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Repayments Under U.S. Payback Agreements No Longer Deductible

A little noticed effect of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) is that repayments required of employees under agreements to repay relocation costs if the employee leaves within a short time will no longer be deductible.

Relocation is expensive. Companies want to make sure they receive some benefit in the form of future services for the costs incurred to move an employee. Therefore, relocation programs generally incorporate provisions requiring employees to repay all or a part of the expenses incurred to relocate them unless they continue to work for the company for a specified period.

When the employee does in fact leave early, the tax treatment of the employee’s repayment of costs becomes an issue. Repayments in the same year as the move are not at issue, because such repayments are accounted for by simply adjusting withholding and payroll taxes. No deduction by the employee is necessary. However, if the repayment is in a year subsequent to the move the employee has historically been allowed to claim a deduction for the repayment.

In Rev. Rul. 79-311, 1979-2 C.B. 25, the United States Internal Revenue Service (IRS) held that an employee who erroneously received wages and repaid them in a subsequent year was entitled to an itemized deduction as an employee business expense. Rev. Rul. 79-311 has been applied to repayment of moving expenses in PLRs 9050053 and 9313015 (IRS private letter rulings).

Such a deduction, however, would be a “miscellaneous itemized deduction”. The TCJA suspended the availability of miscellaneous itemized deductions beginning in 2018 through 2025. Therefore, repayments in years subsequent to the move are no longer deductible.

An alternative to an itemized deduction was to claim an adjustment under section 1341 (the so-called “claim of right” provision). Section 1341 provides that when a taxpayer restores a substantial amount (defined as exceeding $3,000) received under a claim of right, the taxpayer can either claim the allowable deduction in the year of restoration, or recompute the tax for the year in which the amount was received and claim a deduction in the current year for the amount the taxes would have been reduced in that prior year, whichever is most beneficial. The section 1341 adjustment is not subject to the 2 percent floor which was applicable to miscellaneous itemized deductions.

However, section 1341 is not applicable unless a deduction was allowable for the current year in the first place. Therefore, it cannot be used beginning in 2018 for repayments under payback agreements.

How This Affects Mobility

Repayments after the year of the move are no longer deductible and that may have serious consequences. Repayments tend to be substantial. Therefore, the loss of deductibility by the employee may be quite painful from a financial standpoint, and may inhibit companies’ efforts to enforce payback agreements.

Source: Worldwide Employee Relocation Council

About Relocation America International

Relocation America International is a full service relocation management company dedicated to providing innovative relocation services, value added support, and superior customer service to clients relocating families domestically and internationally. Visit for more information about our services or contact us at

Hot Topics, Household Goods Management

Breaking News: Atlas Vanlines Releases 2018 Corporate Relocation Survey Results

Relocation America International, as a partner of Atlas Vanlines, is pleased to announce the results of the relocation industry’s first and longest-running survey into corporate relocation policy and practice.

For this year’s edition a total of 435 individuals responsible for relocation as part of their professional duties took part in the survey.  Among the topics discussed in the survey were  relocation initiation volume, budgets and recent tax reform legislation and its effect on relocation policies.  Below are some keys findings from the survey along with information on how you can obtain a complete copy of the survey results.

2018 Corporate Relocation Key Findings:

  • The majority of organizations (74%), regardless of size, have plans to implement policy changes in response to recent passage of the U.S. Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Among organizations planning policy changes in 2018, the most popular planned change across organizations  was to gross-up taxable relocation benefits.


  • The top factor affecting relocation last year was a lack of local talent.

  • Family concerns held the top spot among reasons why relocations were declined by employees, with spouse/partner employment in second place over the same period.

  • Even though most organizations reported improved financial performance, cost containment remains near historical highs. Even as firms expect increases in relocation costs, controlling the impact remains a priority.

  • More than two-thirds of companies outsourced relocation services last year.

  • Over the last few years, many organizations have used candidate assessments to support successful relocations. This year, nearly two-thirds of organizations assess candidates prior to relocation, down slightly from around three-fourths over the past three years, but maintaining a marked increase over the roughly half of firms that performed vetting from 2012 to 2014.

  • As lump-sum usage has grown, the survey incorporated additional questions about monetary ranges for the categories of reimbursement. Compared to the past five years, most offerings are more frequent and generous than in 2013 and on par with 2014, despite some dips below ranges reached in 2015. The overall median ranges are the highest in five years for: household goods shipping/storage, entire relocation cost, temporary housing, and miscellaneous expense allowance. However, offerings for real estate assistance/transactions, rental assistance/transactions and travel expenses fall one range lower.

