As a travel nursing recruiter I worked with many travel nursing couples and a few groups. While almost everything is the same for couples and groups, there are some key differences to be aware of. First, there are rules that may alter the way travel nursing companies handle your company provided housing or lodging stipends. Second, there are challenges that you may face in landing travel nursing jobs at the same hospital or at hospitals within a reasonable commute of one another. Knowing what to expect will help couples and groups formulate a plan.
Agency housing and lodging stipend issues for travel nursing couples
Couples and groups face a unique set of circumstances when it comes to company provided housing and lodging stipends. Joseph Smith offers three scenarios pertaining to married couples on his website traveltax.com. The first involves a couple who accept jobs through the same company with one accepting the company provided housing and the other taking the housing stipend. This is a sales pitch that recruiters often make to couples. They highlight the fact that one of them can get the tax-free money and therefore keep a higher percentage of their gross pay. Unfortunately, according to Joseph Smith this is not correct. The stipend would indeed have to be taxed.
The second scenario involves a couple who accept assignments through the same agency and both take the housing stipend instead of company provided housing. In this case, Joseph Smith asserts that the stipends are not taxable. I would also assume that a couple working through different agencies could also both accept non taxable stipends.The third scenario involves a couple who accept assignments with different agencies and one of them takes agency provided housing and the other does not. Joseph Smith asserts that the travel stipend is not taxable.
Smith states that the explanation for these conclusions would be too long to go into on his site, and we’ll take his word for it. It’s also not clear if the conclusions remain the same if the scenarios pertain to an unmarried couple. However, the National Association of Travel Healthcare Organizations (NATHO) offers general information to travel nurses on the topic. They state that if a company has provided housing to one nurse, and knows the other nurse is staying there, the company would be obligated to tax the stipend. They also assert that if the nurses provide their own housing, then the company must tax one of the stipends if the company knows that both nurses are staying there. Again, this is regardless of whether or not the couple is married.
All things considered, I think it’s fair to say that there is no gaming the system when it comes to shared housing with the same agency. It would appear as though couples may both be able to receive non-taxable stipends or have one member take company provided housing and the other take the non-taxable stipend if they were working with different agencies. Again, I highly recommend that you seek the advice of a tax adviser experienced in these matters for information on your unique circumstances.
Finding travel nursing jobs as a couple
Couples and groups may also experience a little more difficulty finding jobs at the same hospitals or hospitals within a reasonable commute of one another. Some hospitals maintain a policy prohibiting couples from working at their facility at the same time. They cite problems that they’ve experienced with companies in the past as the reason. In addition, it’s always a little more difficult to land jobs for multiple people in any given location. That’s just the nature of the game. However, it’s certainly doable, so couples and groups should not be discouraged.
Working with multiple agencies is one way to increase your exposure to the job market. BluePipes can help couples by allowing them to control their own submission profiles. That way, they’re ready to go immediately when the right opportunity presents itself. Getting submitted for jobs more quickly always improves a travel nurse’s chances of landing the interview and assignment.