can I ask to be reimbursed for my expenses in a driving-heavy job?

A reader writes:

I recently started my dream job — amazing start-up, coveted industry, huge promise, incredibly competent management (a gift I do not take for granted).

However, I’m working in arguably the most expensive metropolitan city on earth, one that is notorious for being a literal nightmare to drive or own a car in. I agreed to bring my car because I’m covering the entire state. However, my immediate responsibilities are focused on one metropolitan area. Uber costs are exorbitant and I’m transporting tables and merchandising display with me on a regular basis. I’m parallel parking an average of eight times a day, paying $30 or more in tolls a day, and redefining “wear and tear,” but lacking the 30-mile reimbursement minimum.

Additionally, I’m also the swag and merch hub for this regional market, as headquarters are in an entirely different state — which is getting a little tight because my city has tiny living spaces. I can’t leave items in my vehicle because I’d end up with broken windows.

I’ve been promised, and it was recently reiterated, that I will be making a far more accommodating salary in two months’ time. However, I entered this position with a very small savings account, and am already breaking the bank to keep up with the demands of the position (examples: “ADHD tax” of forgetting food at home, Ubering because I don’t feel focused/alert enough to drive safely, etc)

I’m trying to organize and prioritize my asks moving forward and would love your take on what is and isn’t appropriate, and what is the best approach in asking. It mostly includes:

• Parking: $400/month which could be avoided if I didn’t need a car, was able to afford a neighborhood with better parking, or didn’t need to use my car every day, as it takes about 45 minutes (sometimes twice that) on average to find street parking
• Tolls: EZ pass (but on the rare occasion I pass a toll for personal reasons doesn’t feel kosher)
• Stipend: possibly to cover parking + tolls + inevitable parking tickets (they’ve already agreed to pay tickets)
• Shelving and organizational items as I prefer a home space that doesn’t resemble a storage unit

I’m struggling to find a fair solution and want to present the information as professionally as possible. I knew this position would require hustling and organization, but I’m already feeling the financial stress impact my work performance. Hours of honking doesn’t help. I want to solve this proactively before its impact is noticed or I go broke.

You shouldn’t be paying to do your job, period. If your job involves traveling around the state and visiting various locations, the expenses involved in that travel — including parking and tolls — are business expenses. If they expect you to personally pay for the costs of doing your work, that’s outrageous. (The only exception to this is your actual commute to and from work. So if you have a home office you sometimes drive to, you’re generally responsible for getting yourself there and back. But the rest of it is on them.)

I’m not sure how your 30-mile reimbursement minimum works, but you should be tracking your mileage over the course of an entire week or month and submitting the total — not foregoing it just because an individual trip doesn’t add up to 30 miles.

It’s also reasonable to say that now that you see the full extent of their storage needs, you don’t have space in your home. If separate storage space isn’t possible, you’ll need to expense shelving to make it doable to store items at home.

It is not reasonable to expect they’ll pay for food because you forgot to bring lunch or for Ubers because you don’t feel focused enough to drive. (There are situations where the latter could be reasonable, but generally not in a driving-heavy position where you agreed to use your car as part of the job negotiations, unless it’s something like a short-term accommodation for a specific medical need … but not generally just “I don’t feel alert today.” If that’s happening a lot, a driving-focused position might not be a really good fit.)

Unfortunately, it’s also probably not reasonable to ask them to pay for parking costs that aren’t incurred in the actual performance of your work. It sounds like part of that $400/month in parking costs is for parking near your home at night (“could be avoided if I didn’t need a car or was able to afford a neighborhood with better parking”). That part is something you signed on for when you took a driving-heavy job and agreed to use your own car for it. Ideally you would have factored those costs into your salary negotiation, since you’re unlikely to be able to expense them now … although you could possibly lump all these costs together into one overall monthly driving subsidy and argue for it that way.

I will say, I am wary of promises that you’ll be making more in two months, particularly when they’re combined with any whiff of “so you should just suck up these expenses now.” Businesses should pay their own costs of doing business, not transfer them to employees — period. And if you are going to be paid more in two months (which I hope is in a written agreement!), that amount shouldn’t be reduced by having to continue to pay the business’s travel costs.

