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Tuesday, May 21, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Court Denies Tax Break to Roving Airline Mechanic

(CN) - A Northwest Airlines mechanic who exercised his right to take the jobs of lower-level mechanics in order to move around the country can't deduct nearly $20,000 in traveling expenses on his taxes, the 7th Circuit ruled.

Facing financial strain after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Northwest laid off several employees, including mechanic David Wilbert. But Wilbert had the right to "bump," or take the job of, a more junior mechanic. Wilbert used this right to bump mechanics in Alaska, Chicago and New York.

He kept his house outside Minneapolis, where his wife lives and he operates a real-estate business. He deducted the costs of living away from home - nearly $20,000 - on his 2003 tax return.

The federal appeals court in Chicago said Wilbert can't deduct traveling expenses for the mechanic jobs, because he earned only $2,000 through real estate, and that does not qualify as his main business.

"[U]nless the taxpayer has a business rather than a personal reason to be living in two places, he cannot deduct his traveling expenses if he decides not to move," Judge Richard Posner wrote.

Wilbert's case is one of many brought by Northwest Airlines mechanics seeking deductions for traveling while exercising bumping rights. His was the first case to be appealed.

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