RVing and Taxes

rving-and-taxesAhh February. The month of my birthday (which was actually last Friday). The last real month of winter. Lots of nice things happen in February, but one rather unpleasant thing does as well, taxes.

Last year when it became clear that I would be buying the RV in 2012 after all, I briefly poked online for information on full-timing and taxes and was quickly overwhelmed. Following the advice I’d heard from some others and seeing the potential for how complicated it could all be, I decided that once all my tax documents arrived in the mail this year for the first time ever I’d pay someone to take care of it for me. Preferably a specialist with experience doing full-timer’s taxes.

Last week the last of my W-2’s came in, and I settled in at the computer to go about finding the perfect person to take care of this unpleasantness.

And I kept searching. Who was it that full-timers take their tax stuff to anyway? I could find topics on forums saying yes, take it to a professional with RVing experience, but nothing more specific about where such a person could be found.

Eventually I threw my hands up in the air and said screw it, I’ll figure it out myself.

Here might follow an account about the trials and tribulations of filing taxes as a newly minted full-time RVer, but really it wasn’t too bad in my case. I worked three different jobs in two different states that both have income tax. Partway through the year, I moved to a state that didn’t have income tax. There was no selling of a house to account for, no need to move a self-run business to a new state. I don’t have any investments, and didn’t have enough money sitting in a saving’s account this past year to have to pay taxes on accrued interest.

So for me, all it was was the W-2’s. South Carolina got a portion for the two jobs I held there, Kansas got a bit for the Amazon job I did there, and South Dakota required no work at all since they don’t have income tax. I filed as a part year resident for SC, and a nonresident for KS. It took longer than in previous years, but wasn’t unduly complicated with the tax program holding my hand through the whole thing.

I had to pay more using Turbo Tax than I did last year since there was two states to file, and I also paid extra for representation in the unlikely event my return gets randomly chosen to be audited by the IRS. It’s a slim chance, but if it happens I’d rather not have to deal with it myself. Although it has little to do with RVing per say, I personally choose to take no allowances when I start a new job so that the state and feds take out the maximum, then come tax time at least I get money back for my trouble. It’s like having a second Christmas, right around my birthday.

This coming year will probably be more complicated as I’ll be on the road the whole time, and have a couple side projects in the works, but only time will tell. Having managed it this year on my own makes me feel more confident that I’ll be able to do it next year too.

I’m reluctant to try to give detailed advice on this topic beyond my own experiences, because it’s going to be so different for everyone. If there can be said to be a moral of this story I guess it’s that taxes get a little more complicated if your working on the road than standing still, but unless you make other drastic financial changes during the year it’s certainly not unmanageable.

For all you other full-timers out there on the road, do you do your own taxes or pay someone to do them for you, and if so, who? Maybe we can clear up the confusion a little for those readers who are also new to the road or thinking about getting on the road and where they can turn to for help.

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In other news, and there is a new set of videos up on the Videos page. This set covers my two nights in South Dakota last fall, it’s at the bottom. You might also have noticed the new addition to the main menu, The Adventure. This shows a bigger version of the 2012 travel map, and this year’s map as well.  Enjoy!

Image courtesy of Images_of_Money

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20 Responses to RVing and Taxes

  1. RV AJ February 25, 2013 at 9:54 pm #

    I pay a CPA. They dont always know EVERYTHING. But they can apply the principles better than I can. When I pick up a tid bit in a forum or from a friend I email her and she looks into it. I think thats all you could really ask for.
    RV AJ recently posted..Unique RV: New Meaning to Pop-Outs on a Travel TrailerMy Profile

    • Becky February 26, 2013 at 11:30 am #

      Thanks for your input AJ.

  2. Kristin February 25, 2013 at 10:24 pm #

    Happy Belated Birthday! 🙂 As always, thanks for the great info…

    • Becky February 26, 2013 at 11:31 am #

      You’re welcome Kristin, and thanks. I had a good birthday. 🙂

  3. Lynne (WinnieViews) February 25, 2013 at 10:54 pm #

    Although I don’t have any direct experience with this gal, she has a helpful blog site and answers a lot of Rver tax questions. Might give her site a look– http://www.rvtaxhelp.com/

    • Becky February 26, 2013 at 11:32 am #

      Ahh, I’d stumbled across this site before Lynne but couldn’t remember where it was, thanks. It’s a bit more complicated than what I needed to know for my specific situation, but should be a good resource to other full-timers out there.

  4. traveler063 February 26, 2013 at 8:09 am #

    Checkout rvdreams blog. They have good info on fulltimers and tax.

