7 things you must know about travel nursing reimbursements

Travel nursing reimbursements: per diems, allowances, tax advantage, stipends. As they say in Thailand tourist circles: “same, same but different!” They are all reimbursements. Travel nursing reimbursements are typically tax-free ways to get money to us. We love ’em! Companies may call the tax-free pot of money different words, but functionally it’s the same. It’s the part of your paycheck that is not taxed when you work as a travel nurse.

The 7 must-knows of travel nurse reimbursements:

  1. Per Diem refers to meals, incidentals, and housing only. You wouldn’t receive a per diem for scrubs or for one-time travel reimbursement. Companies usually pay per diems per shift, per day, or per week. These are not given to us per hour or in a lump sum.
  2. GSA.gov: Companies decide how much to pay us per shift or week for our per diems based on this. This website is created by the government to show a MAX amount we are allowed to get reimbursed for food and housing in each zip code.
  3. MAX amount meaning many times we will not receive this much. Recruiters can only offer us what the bill rate can afford to give us. If the hospital is offering a really high bill rate to have us work for them, we might get the max amount. If the hospital is offering a low or even average bill rate, we won’t get the max amount.
  4. Travel nursing reimbursements can cover your per diems (food and housing) as well as scrubs, continued education, travel, and hotel costs, and more. Anything that is directly a cost for your new assignment can be reimbursed tax-free. It does not mean companies choose to pay for every cost but they hypothetically could.
  5. With the new tax law, you can not deduct your own work expenses on your taxes at the end of the year anymore. You can only get tax-free reimbursements if your company offers it.
  6. You have to negotiate all travel nursing reimbursements upfront on each new contract. Don’t assume a company will cover your scrubs or CEU’s unless you worked it into your pay package and benefits at the start. They have to move money around to make that work. Not all companies even offer the benefit of negotiating these things. It’s a lot of extra work for them to custom make so many pay packages!
  7. Travel nursing reimbursements (no matter what they are called) all come from the same place. The bill rate. Learn how to read pay packages so you don’t get wooed by silly marketing. Nothing is free!

Travel nursing reimbursements are not considered income

  • When applying for a house, car, loan, social security, short term disability, etc: the lender looks at the taxable wages we receive to consider us eligible for approval. Legally that is what our pay and income are. Reimbursements don’t count.
  • We are eligible to get this tax-free part of our paycheck only when we have a tax home. Make sure you know how to set this up correctly, so you don’t owe back taxes and penalties in case of an audit.
  • You CAN be a travel nurse without receiving any tax-free reimbursements. If you are a traveler with no tax home, you can enjoy the freedom of the lifestyle but your whole paycheck will be taxed.

To sum it up y’all, it’s awesome that we get tax-free benefits to travel for our jobs! I don’t care what name you want to call them, I love that they are a thing!

There are a few rules we have to play by to get this money but it’s a HUGE perk of being a travel nurse.

Cheers to tax-free money!

Laura Latimer

Laura Latimer

Travel OT and Founder of Nomadicare

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