Tax Homes 101 (for Travel Therapists)

What is a Tax Home and Why is it Important for Travel Therapists?

In general, a Tax Home is usually your place of primary residence, but it has more to do with the place where you primarily “maintain business” and earn income, by the IRS definition.

  • The IRS defines a Tax Home as: “the entire city or general area where your main place of business or work is located, regardless of where you maintain your family home. If you regularly work in more than one place, your tax home is the general area where your main place of business or work is located.” (source: IRS)

The reason determining your tax home as a traveling therapist is important is because it has to do with the way that your income is taxed by the IRS while working travel assignments.

It’s a very important concept to understand, and most travel therapists will want to make sure they are meeting the requirements for maintaining a proper tax home per the IRS guidelines, so they can receive tax-free stipends for housing, meals and incidentals when away at travel therapy contracts. Receiving these tax-free stipends is part of what makes Travel Therapy Pay so lucrative, because your after-tax pay is significantly higher than it would be at a normal job.

So let’s dig in a little more to better understand what a Tax Home is and how you can make sure you meet the requirements in order to receive tax free stipends!

How Pay is Taxed as a Travel Therapist

Normally, if you work at a regular, permanent job as a W-2 staff employee, or as a PRN employee, all of your pay is taxed. You will receive a flat hourly rate or salary, and taxes will come out of each paycheck on all of it.

As a travel therapist, if you qualify, you will receive an hourly pay which is taxed, and in addition you will receive a stipend or “per diem” for housing, meals, and incidentals to help cover your expenses while you travel away from home to go work in the travel location, and this stipend is not taxed.

The reason why you could receive these stipends/per diems untaxed is because, you should be maintaining a permanent residence which will be considered your Tax Home, where you regularly return to, continue to have financial obligations, and continue to carry on business. Because you have financial obligations (including rent/mortgage, utilities, maintenance, and other bills) at your primary residence, the IRS may give you a “tax break” on some of the expenses you have at your second work location, the place where you are temporarily traveling away from your tax home to go and work, aka your travel therapy job assignment!

If you’re not meeting these requirements, and you do not maintain a proper Tax Home, but instead you’re just a “gypsy” (aka an “itinerant worker”) who travels around from place to place for work, then there is no reason for the IRS to give you a tax break on your income and stipends. In this case, you would be taxed on all of your pay at the travel contract, just like it was a normal, permanent job.

Tax Home Requirements

There are some guidelines to follow to be sure you’re meeting the requirements for maintaining your Tax Home, so that you can qualify for the tax free stipends (and keep more of your paycheck instead of getting it taken away in taxes)!

You must meet at least 2 out of 3 of the following requirements to be maintaining a proper Tax Home (Source: TravelTax)

  1. Have regular business (employment) in that area.
  2. Have a permanent residence (physical residence) at your tax home (metro area where you last worked) and are financially responsible for that residence’s upkeep (rent/mortgage/taxes/repairs) while you are away from home.
  3. You have not abandoned your tax home (plan on returning and spend around 30 days a year there).

We encourage you to visit TravelTax.com and IRS.gov to learn more about these requirements. If you have specific questions about your own taxes and Tax Home situation, we highly recommend contacting a tax professional such as those at Travel Tax!

Do Your Research!

We can’t stress enough that it is your responsibility as a travel therapist to do your research about Tax Homes and make sure you’re meeting the requirements! Do NOT rely on recruiters to tell you whether you are or are not meeting the requirements. And do NOT accept a travel contract where they are giving you tax-free stipends unless you have made sure that you qualify!

If you accept tax-free stipends as a traveler and you were ever audited by the IRS, it is 100% YOUR responsibility to prove that you were maintaining a Tax Home and that you qualified for the tax-free income. If you cannot provide this proof, you will owe back taxes on all of the stipends and may also incur penalties and fees.

  • To learn more on this topic, read this article that goes into greater detail about Tax Homes.

Bottom Line about Tax Homes

As a Travel Therapist, as long as you are maintaining a Tax Home where you have expenses, conduct business, and return to often/between contracts, you may qualify to receive tax-free stipends on your travel contracts. Receiving the stipends tax free is a huge perk and allows you to make much higher after-tax income compared to those working permanent jobs! But it’s vital that you do your research to make sure you’re following the rules in order to avoid owing back taxes and fees if you get audited by the IRS in the future!


We hope this was helpful in understanding a little more about Tax Homes and why it’s an important concept for travel therapists! Be sure to reach out to a tax professional if you need further guidance on this topic, as we are NOT tax professionals and this is only general information that we have found from professional resources (linked above).

If you have not already, be sure to check out the other articles and videos for our Travel Therapy 101 Series in order to learn all the basics about getting started with travel therapy!

Please contact us if you have questions for us, or fill out this form if you would like recommendations for travel therapy recruiters and staffing companies to get started on your own travel therapy journey!


Written by Traveling Physical Therapist Whitney Eakin, PT, DPT, ATC

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Travel Therapy Recruiters 101

An important first step to getting started as a traveling therapist (Travel PT, Travel OT, Travel SLP) is to find good recruiters to work with. The recruiter is your main point of contact when working with a travel therapy company and searching for travel therapy jobs. Your recruiter can honestly make or break your experience as a travel therapist, so it’s very important to choose good ones! But, how do you find them? And what’s the process like when working with recruiters? Let’s dive in to learn more!

What’s the Role of the Recruiter?

Most travel therapists work through a travel therapy company, aka a travel therapy staffing agency (as opposed to working as an independent contractor). There are a lot of advantages of using a travel therapy company, and overall it makes the process easier.