If this company really does have incredibly competent management, you should be able to lay all this out and transfer their business costs back to them (including getting reimbursed for costs you’ve already paid on their behalf). If that doesn’t work, I’m sorry to say it but you’d need to revisit that “incredibly competent” assessment.

{ 273 comments… read them below }

  1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

    “incredibly competent management”?
    ==> incredibly cheapskate management
    You should never be subsidising your employer

    1. OP*

      They’re not! I’m dropping the ball by letting time pass without handling this which is why I wrote in. They’re willing to reimburse, but I just want to make sure I’m not including a personal expense in with professional ones bc I am someone who struggles to distinguish, am high maintenance tbh, and the employee handbook pertains to a very different market. They welcome my feedback, I was just feeling too unhinged to do so professionally, so I wanted a reality check from Alison before I made a fool of myself in front of peers I respect instead of mostly kind strangers.

      1. anon_sighing*

        I’m being very gentle, you’re not approaching this job as a job – you’re treating this as someone thankful these people are even giving you a paycheck. They hired you because they want you to do the job; it sounds like you’re the only one second guessing yourself at all. They should lay this out neatly for your position anyway – “they’re willing to reimburse” is being cheapskate for a job they know is out in the field by its nature. This isn’t the same as asking for a reimbursement because you drove or flew to a work-mandated conference or retreat one time.

        How would asking for the bare minimum be making a fool of yourself? If they don’t want your personal expenses all mixed up in there, then they should be clear how to submit work mileage (and at what frequency).

        1. OP*

          You’re not wrong. That’s why I reached out to Alison. I wanted to feel more confident in what I was proposing.

          1. Madame Frozen*

            Why are you ‘proposing’ submitting expenses? If anything, if you do something wrong, they’ll let you know. Yes, they may call you in to have a “discussion” to clarify what is considered an expense, what is not, how to distinguish, etc, but that doesn’t mean you are a fool for getting it wrong. They are foolish for making you figure it out on your own. You aren’t asking too much.
            Get your montey, hunty!

          2. Bruce*

            The “30 mile minimum” sounds wrong, like Allison said track your trips for a week and submit for the total. It is good you are going to deal with this. One note, my company lets us expense mileage but gas, insurance and other costs are covered by that, I think our current rate is 52 cents a mile. Tolls may be separate but I don’t normally have to pay those.

      2. PDB*

        I wonder if your company hasn’t latched on to the TMZ-Thirty Mile Zone-which is a thing in the movie business.

        1. a good mouse*

          Once my company changed their policy that if your commute wasn’t 35 miles longer than your normal commute to the office, then you wouldn’t qualify for lodging or per diem. The job site of the big project during the policy change? a 34.1 mile straight shot from the main office. So basically nobody qualified.

    2. JSPA*

      True enough, except we do not know if management knows the extent to which this is happening (or that it is happening at all).

      Knowing local parking costs, commuting times, and the size of your employee’s available space are not things even the best managers would necessarily happen to know or be able to intuit. This could be yet another one of those “ask versus guess culture” situations, Where the ask from management had no implicit expectation, but the employee heard it as, “they wouldn’t be asking if it were not extremely pressing / essentially required.”

      Or you could be one hundred percent on the money!

      But we can’t know If management is understandably oblivious, or intentionally shifting major costs onto the employee, until the employee actually clues the employer in.

      The employee needs to let the employer know what the direct financial burden is on their end (and, as allison points out, seek further clarification how that thirty mile minimum works).

      Also in many cities it would be possible.To double park with your flashers on for the 5 minutes it takes to unload at your actual residence, before parking properly, or ask the business to buy a folding hand-truck adequate to the job (if safety is not a problem).

      But the LW should also ask themselves if this has the bones of some sort of MLM in disguise, and make sure this isn’t a “jam tomorrow, jam yesterday– but never jam today” situation.

  2. WellRed*

    One persons dream job is another’s nightmare. This all sounds awful and of course they should be covering these expenses.

    1. WellRed*

      And what’s up with 2 month wait for a more “accommodating salary.” What does that even mean?! And don’t count on it.

