Housing: To Book or Not to Book

Housing is a major financial consideration for each travel contract. There are essentially two options for setting up housing:

Book Your Own Housing

If you prefer to handle the booking and financials of your own housing, you will accept what is known as a tax-free housing stipend, assuming you meet the qualifications. This gets paid out on each weekly paycheck. As a traveler you are working away from your permanent tax home (far enough that you cannot return at night) and require secondary housing in order to complete your contract. The government approves a tax-free housing stipend that is specific to where you are traveling. Most travelers choose this option under the assumption they can find housing cheaper than what they are receiving in tax-free monies.

You are responsible for finding adequate housing and paying for utilities, and usually providing the first month’s rent and deposit. In addition, you’ll be the one handling any housing emergencies, for example terminating your housing contract early, and negotiating subsequent return of deposits or leniency in remaining weeks of rent. The benefit of booking your own housing is usually the financial bonus of finding a place to live that costs less than what you are allotted for a daily per diem. The “leftover” money is yours to keep.

Cariant Books Your Housing

If you ask Cariant’s Housing Coordinator to handle your housing arrangements, we will search for safe and affordable housing (typically a fully furnished, one-bedroom apartment, extended-stay hotel, etc.) within reasonable driving distance of your temporary work location. We also ensure it includes housewares and all utilities, excluding phone and cable. Cariant will enter into a short-term housing contract for that temporary residence with the landlord and will make your housing payments.

The important difference with letting Cariant book your housing is that where the traveler gets to pocket any leftover money, we must put whatever is not spent of the per diem back into your hourly taxable rate. This is how your total take-home pay package can be lower in comparison to finding your own housing, as you end up paying taxes on a higher hourly rate. Using our Housing Coordinator is a good choice for travelers who’d prefer everything just be taken care of.

Financial Example

Let’s assume you’ve landed a contract in Waterloo, Iowa. The government dictates you can receive a daily tax-free stipend of $93.00 per day. This equates to a total of $651 on your weekly paychecks. Say you find housing that includes utilities on Airbnb and it comes with a generous monthly booking discount. It would normally cost you $2,275/month plus a $206 service fee. But with the monthly booking discount you get a savings of $3,071 for a new monthly rate of $1,320, with the first month’s rent due at time of booking. Your weekly tax-free stipend of $651 equates to a total of $8,463 over 13 weeks. By the end of your contract you will have pocketed an extra $4,503 with this option, assuming there are no damages to the property. If Cariant were to find and book the exact same housing option, that $4,503 would go back into your hourly taxable rate.

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