deduction is reported. The publication provides a brief overview of the two types of plans that an employer might use (accountable and nonaccountable) to reimburse employees for certain work-related moving expenses, and notes that an employer should tell an employee what method of reimbursement is being used and what records are required. The publication also explains where on an employee’s Form W-2 the reimbursements should be reflected. The only notable change from the 2016 version is that the standard mileage rate for individuals who use their own vehicles to move to a new home has been updated to reflect the applicable 2017 rate of 17 cents per mile, a two-cent decrease from the 2016 rate of 19 cents (see our Checkpoint article).

EBIA Comment: Under the recently enacted tax reform legislation, the exclusion for qualified moving expense reimbursements and the deduction for moving expenses will be available only for certain members of the military for an eight-year period starting in 2018 (see our Checkpoint article), But for the 2017 tax year, Code § 132(g) continued to allow employers to reimburse employees for certain moving expenses on a tax-free basis, so long as the expenses would have qualified for an individual tax deduction under Code § 217 and the accountable plan rules were met. The types of moving expenses that could be provided tax-free were limited, but some employers went further and reimbursed nondeductible expenses. Those expenses, and any deductible expenses for which the accountable plan rules were not met (e.g., expenses that were inadequately documented), had to be treated as paid under a nonaccountable plan and resulted in taxable income for employees. Publication 521 remains a good resource for some of the issues faced by employers that provided moving expense benefits for employees in 2017, while helping individuals determine which of their 2017 moving expenses qualify for a deduction and how to handle any employer reimbursements. For more information on employer-provided moving expense benefits, see EBIA’s Fringe Benefits manual at Section XVII (“Moving Expense Benefits”); for a discussion of the accountable plan rules, see Section II.E (“Employee Business Expense Reimbursements”).

Contributing Editors: EBIA Staff.

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