      1. HR Friend*

        Commission might kick in or something, who knows.

        In any case, why so insulting and negative? The question is about claimable expenses, not whether or not you find this person’s (well loved!) job a nightmare or awful while insinuating his (competent!) manager is lying about comp. If I’m OP coming to read the advice, this top comment would put me off this community so fast.

          1. Colette*

            I don’t see any, necessarily. There’s no indication that the OP has asked about reimbursement for any of this. That’s not on the company.

            1. The Cosmic Avenger*

              Asking the OP to store merch that isn’t part of their usual sales/demo needs, not paying for mileage or tolls incurred during work travel, none of that should need to be requested, and it IS on the company to pay it. This is not normal.

              1. Princess Sparklepony*

                Also sounds like the company needs to pay for a storage unit or the merch should be stored at work location (not sure if there is one locally or if this is WFH and work from the road situation) and LW can pick up what she needs as she needs it.

            2. Drive Me Crazy*

              Um, yes it is on the company. They shouldn’t wait to see if their employee asks about expenses to be reimbursed. That should be made clear and upfront.

              1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

                The “minimum travel reimbursement level” is pretty indicative of a crap company that is going to squeeze everything out of you.
                “But that’s our policy.” So they picked a distance outside their sales area and said, sucks to be you.
                They made a policy. Not law, not right, not something OP needs to put up with. S/he travelled 28 miles (about $16.84), paid $15 in tolls and $20 to park. But not not reimbursed because you picked a distance outside my sales area? Good work.
                I’m sure the young women and girls who played princess for free in the earlier had fun and learned a lot, but that job is still a nightmare employer.

                1. Smurfette*

                  > I’m sure the young women and girls who played princess for free

                  What does this even mean?

            3. CityMouse*

              The fact that OP is going broke isn’t a giant red flag?

              And no, it’s absolutely in the company to be proactive with travel reimbursement.

            4. Beth*

              There are a lot of not-normal things here. Some of it could be a startup not having good systems and processes set up yet. I can see how the storage situation could snowball from “OP keeps the materials for their own day-to-day job on hand” to “OP is handing out merch this week, we’ll send the region’s stuff to them for that” to “OP stores the merch for this region”–if there’s no other system in place for storing materials regionally, and OP hasn’t spoken up to say that this isn’t working, then odds are it isn’t on anyone’s radar to fix.

              But the 30 mile minimum reimbursement policy? No, companies should be paying ALL travel costs incurred during work duties. Most people won’t bother to file for reimbursement if they just popped a mile down the road and back, but if they do file, it should be reimbursed. Setting up policies that discourage that is a bad look. (Like Alison says, a routine commute from home to office isn’t considered a travel cost. But driving to a client site definitely is.)

              And the whole “pay so little that OP is digging into savings now, promise better pay later” situation stinks. If the role warrants higher pay and the company can afford it, then they should give it now. If they can’t or won’t, they should be upfront about that and let OP choose whether to stay.

            5. Kelsey*

              Yes it is. They absolutely know she is driving, parking, storing, carrying, paying tolls etc. She should get mileage reimbursement. They are intentionally off loading their costs onto HER with some promise of “future” reimbursement. Red flag city.

        1. OP*

          lol it literally did. I’m mortified haha. thank you for being kind, and yes exactly. my boss is getting a raise in same time frame, so we’re equally committed to hitting goal, which is why I’ve let expenses pass by the wayside and then I saw my account balance and panic emailed Alison. I will be reimbursed I just wanted to make sure I wasn’t confusing personal expenses and instead confused a lot of readers.

          1. JSPA*

            Feels to me like a disproportionate number of readers woke up on the wrong side of the bed today.

            That, or they’ve decided that if you’re a bit diffident or tentative about one business norm (that you’re aware of! And therefore asking questions about!) you Must Be Clueless (?) and therefore In Need Of Lecturing (??!??) regarding any and all other business norms.

            To me it seems pretty obvious that you know that this is a startup operating on a shoestring (you said so / as much as said so), you are therefore cutting them the sort of slack you would not cut an established business; and you’re probably quite reasonably aware that this means much higher risks as well as possibly higher benefits.

