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Temporary Duty

What is a temporary assignment for flight crew members?

Temporary duty is an assignment away from a pilot or flight attendant's main place of work that is in a single location, is realistically expected to last for less than one year, and does in fact last for one year or less. Typically, if a flight crewmember falls under the definition of a temporary assignment, the pilot or flight attendant's tax home remains at his or her previous tax home while the flight crewmember is on TDY.  This means the flight crewmember can deduct travel expenses and M&IE expenses while away from the original location.  Below is an example:

Ruth is a flight attendant for Delta Airlines.  Her domicile has always been ATL (Atlanta), but she was transferred to JFK (New York) in the middle of the year.  The assignment was an involuntary TDY and she hopes to be back in ATL within a few months.  A few months later she is awarded ATL as her domicile again. 

In this scenario, Ruth could consider ATL to be her tax home for the entire time she is based in JFK.  That means her expenses associated with traveling from ATL to JFK would be deductible.  If Ruth paid for hotel rooms or had a crash pad during the temporary assignment, then those could be written off on IRS Form 2106.

What is the problem with trying to take advantage of a temporary assignment to increase a per diem calculation?

The difficult thing for a flight crewmember to determine is how long the new assignment will last.  Typically the new domicile is the airline pilot or flight attendant's tax home, but if the crewmember is certain they are eligible to call the new assignment a temporary duty assignment, then several additional travel deductions are available for the flight crewmember to deduct.

In this example, if Ruth used EZPerDiem.com to compute her meal expense deduction, she would simply not include JFK as a domicile if JFK were a temporary assignment.  In addition, in the EZPerDiem.com Expense Processor, Ruth would also enter the travel expenses associated with getting back and forth between ATL and JFK.  Typically, she could not do this because commuting expenses are NOT deductible.

If Ruth were going to remain in JFK longer than one year, it would be an indefinite assignment and JFK would become Ruth's new tax home.

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