Commuting?: EMPLOYMENT EXPENSES

In an August 15, 2019 Tax Court of Canada case, at issue was the deductibility of a number of employment expenses (primarily travel, lodging and motor vehicle expenses) incurred by the taxpayer. While the taxpayer resided in Ottawa, he signed an employment contract with a company based in Regina. The employment contract stated that the new employment position would be “based from our yet to be determined office in Ottawa, Ontario.” For the 2012 and 2013 tax years, the taxpayer shuttled by air between Ottawa and Regina weekly. In order to deduct travel costs incurred by the employee, the employee must have been required to travel away from the employer’s place of business.

The taxpayer argued that his home in Ottawa was a place of employment, and therefore, costs of travel between his work location in Ottawa, and the work location in Regina, were deductible as they were incurred in the course of employment.

Taxpayer loses, mostly

The Court rejected the taxpayer’s assertion, finding that the employer did not have a place of business in Ottawa. The Court observed that the fact that the employee might choose to “squeeze in” work (in this case on some Mondays or Fridays) at his home in Ottawa did not, without more, constitute the home being an employment location. Further, there were no photographs of the home office, testimony describing it, or home office expenses claimed. The Court stated that the employment contract did not alter its decision as there was no evidence that the employer made any effort to find an office in Ottawa, and no evidence related to work pertinent to Ottawa was provided.

As such, travel between Ottawa and Regina was personal, and the associated lodging and travel costs were denied.

The Court also reiterated that the appeal was considered without regard to the distance between the employee’s home and the employer assigned office: the two locations could be in the same municipality or different provinces. In other words, commuting to work, no matter how far, is considered personal. However, note that there are some exceptions to this rule, such as where the individual travels to a temporary special work site, or a remote work location.

ACTION ITEM: If considering the acceptance of employment that requires significant commuting, consider that the commuting costs likely will not be deductible.

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