            I will say that I hope there is something in writing specifying who pays for the return or disposal of product and materials if the company suddenly finds itself unable to meet its financial obligations, as this is a thing that can go very wrong. I’m old enough that I’ve seen friends left sitting on [several thousand VHS tapes / several hundred specialty pasta makers and hard-bound manuals / ditto, niche exercise item and gear / etc] for decades, while bankruptcy cases moved through the courts. People tend to get a false sense of security that if they’re holding onto items of value, this puts them in a good position. And that’s generally not true. This holds whether or not you own them and are somehow expected to sell them at a profit (classic MLM scam); are selling them on commission; or are “just” storing them. (There’s a reason that storage costs money–not only because space is at a premium but because return or disposal both also cost money.)

            1. property damage at a party*

              It’s less that we woke up on the wrong side of the bed and more that everything about this sounds at best like a very poorly-run company that will fold in 3 months and at worst, another Amway that is taking advantage of a gullible person who’s too inexperienced to know better (and too desperate to find something more legitimate). Letting them just continue on their merry way would be cruel at that point.

              1. OP*

                This is so patronizing! I’ve been a professional for over a decade. I was a successful independent contractor for a years before switching back to corporate. My finances are a result of health issues and freelancer insurance. None of which is anyone’s business? This comment section has such r*ddit vibes. I’ll be absolutely fine. I was just looking for straightforward advice about something I was overthinking.

            2. OP*

              Loved this response. Thank you. Very much spot on and love the VHS anecdote… something I hadn’t considered and can imagine. It’s just storage and it’s been more convenient than adding another stop to my daily drive.

          2. Cubicle Queen*

            OP, it doesn’t matter if your salary is 50K or 250K, if you’re incurring expenses during the workday required to do your job (tolls, mileage, etc.) they need to reimburse you. Good luck to you; you’ve got this!

      2. Kristin*

        It’s a startup, presumably they’re promising OP that they will raise their salary once…I don’t know…they get bought by Google or something

      3. darsynia*

        I’d be VERY curious about the people who have held the position before me and whether the turnover for the job just happens to be a couple of months.

        1. So they all cheap ass rolled over and one fell out*

          I’d be willing to bet $16.57 that the only thing lw is going to get after 2 months is excuses or a pink slip.

      4. alex*

        My guess is that a commission kicks in. Some companies have a 60 or 90 day probationary period for new marketing or sales reps before they are eligible for it. If that’s the case, you could be right about not counting on it. If it is a sales rep with a monthly financial goal, a lot of times they don’t get commission (only base salary) unless they hit or exceed that goal. So, they might be telling OP she has the “chance” to make the higher salary in two months, but they aren’t guaranteeing it.

    2. Aerin*

      Sounds like dream job = “it looks fantastic on a resume and would be great at a mature company with established processes,” not so much “the day-to-day duties are actually tolerable let alone enjoyable.”

      I was going to say, for me the threshold of amazing a job would need to be for me to spend my days driving around NYC (I’m guessing) hauling tables and flogging products to passersby would be high. But then I started trying to quantify what “high” meant and realized that you could be paying me $5K/hour and I’d still probably tap out after a week or two. Even when I was young and able-bodied and didn’t know better that would have been a hell no.

      1. Moira's Rose's Garden*

        Because of the “whole state” comment, I’d rule out NYC. NY is actually a really big state. I was thinking maybe Boston? Very spendy, impossible to find parking, terrible traffic, the whole state can be driven around in a day.

    3. OP*

      They’re willing to reimburse! I was just looking for clarification on what would be a normal ask, bc I have a hard time distinguishing. I don’t want to ask them to reimburse my shortcomings. I’m dramatic when I’m tired.

      1. CityMouse*

        The problem is, you shouldn’t have to ask certainly not ask us! They should have given this to you before you started.

        1. OP*

          Thank you citymouse. I don’t disagree that that would be ideal. I think they were transparent and I am unorganized. I’d share my astrological sign, but this post is teetering on lacking anonymity more than I’d prefer already.

