Does Military Per Diem Get Taxed? Understanding Tax Implications and Reporting

by | Military Finance | 1 comment

Exploring the financial intricacies of military life can be challenging, especially when it comes to understanding how various allowances and benefits are taxed. One common question that arises is whether military per diem is subject to taxation. As a service member, you receive per diem to cover daily expenses while on temporary duty, but figuring out if this allowance impacts your tax return can be confusing.

In this text, you’ll find clear and concise information about the tax implications of military per diem. We’ll break down what per diem covers, how it’s calculated, and most importantly, whether you need to report it as taxable income. Understanding these details can help you manage your finances more effectively and avoid any surprises come tax season.

Understanding Military Per Diem

Military per diem is a critical component for service members to understand, particularly when exploring the complexities of finances and tax obligations. Delving into the specifics of military per diem provides clarity and practical knowledge that can benefit every service member.

What Is Military Per Diem?

Military per diem is a daily allowance provided to service members for expenses incurred during official travel. This per diem covers costs such as lodging, meals, and incidental expenses. Authorized service members receive this allowance when they travel away from their permanent duty station.

Per diem rates vary based on location, considering factors like cost of living. The General Services Administration (GSA) updates these rates annually, reflecting changes in average expenses.

How Is It Determined?

The determination of military per diem involves several factors. First, the destination dictates the per diem rate. The Department of Defense (DoD) uses GSA guidelines to establish these rates. Second, the length of stay impacts the per diem received, with specific rates applied for different durations.

For example, a service member traveling within the continental United States (CONUS) might receive a higher per diem for high-cost urban areas compared to rural locations. On the other hand, overseas travel (OCONUS) involves different rates set by the State Department.

Also, temporary duty (TDY) assignments influence the calculation. TDY per diem typically covers lodging, meals, and incidental expenses. Service members may receive separate rates for each category, ensuring their allowances match the actual cost conditions.

Understanding these determinations helps service members plan their travel effectively and ensures they can manage their expenses within the provided per diem allowances.

Tax Implications of Military Per Diem

Military per diem allowances can significantly impact your tax situation. Understanding these implications helps ensure compliance with tax regulations and assists in better financial planning.

Factors Influencing Tax Status

Designation of Duty: Tax status hinges on whether the duty is temporary or permanent. Temporary assignments generally render per diem nontaxable. Permanent assignments could require different considerations.

Location: Certain locations, especially outside the continental United States (OCONUS), have distinct tax rules. Sometimes, local or state taxes might apply to these allowances.

Duration of Assignment: Length of your assignment also affects tax status. Short-term assignments align with nontaxable regulations, while prolonged stays might incur taxable amounts.

Comparing Military and Civilian Per Diem Taxes

Military Per Diem: In most cases, military per diem remains nontaxable. This status assists service members in reducing their taxable income and managing travel expenses efficiently. Ensure the assignment meets IRS requirements to maintain nontaxable status.

Civilian Per Diem: Civilian employees often face different tax situations. While per diems may be tax-free under specific conditions, deviations or excess claims can count as taxable income. Check employer policies and IRS guidelines to understand potential liabilities.

Comparing these aspects aids in grasping how per diem works across different scenarios. The tax advantages in military contexts can provide significant financial benefits.

Examples of Taxable vs. Non-Taxable Per Diem

Understanding whether military per diem is taxable or non-taxable can impact your finances significantly. Knowing specific scenarios helps in proper financial planning.

Taxable Per Diem Scenarios

Per diem becomes taxable if your assignment extends beyond a year in a single location. Per IRS guidelines, any per diem received after such an extension is considered taxable income.

  • Permanent Change of Station (PCS): When you’re on PCS orders, the per diem you receive while traveling from one duty station to another is taxed because it’s part of your earnings.
  • Excess Lodging Cost: If you get more than the standard per diem rate for lodging and meals, the excess amount is taxable.
  • Assignments Exceeding One Year: Any assignment lasting over a year means all per diem received after the 365-day mark is taxable.

Non-Taxable Per Diem Scenarios

Most temporary duty assignments (TDY) lasting less than a year result in non-taxable per diem. IRS rules state that these payments cover business expenditures, not additional salary.

  • Short-Term TDY: Assignments less than 365 days in any location are non-taxable since they fall under temporary duty.
  • Training Missions: Per diems received for attending courses or training away from your permanent station are usually non-taxable if under one year.
  • Standard Lodging and Meals: If you stick to the standard GSA rate for lodging and meals, these payments remain non-taxable.

How to Report Per Diem on Your Taxes

Military per diem, while often non-taxable, may sometimes require reporting. Accurate tax reporting ensures compliance and prevents potential issues. Knowing when and how to report per diem minimizes trouble with the IRS.

Necessary Documentation

You need several documents to report per diem accurately. First, collect travel orders, highlighting the duration and location. Then, gather lodging receipts if your per diem covered these expenses. Meal receipts aren’t typically needed when using standard per diem rates, but keep them if actual costs exceeded the allowance. Finally, compile any additional transportation receipts if they’re part of the per diem coverage.

  1. Collect Documentation: Start by organizing all necessary travel documents. Ensure all receipts and orders are in order, noting exact dates of travel and locations.
  2. Determine Taxable Amount: Establish if any part of your per diem qualifies as taxable. Per diem for assignments over a year or exceeding standard rates typically falls into this category.
  3. Use IRS Forms: For taxable per diem, you must report it on IRS Form 1040. Include it under “Wages, salaries, tips, etc.” Remember, non-taxable per diem doesn’t need to be reported.
  4. Itemize Deductions: If itemizing deductions, report all work-related travel expenses. List these on Schedule A (Form 1040). Include any non-reimbursed costs exceeding the per diem.
  5. Consult Tax Professionals: If in doubt, consult a tax professional familiar with military finances. They can provide tailored advice and ensure accurate reporting.

Ensuring accurate documentation and following these steps simplifies per diem reporting. Adhering to IRS guidelines prevents potential issues and ensures compliance with federal tax laws.


Understanding whether your military per diem gets taxed is crucial for accurate tax reporting. By knowing the rules about assignment duration and location, you can ensure compliance with IRS regulations. Proper documentation and using the correct IRS forms will make the process smoother. Consulting tax professionals can offer valuable guidance and help you avoid potential tax issues. Following these steps will simplify your per diem reporting and keep you on the right side of tax laws.


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