The Atlas Vanlines Corporate Relocation Survey is a treasure trove of useful relocation information presented in a clean and easy to read format.  For a complete copy of the survey results please contact Relocation America International by completing the online form below:

About Relocation America International

Relocation America International is a full service relocation management company dedicated to providing innovative relocation services, value added support, and superior customer service to clients relocating families domestically and internationally. Visit for more information about our services or contact us at

Hot Topics, Household Goods Management

Household Goods Shipping Outlook for Peak Season 2018

Today’s post is a guest post by Ben Cross, Vice President, Business Development for University Moving and Storage.  University Moving and Storage is a premier supplier of moving, storage and distribution services to household, corporate and government clientele since 1969.

Home Sales Sluggish to Start 2018

The moving industry follows the real estate industry: when people buy a home, they move.  Last year ended as a robust one for real estate, with home stock increasing 6.5% according to Zillow (or $2 trillion) making it the best year since 2013 for home values. People were moving and shaking in 2017, and it felt like a great year to be a mover. Will 2018 be the same? No, probably not. Already we have seen home sales down in December of 2017 and January of 2018, amid forecasts that they would actually rise. We have also seen interest rates in the mid 4% range and based on what the Fed does, it could keep some from buying.

Corporate Moves May End Up As Consumer Moves

On the relocation end, the elimination of the moving expense deduction will probably not increase shipping volumes. If anything, it has the potential to shift more corporate transferees into the consumer market, as lump sum policies are adopted. While the consensus that lump sum programs are bad for productivity and for the onboarding experience, some corporations may choose to eliminate household goods as a managed benefit. This could negatively impact the two-thirds of transferees who move in peak season from May 15 – September 15. Corporations enjoy fixed household goods discounts which do not fluctuate, however, consumers are at the mercy of the marketplace where move pricing can change 30% in three months from February to May. It is our hope that corporations continue to understand that offering household goods benefits to employees is more beneficial for business and talent management. If corporations do not, they might find it more difficult to compete with companies who do or entice their existing talent to continue to move.

There is also an argument that the corporate tax reduction from roughly 35% in 2017, to 21% in 2018 will stimulate growth and boost employee mobility. The flipside of this argument is that corporations will use the reduction in tax for share buybacks.  My own prediction is that the net effect will be a reduction in corporate moves and a slight uptick in consumer moves if home sales snap back to forecast by May of 2018.

Rising Costs of Household Goods Shipping

Some of the major national vanline carriers have recently announced rate increases for their corporate clients to ensure that they will continue to retain drivers. These price increases are driven by three factors:

Capacity: Driver retention and recruitment is a zero sum game. When a moving company on boards a new driver, 90% of the time, the driver came from another van line. There are very few new over the road drivers being created and those that are coming into the business are more than offset by those leaving the industry. In order for van lines to win the war for talent in the driver seat, they will need to have better paying shipments than other van lines.

Artificially Low Prices: Years of artificially low prices are coming home to roost. Each time a van line goes through a Request For Proposal process, some client somewhere gets a better price. After years of these processes, van lines cannot continue to operate this way. We have seen massive consolidation and closure of van lines and agencies over the past decade. Currently, my estimation is that 80% of the national account driver capacity is operated by a very small number of companies. This consolidation has streamlined van lines but, without price increases, the van lines will be forced to do so.

Increased Cost of Materials: Unlike fuel, which has surcharges built in that can fluctuate with market conditions, there is no relief from the rising cost of cardboard. Yes, cardboard cost is killing pricing! Did you know that a typical household move of 13,000 lbs uses about 180 cartons? The largest supplier of packing materials to the household goods industry has already announced an increase of 7% on cartons and an increase of 12% on packing paper. Further increases are expected in the next 12-18 months due to the increase in demand from other e-commerce shipping companies like Amazon, Walmart/Jet and Blue Apron.

Overall, the good news is that despite tax changes which remove moving incentives, there is still more money for corporations to move people and very good reasons for corporations to offer household goods benefits. From a capacity standpoint, there are a few excellent van lines out there who still offer wonderful service and can handle corporate volumes. The only bad news for shippers, is that to access that high-quality capacity, the price of household goods moving will go up slightly.

About Relocation America International

Relocation America International is a full service relocation management company dedicated to providing innovative relocation services, value added support, and superior customer service to clients relocating families domestically and internationally. Visit for more information about our services or contact us at