When traveling you still have your house that your purchased as your primary residence, you are on a temporary work assignment but have NOT given up your permanent home. This home that you have will be called your "tax home".
If travel agencies provide housing it usually consists of a one bedroom furnished apartment although other options can be arranged. Utilities (electric, water, trash) may be included. Telephone, cable TV and sometimes Internet service can be included. Housing often includes basic furnishings and may include a washer and dryer, dishwasher and a microwave but this must be clarified during negotiations. Many companies also provide housewares, which include pots, dishes, utensils and linens.
The housing is typically arranged by the travel nursing agency in the company name. Some companies allow the travel nurse to participate in the search and selection process. Some parts of the country are much harder to secure reasonable housing than others.
Nearly all agencies will offer a housing stipend if the nurse chooses to secure housing independently of the agency. Stipend amounts can be very substantial - often higher than the actual wages - and these may be provided tax free if the traveler has a qualifying tax home. The stipend is attractive to travelers who prefer to obtain their own housing, those who travel in RVs, and to those simply trying to maximize their income and who are able to secure inexpensive housing. Some companies require the traveler to take the housing stipend. The housing stipend or the value of the provided housing will be taxed as part of the pay if the traveler does not have a qualifying tax home.
There may be tax benefits, commonly called "Tax Advantage" or "Per Diem" pay, if the traveler maintains a "tax home" while working and living away from that home. The tax-free reimbursement covers meal and incidentals as well as lodging. Some companies only offer the tax free lodging component, while others provide both. A "tax home" is a dwelling that you live in, maintain and return to between assignments. You must have living expenses at your tax home that you duplicate because your business requires you to be away from that home.
Tax-free money is a complicated subject and many travel companies have little understanding of the tax implications for the traveler, often encouraging travelers who do not qualify to take it, leaving them at risk in an IRS audit. It is highly advisable to consult a travel tax expert prior to accepting tax free money.