The Fifty Mile Rule and Travel Nursing


Posted to Nursing, Nursing Jobs, Travel Nursing

The Fifty Mile Rule and Travel Nursing

Is there really a 50 mile rule for travel nurses or is this just something someone made up to keep the locals from benefiting from travel nurse perks?

The truth is there is no real rule. There are some qualifications that the IRS imposes on travel nurses regarding tax free benefits. Some travel nursing recruiters confuse these IRS rules with the so-called 50 mile rule and sometimes hospitals do impose an imaginary 50 mile rule to keep it’s community nurses happy. It’s really up to the travel nurse to know the difference and to discuss the issue with the recruiter.

In a large metropolitan area such as Los Angeles where the locals are used to driving long distances for everyday events such as shopping, entertainment, sporting events, school and religious worship, driving 50 miles to and from work is not an unusual task. For someone in a more rural area, this might seem to be unusual and taxing.

For a restless nurse living in Los Angeles, the opportunity to take on a traveling nurse assignment 50 miles from home may be just the spark s/he needs to renew the sense of why s/he became a nurse and loves this profession. It could serve the nurse and his/her patents well to bring this renewed sense of caring spirit to work each day.

How this nurse approaches the travel assignment is key to whether s/he qualifies for the tax free benefits of a travel nursing assignment. This is subjective data and will vary with each individual nurse. Assuming our restless nurse has a home in the Los Angeles area, how s/he approaches the IRS Sleep & Rest Test will determine the amount of tax free benefits s/he is entitled to.

If our nurse drives to and from the assignment each day, returning to his/her own home then s/he is not entitled to any tax free reimbursements for meals and housing.

If however, the particular drive takes significant time and the nurse feels that this drive would make him/her unfit to care for patients, s/he can accept the tax free temporary housing/meal package nearby the hospital as long as s/he does not return home during his/her travel assignment.

Another nurse may chose to work the 50 plus miles from home grouping his/her 12 hour shifts together each week. This nurse accepts temporary housing in a hotel for the 3 days each week that s/he works, and returns home for the 4 days s/he has off each week. Because she is staying in a hotel and returns home each week, 4/7ths of this housing and meal allowance is taxable (or must be returned).

If this same nurse took an apartment as part of her package deal, the rent would qualify for tax free status, but his/her meal allowances for the days off spent at his/her own home would not.

The Sleep & Rest Test applies if the individual nurse feels it necessary to stay nearby the assignment in order to be adequately rested to be fit to care for the patients. This is subjective and will vary from nurse to nurse. Some nurses would prefer to drive back and forth and use the time to for such things as to unwind, to listen to books on tape or to talk to family and friends on the cell phone (hands-free in CA of course), etc.

If you’re looking for a travel nursing assignment closer to your own home, and being told about a 50 mile rule, get some clarification from the recruiter. Also have a good understanding of the tax implications if you accept a housing and meals package.

By Kathy Quan RN BSN. Kathy is the author of The Everything New Nurse Book and the owner/author of

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