Attorney-at-Law

“I’M STICKIN’ TO TH’ UNION” – PART DEUX

In Uncategorized on 02/15/2022 at 17:09

Judge Patrick J. (“Scholar Pat”) Urda looks deep into the craft of steamfitter in James P. Harwood and Connie J. Harwood, T. C. Memo. 2022-8, filed 2/15/22.

“According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, steamfitters ‘specialize in systems that are designed for the flow of liquids or gases at high pressure.’ What Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters Do, Occupational Outlook Handbook, U.S.  Bureau of Lab. Stat., https://www.bls.gov/ooh/construction-and-extraction/plumbers-pipefitters-and-steamfitters.htm#tab-2 (last visited Feb. 10, 2022)” T. C. Memo. 2022-8, at p. 2, footnote 2.

Judge Scholar Pat must have a good deal of fellow-feeling for Jim, as each in his own way plies similar crafts. Jim deals with high-pressure gasses in industrial settings; Judge Scholar Pat gets his high-pressure gas delivered by counsel at trial or oral argument. And we need both steamfitters and judges, else neither pipes nor precedents would stand up under continuous high pressure.

Jim’s contretemps with IRS stems from his now-mothballed unreimbursed employee travel expenses travel, which were live issues back in the day. Jim wandered “far and wee” but mostly through the jurisdiction of Plumbers and Steamfitters Union Local 598, whence came Jim’s work assignments; and when he wandered outside the 598 swath, he got his “travel card” ticket to work where other locals ruled.

But his heart, hearth and home were in Yakima, WA, where he and Ms Connie raised their family. When he wandered from job to job (that being the steamfitter’s life), he kept a log. Hard-hearted IRS said the Yakima homestead was for Jim’s convenience; as all Jim’s jobs for years at issue were short and of uncertain duration (lasting less than a year), Jim had no permanent tax home, so he had no travel expenses.

Judge Scholar Pat holds otherwise.

“We consider whether the taxpayer (1) incurs duplicate living expenses while traveling and maintaining the home, (2) has personal and historical connections to the home, and (3) has a business justification for maintaining the home.” T. C. Memo. 2022-8, at p. 10. (Citations omitted).

Jim definitely has two of the above. It’s the third that divides the parties.

“We are satisfied that Mr. Harwood had a sufficient business reason for living in Yakima. He was a member of a union local with a geographically disparate territory. Although he had not worked jobs in Yakima since 2005, almost all of his work during 2015–17 was within the Local’s footprint, with some assignments closer to his house than the hall in Pasco… and some further away…. We believe that his union membership, which gave him access to jobs within the union’s expansive territory, provided an adequate business justification for continuing to live in Yakima.” Order, at p. 11. (Citations omitted, but see my blogpost “I’m Stickin’ to th’ Union,” 9/21/11).

Judge Scholar Pat even judicially notices the map of Local 598’s territory, and includes same in T. C. Memo. 2022-8, at p. 2.

But there’s a noteworthy wrinkle here.

“…a taxpayer may deduct travel expenses between his or her residence and temporary work locations outside of the “metropolitan area” where the taxpayer lives and normally works. Thus, if a taxpayer usually works in Chicago, she may be entitled to deduct expenses if she drove back and forth to a worksite in Springfield. Although Mr. Harwood lives in Yakima, he does not normally work there, instead working throughout the disparate territorial jurisdiction of the Local. His travel accordingly does not qualify for this exception.” T. C. Memo. 2022-8, at p. 15, footnote 9. (Citations omitted).

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