Easily understand your travel healthcare taxes

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When you extended, negotiate! There are many overhead costs that the agency does not have to pay when you extend, like background tests, drug screens, licensure costs, and travel costs.

Most companies can’t give you more tax-free reimbursement money because that would be not very logical to the IRS on why you would suddenly need more money for housing or meals when you are in the same place.

But there are places you can ask for a raise. Try these options: your taxable pay, a one-time bonus, a CEU course, or new scrubs.

A good rule of thumb is if you received money for travel in the first contract, at least make sure you get a raise that equals that amount of money in the extension.

Extra hour pay is how much you make when you pick up hours over your contracted hours. When you work extra hours, you are not allowed to get any more tax-free stipends. So all that is left to earn is your taxed hourly rate. If you make $20 an hour without the stipends, that is all you will be making. If you hit overtime, it would be $30 ($20 x 1.5).

The agency is still making the same bill rate or more from the facility per hour, so there is room to negotiate extra hour bonus pay. Even if the agency can’t give any more tax-free money, they can offer more taxed pay per hour that you work over your contracted hours.

When negotiating the extra hour bonus amount, try to make (at least) your blended hourly rate when you add everything together.

Some companies will not negotiate this part of a contract, and the recruiter can’t control what the company will allow. But you can always ask!

This is state-mandated. Each state has a rule that tells the staffing company how much they must pay over 40 in a week. If you are working in CA, AK, or NV you will also get paid overtime for each hour over 8 in one day.

The overtime rate is on the taxable hourly rate and not the stipends because this is the only part of your paycheck that is legally income. Here is what your overtime pay looks like:

Holidays are usually paid higher than normal shifts. Companies might offer 1.5x or 2x your normal taxable hourly rate. But keep in mind, there are no federal or state laws that require companies to compensate you for holidays off or to pay you extra (over and above your normal hourly rate) for working on a holiday.

There are two things that could happen on a holiday:

1. The facility doesn’t need you. That would mean you will work fewer hours that week and not get paid for the holiday. There is a possibility that you could pick up a different shift that week, but it is not guaranteed.

2. The facility needs you. You work and will be paid the holiday rate per hour.

Important to know – During a holiday week, your hours are not guaranteed. The facility doesn’t have to work you on the holiday.

Holidays are not a “call-off” shift. Some assignments come with a call-off shift allowance. This means a manager is allowed some days during your 13 weeks assignment that they can call you off and where you would not get paid. Only after those call-off shifts are over would your guaranteed hours kick in.

The most common holidays in travel nurse/allied health contracts are: New Years Day, Labor Day, Independence Day, Memorial Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas.

Ask your recruiter upfront about how their company pays for holidays and what to expect! There isn’t much to negotiate here, but aligned expectations are great to have.

The cancellation policy overrides any guaranteed hours. If you have a facility that no longer needs you, this policy will tell us how much of a notice you would get. Common examples are a zero-day notice, a two-week notice, or a 30-day notice.

Whatever the cancellation policy is from the facility is the same notice you need to give the facility if you need to call the contract off.

When you are finding housing in an area, try not to sign leases that are the entire three months of an assignment. Instead, try to have a month-to-month lease or a clause in the lease where the landlord will let you out in the case of a cancellation. While cancellations are rare, they do happen.

Call-off shifts:

Sometimes, facilities have a certain number of shifts that they can call you off with no pay. Even if you have guaranteed hours, they can use these call-off days first, before the guarantee kicks in. This is especially common with nursing contracts.

Even if you have call-off shifts in the contract, your facility often won’t use them, but they could! So you need to know to budget for that.

Guaranteed hours means that the facility is saying:

“We’re going to give you ____ hours of work each week. If we call you off, we’re still going to pay you for those hours.”

Sometimes (especially for nurses), facilities also get call-off shifts. Then they would say, “I have ___ number of call-off shifts I am allowed use that allows me to cancel a shift without paying you. But after that, even if we call you off, we will pay you for the guaranteed hours.”

If you volunteer not to work, the facility may think you are willing to take an unpaid day off. Tell them that you are willing to work and make sure they still agree to sign the time card for the full guaranteed hours.

A company should give you your taxable base pay AND the tax-free reimbursements for the guaranteed shift, even if you are called off.

However, if you call in sick or for any reason choose not to go to work, you will not get paid your taxable base pay. You may or may not get the tax-free reimbursements for that shift, depending on the company policy.

Keep in mind that agencies do not get paid the bill rate when you call out. If they operate on tight margins (aka by paying us competitively), they may not have enough money left to pay you stipend money when you are not working.

Important to know:

A facility does not have guaranteed hours during orientation week, the last week of an assignment, either any week that has a holiday in it.

On-call pay:

An agency usually only gets between $4 – $10 an hour for on-call from the facility. These are the hours you are on call and ready to work but have not been called in.

Many companies will pass most or all the on-call pay to the traveler. Feel free to ask for more on-call pay, but there may not be any extra here.

Call-back pay:

Many hospitals (not all) pay a slightly higher bill rate to the agency for call-back hours. So call back pay is an excellent place to try to negotiate for a higher hourly rate.

Make sure that you get a 2-hour minimum pay if you are called in. (So if you get called in for a quick 30-minute assessment, you are paid for 2 hours). This is standard in contracts between facilities and agencies, so that rule should be passed on to you.

A missed shift if when you, the traveler, cancels a shift. When you miss a shift there are two parties who do not get paid:

1. The recruitment agency
2. You

So depending on how your agency structures their pay packages, sometimes there is a clause in your contract that says you have a penalty for missing hours. They essentially are just not paying you for that day that you were out.

You already won’t get paid for the hourly rate. But the company still needs a way to get back the stipend part of your paycheck. So they might make a penalty that will equal something close to what your stipends cost them per hour. So while it may say the word penalty it really means you are not getting paid (hourly or reimbursements) for any hours you don’t go into work.

Just make sure the amount is fair. If they are charging you more than your stipends would have cost them, challenge that. You shouldn’t actually have to pay money for being sick, you just simply don’t get paid.

A bonus provided by the facility:

These bonuses are offered by the facility and are separate from and on top of the bill rate. They are usually completion bonuses. This type can not be negotiated or moved into your weekly pay package.

Make sure you know what the rules are for getting this bonus. Some are overly strict (like you can’t even have one sick day). And also, ask when you will get this bonus, so you and your company are on the same page. Many times it’s a month or more after you finished.

A bonus provided by the agency:

This is marketing to make a job sound more exciting. It is from money that is part of the bill rate. Any company can take a dollar away from the hourly pay and move it over to offer you a $500 bonus. When it’s all said and done, it’s the same amount of money.

Make sure your tax-free stipends are maxed out first before ever considering a bonus. If an agency bonus is offered, ask if the money can be instead divided up and put into your stipends.

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