I'd really appreciate some advice or, at least, advice for WHERE to get advice on managing my tax status for this year.
I'm a political campaign worker and I temporarily moved to NH from VA for work. Total time spent in NH will be a little over half of 2018. I was under the impression that I'd be able to expense all my field mileage, field meals and also rent for my temporary housing up here as a 1099.
Then something weird happened: I show up and I'm told that I'm going to be paid W2. That means, apparently, that I'm not able to expense ANYTHING... which is a huge problem since I'm driving approximately 3000 miles/month and I'm not being reimbursed for jack. Being able to expense mileage etc is the only thing that makes this job somewhat survivable.
I don't know how much all this has to do with the new tax law or if being W2 before would have meant an itemized deduction that I wouldn't take rather than a pre-tax expense. I'm honestly unclear in general about the lines that delineate itemized deductions vs pre-tax deductions.
The upshot is: I'm bleeding hard up here. My employer is extremely resistant to change my tax status and I might get fired for asking. If I'm going to convince them to go with anything, it has to be correct because I've only got one shot, if that. It also doesn't help that I'm paying outrageous NH rent because of the high property taxes up here AND still paying VA income tax.
I've heard that I should be a "statutory employee" but I have no clue how that works. I'd have to do the math but, at this point, it'd probably be worth paying double FICA because my expenses are so high that I'm net earning next to nothing.
1) Can I expense mileage + temporary housing + business meals if I'm a "statutory employee"?
2) ^ These can all definitely be expensed if I'm 1099, correct?
3) I drive an average of 100 miles per day going to various field locations, NOT the primary office. Are fast food meals I grab on the road expensable business meals even if they're not in the context of a business meeting?
4) Does any of this change if I change my tax home for this year to New Hampshire so that I'm not subject to VA income tax for work done here?
That's a really good question. Campaign workers are usually paid 1099 with mileage reimbursed. This is the first time where I've had the opposite: W-2 with mileage NOT reimbursed. My employer refuses to switch to paying me 1099 because it would be too much hassle. The reason I'm asking is because this has never been an issue for me or for any of my colleagues.
I am not specifically a delivery driver, insurance agent, work-at-home craftsman or traveling salesman. The work that I do is most similar to the latter.
My job involves: identifying high-value voters; traveling across the congressional district to knock their doors, survey them and persuade them to support my candidate; organize with community groups + recruit volunteers to do the same; finally, my deliverable is reports on those activities. I've been salesman before and this is largely the same job.
Regardless of the technical definitions, the fact is I'm burning half my income on mileage. Is the IRS really going to challenge my return based on the fact that I'm not clearly in one of these specific groups?
Seems odd that the employer would think issuing you a 1099MISC (since this is whats normally done with campaign workers) is more hassle than keeping track of payroll. Independent contractors that receive a 1099MISC save the company money in payroll taxes as well.
The new tax reform has taken away the deduction for unreimbursed employee business expenses, so unless you're a independent contractor or a statutory employee you wont be able to deduct your out of pocket expenses to do your job.
You may need to have a conversation with your employer and explain your situation, or maybe look for a different employer that offers a better situation for you.