These full-time RVers took their job on the road

After the new normal of remote working, many working professionals have opted to establish their work from home set up in their RVs to enjoy their  nomadic professional life work  (REUTERS)
After the new normal of remote working, many working professionals have opted to establish their work from home set up in their RVs to enjoy their  nomadic professional life work  (REUTERS)


Here’s how these couples made the nomadic professional life work

Scott Hamilton has the perfect work-from-home setup: an expansive desk area with room for a full-size monitor, keyboard and printer, filing space, a comfortable chair, and reliable connectivity, including Starlink satellite-internet service and a separate Insty Connect router and cell-based modem as backup.

Mr. Hamilton, 66, a business consultant, can also prepare meals, shower and sleep six in his office, which is located in a 30-foot Airstream Flying Cloud that he pulls with a Ford F-250 pickup truck. He paid $118,000 for the Airstream.

Despite the fact that many companies are now mandating the return of remote employees to the office, remote working remains popular. A June 2022 survey by the Society for Human Resource Management found that 48% of workers surveyed will “definitely" seek a remote position for their next job, and a March 2022 survey by Robert Half found that return-to-office plans may lead to resignations, with half of survey respondents currently working from home saying they would look for a new job if their company required them to return to the office full time.

According to the RV Industry Association, a trade group, about 400,000 RV owners live full time in their rigs. A May 2022 survey conducted by the RVIA found that 54% of RVers had worked remotely while traveling during the eight months prior to the survey.

Doug Miller, product manager for REV Recreation Group’s Class A luxury motor homes, said that an increasing number of RV buyers are looking for vehicles that can accommodate working from home. “We’re seeing more people at events, such as rallies and national trade shows, interested in all different sizes," he said. “They’re walking through the models inquiring where their laptop can go or where they could put a printer."

The company will soon launch a new Fleetwood model with a dedicated corner office in the rear of the coach and a suggested retail price of approximately $400,000. It has room for multiple monitors and storage, as well as lots of power sources. “Imagine a day trader who wants to watch the ticker and trade all day," Mr. Miller said. “He or she can do their job and then walk outside and put a hot dog on a stick and cook it over the campfire. It’s pretty cool."

David Hillemann, 60, vice president of sales and marketing for a moving and storage company, and his wife, Denise Hillemann, 63, a travel agent, both work full time from their American Eagle 45C from American Coach. The 45-foot RV has a king-size bedroom, a washer and dryer, a spacious kitchen with a full-size residential refrigerator and quartz countertops, 1½ bathrooms and four televisions. They paid $595,000 for it three years ago; the suggested retail price of the 2022 model is over $1 million.

The Hillemanns’ office equipment includes laptops, tablets, a printer, a filing cabinet, a mobile hot spot and a cell booster. After hours, they enjoy nightly cocktails crafted by their $370 Bartesian cocktail maker.

“We’re always connected," Mr. Hillemann said. “If it’s a drive day for me, my wife is checking my email while we’re going down the road. I probably send and receive 200 to 300 emails a day, so I tell her how to respond."

The two have been full-time RVers for 14 years. They spend five months a year in Arizona, where they own a lot with a casita at The Palms RV Resort, a 60-acre community in Yuma for active adults. The rest of the year, they alternate northeast and northwest routes.

But RV living has gotten pricier lately, Mr. Hillemann said, due largely to the cost of diesel fuel, which averaged $5.08 a gallon on Aug. 11, up from $3.29 a year earlier, according to AAA. “It’s a lot more expensive than living in a permanent residence," he said. “Diesel fuel now costs $1 a mile, and we usually do 10,000 to 15,000 miles a year, so that’s $10,000 to $15,000 a year just in diesel fuel."

There is another expense that might take RVers by surprise: state income taxes. Many full-time RVers establish their legal domicile, the place they intend to permanently live and ultimately return to, in Florida or Texas, states that have no state income taxes. But if they work in other states—sometimes even for just one day—that might trigger liability for state income taxes.

“Every state has different rules on this, but generally a state may assert the right to tax you if you’re physically present and working from that state," said Stefi N. George, a tax attorney at Akerman LLP in New York City. “So even if you are technically domiciled in a nontax state, that doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t owe state tax somewhere. The problem is exacerbated in the case of an RV because someone living a more transient lifestyle can potentially be subject to tax in multiple states."

Ms. George said that while many states have no minimum threshold for taxing employees who work in the state, others require the employee to be present in the state at least a minimum number of days. She said that Colorado, Arkansas and Michigan have broad statutes and no minimum threshold, meaning that a single day of presence may be sufficient to trigger income tax and employer withholding obligations in certain situations. Some states will vigorously pursue that income.

“If you are audited by one of the states that is aggressive, like New York, they will request your cellphone tower records, they’ll request your credit-card statements, and they’ll try to determine where you were," Ms. George said. “So you can’t just say your address is in Florida and you didn’t have any presence in the state if your cellphone is pinging from somewhere in New York."

In most states, the RVer can claim a credit on their income-tax return to avoid double taxation. But for those who are employees and not self-employed, planning is key. “Communicate with your employer and your tax adviser," Ms. George said. “Make sure to request that your employer withhold in the proper state or states to avoid a tax bill and potential penalties at a later date."

If you’re interested in working from the road, here are some other important things to consider.

Reset your housing budget expectations

 You can live cheaply in an RV if you stay in one place or “boondock," camp off the grid with no water, sewer or electrical connections. But many workers who live in luxury RVs prefer the trappings of civilization and the ability to move around the country in search of perfect weather. In addition to high fuel prices, be sure to budget for repairs and maintenance. Labor rates on large RVs average $175 per hour, Mr. Hillemann said, and there are a limited number of service centers that work on RVs. You’ll also have to pay for space at an RV resort, where the average nightly rate at a luxury campground in the U.S. is $115, with some costing much more depending on location and season, according to RV-rental marketplace Outdoorsy.


Build face time with colleagues into your travel plans

 Plenty of careers lend themselves to working from an RV. But Andy Challenger, senior vice president of outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, said that remote employees might be missing out on opportunities. “If you’re going nomadic, plan a route where you get to have coffee or dinner with colleagues and managers around the country," he said. “You’ll get face time that you can’t get in a Zoom meeting, and it builds deeper relationships that can allow you to move forward in an organization."

Consult your tax professional

 Taxpayers who regularly and exclusively use part of their home as their primary place of business may qualify for the home-office deduction, and that applies to those who live and work from RVs as well. But be careful. Tim Ewing, a certified public accountant who lives in a 25-foot Winnebago, doesn’t claim the deduction because he doesn’t have dedicated office space in his current RV. But he previously lived in a 41-foot fifth wheel camper with a bunkhouse that he converted to an 80-square-foot office. “I did take the home-office deduction then because it was easily provable, as opposed to working from a dinette, where it’s not reasonable to think that space isn’t used for anything else," he said. “It’s a risk assessment—is it worth a small tax deduction to risk the chance you’ll be audited? It might not be enough of a deduction to warrant the risk."


This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text.

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