At the company, your main point of contact is the recruiter. The recruiter helps you get your profile/application set up with the company, walks you through the process, answers any questions you have, helps you navigate the job finding process, notifies you about new job opportunities, submits your application for jobs, and is there for you while you’re on contract to be a liaison for any issues that arise.

So as you can see, it’s vital to have a good connection with your recruiter(s), and to find the good ones! A good recruiter will be friendly, quick to respond, great with communication, very organized, trustworthy, honest, and knowledgeable! Check out this list of questions you should ask a company/recruiter so that you can choose the best ones!

Finding Good Recruiters

There are hundreds of travel therapy companies out there, and thousands of recruiters, so it can be difficult to narrow down the good ones! All companies and recruiters will market themselves as the best, but in reality not all of them are created equal! Even if you identify a company you like, there can be huge differences in the recruiters within an individual company.

If you just rely on the marketing of the companies themselves when Google searching or talking to companies at conference booths, you’re subject to them being very biased and trying to convince you they’re the best. This is why we don’t recommend going directly to companies you find on Google or at conferences and signing up on their email list. This is a sure fire way to get spammed constantly by their emails and get contacted by a bunch of random recruiters, whom may or may not be good!

The best way to find trustworthy recruiters is to go off recommendations from other travel therapists who have had good experiences with specific recruiters. If possible, you want to ask travelers who have worked with a few different companies and have been traveling for at least 2 years. This way they will have had enough time to know what to look out for with recruiters and will be able to give you the best advice.

Over the last several years we have interviewed dozens of companies and recruiters and worked with several different ones ourselves in order to narrow down some of the best ones. If you’d like our recommendations for recruiters, you can fill out this form, and we will take into account your personal preferences when recommending recruiters for you. We’ve found that different companies and recruiters work better for different people, based on what the individual is looking for, what’s important to them, and their personality!

Getting Established with Recruiters

We recommend getting started searching for recruiters at least 8 weeks prior to when you would plan to start a travel therapy job. If possible, you can even begin this process 3-4 months in advance. This will give you plenty of time to talk to several recruiters and narrow down who you like, then get a profile/application set up with each company. It’s important to have these steps done several weeks before you actually anticipate starting a travel job. It takes a little time to get your application set up, and you need to have this squared away so that your application is ready to go when jobs start popping up, so you can be submitted right away.

We always recommend that therapists work with 2-4 different recruiters, each at a different company. “Working with” multiple recruiters/companies means that you are keeping in communication with them, but you are not actually an employee of one company unless you are actively working a contract with them. The reason why you want to work with more than one is so you’ll have more job options available to you, as companies will not all have the same job options. In addition, it gives you an opportunity to compare offers including pay packages, benefits and more.

The Process of Working with Recruiters

When you have multiple recruiters, you want to be transparent and let each of them know that you’re also working with other recruiters. Some recruiters will give you some push-back on this and say that you only need to work with one, however usually the good recruiters will understand why you are working with multiple. This is standard practice, and it’s what most successful travel therapists do. It is always in your best interest to work with more than one recruiter/company so you don’t miss out on any job options, and so you can see the big picture by comparing offers.

There is a professional and tactful way to go about working with more than one recruiter. You want to have integrity and be a trustworthy traveler, so that the recruiters want to work hard for you. It’s important not to “pit” recruiters against each other on offers and not to burn bridges.

Generally, this is how it works: you stay in communication with all of your recruiters throughout each job search. They will present job options to you, and you will say whether you want your application submitted or not. It’s important to make sure that you don’t get submitted to the same job by two different recruiters. If two or more recruiters tell you about the same job, you need to choose right away which one you’d like to submit you for the job and tell the other one no. We usually recommend going with whoever told you about the job first, so you can take advantage of being submitted as quickly as possible (increasing your likelihood of landing the job) and to be fair to the recruiter who presented the job first. If two recruiters more or less tell you at the same time, you should have in mind already which one you’d like to go with over the other. Hopefully they can both give you a ballpark pay range when they first tell you about the job option, because it’s really too slow of a process if you have to go back and forth and try to find out who pays higher for the job and then make a decision. Waiting around to try to compare pay before submitting your application could result in losing out on your chance for the job interview!

During your job search, you might be submitted for multiple jobs with multiple recruiters at the same time. Then, if you get phone interviews and subsequent job offers, you’ll have to decide which one to take. Once you’ve accepted a job offer, you will respectfully let your team of other recruiters know that you’ve taken a job. Then, you’ll let them know the date that you’ll be done with that contract, so they’ll know a few weeks before that you’ll be ready to search for your next job. On the next job search, you go back to communicating with all of your recruiters to try to find your next job!

To learn more about why you should work with multiple recruiters, and how this process works, check out this article.

Summary for Finding & Working with Recruiters

The recruiter is your main point of contact at a travel therapy company, and your recruiters can make or break your experience as a travel therapist! We always recommend staying in contact with 2-4 different recruiters, so that you have more job options at your fingertips and can compare pay and benefits packages. It’s best to work with recruiters that experienced travelers recommend, so you can be sure they’ve been vetted! You can ask us for recommendations on recruiters we know and trust, and we will help you get set up with them!

There is some strategy and finesse involved when working with multiple recruiters, but once you figure out how to navigate this process, you’ll be well on your way to finding great travel therapy jobs and having a successful travel therapy experience!


Stay tuned for the rest of our Travel Therapy 101 Mini-Series in order to learn all the basics of travel therapy, including: pay, housing, working with recruiters, tax homes, and more!

If you have questions or are ready to get started on your travel therapy journey, please feel free to contact us or ask us for recommendations for our favorite travel therapy recruiters to help you get started!


Written by Whitney Eakin, PT, DPT, ATC

Whitney Eakin headshot