    • Becky February 26, 2013 at 11:33 am #

      Thanks, one more place for newer full-timers to learn the ropes. 🙂

  5. Sherry February 26, 2013 at 8:33 am #

    Good for you for managing it all. Sounds complicated to me making sure everyone gets their fair share of your money. I guess allowing them to keep more than their share is actually easier since then they are sending you checks rather than you having to send it to them. I always hate to have them making money on my money instead of me making it so I give them the least and then make it up to them in April so I can use the money while they wait. :-). Wonder if workampers have to list the cost of what they receive in exchange for their work as income? That would be a bummer.
    Sherry recently posted..Friday WoesMy Profile

    • Becky February 26, 2013 at 4:58 pm #

      Yeah, and I’d prefer to get money back, especially right now when I’m still figuring the financial stuff out. Easier for me to budget for not having it and being pleasantly surprised than spending it and being short come tax time. I already have plans through for my refund, starting with new tires for the truck. If it’s not one thing it’s another. 😛

      And if their ‘payment’ for workamping isn’t money but a free site it doesn’t sound like it has to be reported, at least from what I’ve heard while researching. At that point you’re more of a volunteer. I’ll have to look into it closer though if I ever get a traditional workamping job.

  6. jim February 26, 2013 at 9:45 am #

    I think you should inform the employer’s that your resident state is SD and thus no withholding needs to be withheld from whichever state you are working in. On the federal level it does not make any difference but filing 3-4 state tax returns is complicated. You need an official “home of record” just like if you were in military or college. That home of record would be the only state return you are required to file.

    • Becky February 26, 2013 at 5:04 pm #

      Nah, I’d rather not Jim. That sounds kind of shady to me. I was clear about not living in KS and I still owed them money even as a nonresident, although it was less than if I had been a resident. I get the feeling that if KS for instance had found out I had made money in the state and not given them a share they would have come after me eventually. Maybe at that point I could have hired a tax wiz to get out of paying, but I’m sure that would cost more than just paying in the first place would have. Like being audited by the IRS maybe it’s a slim chance that anyone would notice it, but it’s there and personally I’ll sleep better knowing that my full-timing lifestyle is 100% legit. I’m not saying doing it that way is wrong, it just isn’t for me.

  7. MARVIN February 26, 2013 at 7:05 pm #


    Becky ,

    You are doing your taxes the right way – each state has specific tax rules that must be followed , and the penalties are an expensive headache !

    When you are further into the full time travel , there are business opportunities that may offer you some tax advantages .

    Be Safe – Have A Great Day !


    • Becky February 27, 2013 at 11:36 am #

      Thanks for writing in Marvin, and I’ve responded to your e-mail as of this morning so you should go peek at that if you haven’t already. 🙂

      As I told Jim, I’m happy to pay any state I earn money in a share to be able to enjoy what that state has to offer while I’m there. I’d rather err on the side of caution that short someone and pay for it later on.

      Making money on the road is still very much a work in progress for me, and I look forward to sharing what I learn with you all as I go.

  8. Gary February 27, 2013 at 3:32 am #

    Happy Birthday Becky!!!
    Kansas hasn’t been the same since you left !!! 🙂

    • Becky February 27, 2013 at 11:37 am #

      Thanks Gary! And aww, I feel missed. :3

  9. Fireman Steve February 27, 2013 at 10:41 pm #

    Happy Birthday. !!!
    Hope you get a large refund….

    • Becky February 28, 2013 at 5:38 pm #

      Thanks! Reasonably large, sadly I already have projects waiting for all of it. 😛

  10. RV Jack March 1, 2013 at 12:59 pm #

    Full timing while working is no big deal for your Federal taxes. But working in multiple states really muddies the water for state returns. If you have tax withheld in a state, they will expect a return. Allocation of deductions and income between those states is complicated, and those allocations can legally be done in many ways, some of which will cost you money.
    I would think full timers often go where they are for help with whatever their tax problem. The best alternative is to send your data to the guy who did your work back home. Or else you can find a new one, maybe somebody who also goes RV fulltime.

    Pros with full time RV experience are out there. Many of us welcome the opportunity to do a little more tax work while holding our work week to a sensible 40 hours or so. And thanks to technology, this stuff can be done on line via scanned documents and e-mail. If you’re lucky, someone like that is in your campground right now, and you can discuss your return face to face. This year we are wintering in south Louisiana, but next year, we’re going to do February and March in Arizona. We could see you in Quartzsite. I think I’m going to put a magnetic sign on our truck with something like “Home of the $99 1040; state returns are extra.”

    Skilled people are out there.

    Everyone should try to do their own taxes a time or two, just like we all need to learn how to fix as many things on our RVs as we can. If nothing else, it helps develop your BS Detector so you can avoid overpaying big time. Still, if you don’t know the ropes you’re in for a lot of work to try to save a little money, and DIY could mean you miss something. Even with good software, from time to time professional help will save you money. And like hiring a plumber, professional tax prep prevents headaches.

    • Becky March 2, 2013 at 11:31 am #

      Thanks for the insight Jack. Federal plus both states cost me $133 in software this year with the audit insurance, but after subtracting that out from my return I’m still getting about $1,200 back. Personally I’m very glad I did it myself this year because now I know I can. Whether I think about finding some help next year depends on how much more complicated things get between here and now but I’m still very glad you posted this, as I’m sure there are other new full-timers out there who were looking for this kind of information.

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