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Q. I'm planning to start traveling next year, and I'm wondering whether I should get an accountant to help me figure out my taxes. Any advice?-M.R., MASS


A. When traveling, you'll have the opportunity to deduct much more than you would normally. An accountant can educate you about those deductions as well as state taxes and allowable reimbursements. Plus, she'll be in your corner if you need to file a late return after April 15 or are facing an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) audit.


If you work with an accountant, your job will be to keep receipts for anything that's deductible, a copy of your travel contracts for the year, and a log of where you've been and the dates you were there. Make copies of all of these documents before sending them to the accountant; as alternatives, you can fax them or scan and e-mail them.


Don't just rely on the accountant, though. You'll need to stay on top of things too. For example, your food and living expenses will be tax deductible while you work away from home, but how will you handle them? You can collect all your receipts on an assignment and give them to your accountant at the end of the year. Or, if that sounds like a big headache, you can deduct a daily standard meal allowance. To confirm up-to-date figures, go to the IRS Web site at http://www.irs.gov; in the search box for Forms and Publications, type 1542.)


Pay attention to how much your company is paying you per mile for travel too. If you aren't being paid the standard mileage deduction, you can claim the difference at the end of the year. Here's an example: In 2004, the standard mileage deduction is 37.5[cents] per mile. If you traveled and the agency paid you only 30[cents] per mile, you can deduct the difference-7.5[cents] per mile-at the end of the year. Check Publication 505 on the IRS's Web site for details.


The IRS publications mentioned above are just two of many online resources you'll want to review. When you visit the IRS's site, also look for publications on travel expenses (Publication 463), education expenses (Publication 508), and medical and dental expenses (Publication 502). They're sure to help you stay up-to-date.




Hitting the Road: A Guide to Travel Nursing, S. Kearney, Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2003.