Do travel nurses make tax-free income?

Learn travel healthcare like a from fellow travelers (unbiased and honest)

Wait, did I hear a rumor that we get tax-free income as travel nurses? Yes, please. I would like that cake and I would like to eat it. But. Beep, beep, beep- let’s back up. There is no such thing actually. Yes, travel nurses are able to receive tax-free money in addition to their income. It’s there to reimburse them for their travel expenses
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Why isn’t this money taxed? It’s not income.

Reimbursements, per diems, allowances, stipends. For travel nurses, these words all pretty much mean the same thing… tax-free money, baby!! This money shows up on your paycheck. It might feel like income. Your recruiter may present this money to you as if it’s like income. Don’t let these things confuse you, travel nurses. Reimbursements are meant to offset the expenses you incur while traveling on assignment. They are not a part of your legal and taxable income.

  • Whatever you are making in the TAXABLE hourly part of your pay package breakdown – that is your income. Hello, income.
  • Whatever is in the meals, incidentals, lodging, travel reimbursements, etc sections – not income. No sir, you are not. I might see you on my paycheck each week – but you are not classified as legal income.

This is important because: If you are thinking about loans, buying a car, or taking out insurance or disability – your income is what is taken into consideration for approval from the lenders.

Travel nurse tax-free money: no need for receipts?

In some industries, workers and owners have to keep all of their records and receipts in order to be reimbursed for what they spent. Think about people that go on business trips. They are taking pictures of all those receipts after each meal and saving it to deduct for tax time or to bring back to their employers. Oof!

But for some, this just did not make sense. Like truckers and travel nurses! They constantly travel as part of their job and career. It created way too much work for the employees and employers. In order to put an end to some of the paperwork mess, the government decided to come up with a standardized amount for lodging and meals for certain industries. They based the amount on the cost of living index per zip code.

The amounts they came up with are public, and they are what most of our recruiters use to decide what to pay us for our meals and housing in each area. Check out the GSA.com per diem rate online! The table shows a listing of the maximum amount that somebody can receive for housing and meals without an exchange of receipts. (Remember maximum means max an agency is allowed to pay. It’s not what you should necessarily expect to receive. How much you receive is mostly dependent on what the facility is willing to pay you to come work for them. This is called the bill rate.)

What all of this means is if you are a travel nurse, and you qualify, you are now able to receive reimbursement for lodging and meals without having to exchange all that yucky paperwork. (However, most companies DO need receipts for other things like scrubs, travel reimbursement, or licensure.)

Hooray! Less work and mo’ money.

Tax-free reimbursements are a great perk of being a travel nurse. You can make up to 50% more than staff nurses and many times it’s this tax-free perk that allows us to take home so much doe. It’s amazing. It’s fun. It’s freedom!

Cheers to getting paid to travel,

xo Laura

Hey friends. This is really important. I am not a tax advisor and the information I provide on this blog about taxes is not legal advice. Please, don’t treat a blog, Facebook, or your recruiter as your tax advisor. But please, learn some theories here and get some great context to go to your tax advisor with questions about your unique situation!

Keep learning, empowered travelers 💪

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Additional Reimbursements

Did your offer come with something extra that would cost the staffing agency money? This may include a CEU class, scrubs, or sign on bonuses. Don’t worry if this section is blank, most offers don’t have extra reimbursements.

Travel Reimbursements

This is tax-free money that is paid to you to help you pay for the expense of traveling to your assignment. Many staffing agencies pay for this per mile up to a certain amount. They will usually pay this on your first paycheck or split between your first paycheck and last. If you are traveling a short distance this could be a very small amount.

Also, it’s becoming more popular for an agency to not offer this at all. It’s really not a big deal though. If you don’t get travel reimbursement money you should make a bit more in your weekly pay so many times it all equals out.

Weekly Housing Stipends

If you have a tax home you can get money in two ways: Your taxable base pay per hour + tax-free stipends that help pay for your housing and meals in your new city. This is usually presented to travelers on a weekly or per shift basis.

The government tells the staffing agency the maximum they are allowed to pay travelers based on the cost of living in each zip code.

The staffing company does not usually get to pay us the full amount since they only have the amount the facility is willing to pay for us. That may end up being less than the government’s max, if so, no worries. This is okay as long as the total package is fair.

Weekly Meal Stipends

If you have a tax home you can get money in two ways: Your taxable base pay per hour + tax-free stipends that help pay for your housing and meals in your new city. This is usually presented to travelers on a weekly or per shift basis.

The government tells the staffing agency the maximum they are allowed to pay travelers based on the cost of living in each zip code. The staffing company does not usually get to pay us the full amount since they only have the amount the facility is willing to pay for us. That may end up being less than the government’s max, if so, no worries. This is okay as long as the total package is fair.

Weekly Insurance Costs

Medical insurance can impact your final paycheck a lot since it will deduct pay from your check each week. If you are taking the company health insurance, you are going to want to know up front about how much this will cost you per week.

The average is around $30 a week but some companies charge as much as $100 a week to their travelers and some offer some health insurance options for free. If you are not taking their insurance just set this to zero.

Hours per week

For this calculation, put the hours per week you are expecting to work. And then feel free to run it again with the hours you are guaranteed. Many times contracts have guaranteed hours that are lower than the expected hours.

Guaranteed hours means if the facility doesn’t need you to come in, you will still get paid as long as it was their choice and not yours to not work.

Also, find out if this contract has any “call off shifts” where the hospital can call you off without pay a certain number of times per contract. This is common and not a deal breaker but just good to know!

Length of assignment

In travel nurses and allied health the most common length of a travel assignment is 13 weeks. If you are looking for a contract shorter or longer just ask! Sometimes facilities or hospitals who hire you will be flexible.

Taxable rate per hour

If you have a tax home you can get money in two ways: Your taxable base pay per hour + tax-free stipends that help pay for your housing and meals in your new city.

If you do not have a tax home all of your pay will be taxed and put in this field.

Good to know: Your taxable base pay is the only part of your paycheck that is legally considered income. The average taxable base pay is $20 but you might get offers higher or lower than this. It’s the only part of your paycheck that is taxed

Nomadicare’s purpose is to empower. It’s the lifeblood that flows through every single thing we create. We are here to make sure every traveler has all the transparent knowledge they need to make empowered decisions. We want you to feel confident so you can live your dream!

Nomadicare is partnered with dozens of companies and each of those companies have access to different settings, locations, and exclusive contracts. We know their benefit options and who have jobs in each location. We will match you to the best recruiters for you and your goals. Every single recruiter has been vetted and comes with the Nomadicare guarantee.
You can browse the open jobs from many of our company partners on the Nomadicare’s anti bait and switch job board. When you see one that catches your eye, the goal is to apply asap. Jobs are closing faster than ever with all the craziness this year so speed is our best friend. When you request an interview, we’ll instantly match you with the vetted recruiter who posted that job.
Typically 0-3 months before you are ready to start your next assignment is best. A short quiz will give us a picture of who you are, and what you are looking for. After the quiz we’ll have everything we need to match you with the perfect recruirer for your travel goals
If you know where you want to go and you’re ready to travel, Instant Matching is perfect for you. You can browse the open jobs from many of our company partners on the Nomadicare’s anti bait-and-switch job board. When you see one that catches your eye, the goal is to apply asap. Jobs are closing faster than ever with all the craziness this year so speed is our best friend.
We highly recommended being ready! Having all of your documents and being super responsive are key. Speed is the biggest factor in getting the job you want. We recommend using a free service like Kamana, which you can share your online resume, credentials, and licenses with a single link to any of our vetted recruiters when requesting an interview.
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