          1. CityMouse*

            I just am really uncomfortable that you are.blaming yourself for something that should have been clearly spelled out my your boss and should be available to reference easily. I have had jobs that involve work travel and I was always sent reimbursement guides without asking for them and they were easily available in a shared drive.

        2. Florence Reese*

          This is a sentiment I agree with, but you’ve been up and down these comments repeating it and like…the fact is that OP is here asking for help! It doesn’t help to be told “you shouldn’t need to ask for help” with no other help.

          1. anon_sighing*

            It’s not so much OP shouldn’t need to ask for help but a simple “Hey, I travel a lot for work and I am wondering if I can get guidance on expense reimbursements related to the job? I have I need to submit, but the manual isn’t specific to my region so I wanted to reach out first!” to the people who can truly give them answers is a lot easier.

            1. anon_sighing*

              + “the manual doesn’t outline what an allowable expense is and I was hoping to get some clarity to ensure I’m submitting relevant expenses.”

          2. CityMouse*

            Because it’s important for OP to understand the way they’re being treated isn’t normal and they need to be on the watch out for red flags. The OP blamed her own disorganization here and that’s not okay that they believe this.

            When an employer is doing something that is outside of norms and is costing LWs money, we have to point out this isn’t standard operating practice at good companies.

            1. WellRed*

              Literally the reason to work is to get paid and instead OP is running through their savings. That has nothing to do with whether comments are negative or commenters woke up on the wrong side of the bed. Unless OP is a founder, they should not be loaning the company money.

              1. OP*

                i’m not running through my savings. my savings is depleted from a circumstance that is not work related prior to starting this job. i’m not used to operating with a smaller safety net, which is why I made this inquiry.

      2. vroom vroom*

        I’m wondering if you misunderstood the 30 mile requirement. Is it possible they meant to submit for reimbursement in chunks that equal 30 miles or more, not that anything under 30 miles is not reimbursable? Often this is done with a minimum reimbursement per submission to reduce the amount of admin that needs to be done. So that would be I have 3 trips of 25 miles, I’ll submit all 3 together, rather than 3 separate reimbursement requests.

        1. umami*

          I wsa thinking this, too. Until my current employer, I had never been reimbursed mileage, so when I was told to submit an expense report whenever I travel to another of our work sites, I did! Every.Single.Time. I got a note from our business manager to please do one monthly or quarterly report, because my boss was having to approve every single report separately (and we are talking in the dollars per trip, not anything major). I was so embarrassed, but I didn’t know I was allowed to submit multiple trips on one expense report. Also, their reimbursement rate included any related tolls whether you used the toll roads or not, another thing I didn’t realize and would actively avoid toll roads whenever possible.

  3. Starbuck*

    “but lacking the 30-mile reimbursement minimum.”

    Uh, what is this? I’ve never heard of there being a minimum mile requirement for reimbursement anywhere I’ve worked. Obviously I wouldn’t bother to submit a form if the only trip I did all month was 2 miles, but if I’d done a dozen different 1, 2, 3 mile trips? You bet I would! LW, there’s no good reason for them to not at least reimburse your work mileage. They should also pay for parking during the workday and any tolls. It’s truly wild that they don’t and why isn’t mileage reimbursement in your list of demands? It should be!

    1. Jillian*

      This has been a policy at all (3) jobs I’ve had in the last 30 years, and it was PER TRIP, not per day. Mileage was always 30 miles (round trip) per day.

        1. Starbuck*

          Yeah that’s wild to me, so they could have you drive, say, 20 miles per day, every day, and never reimburse you for any of that? Unless I was already making like six figures I can’t imagine ever agreeing to that.

          1. Jillian*

            We had three facilities in the same town, a few miles apart, and my department had daily meetings at the other locations. A normal day would have a total of 10-15 miles of additional driving. Those of us traveled regularly out of town just bumped up our regular travel miles to make up for it.

      1. anon24*

        That’s wild. I worked a job in the early 20teens where I was on call every other week to come in after hours for any issues. It was a 26 mile round trip from my home to the job, and if I got called in I got something like 58 cent/mile reimbursement, so about $15. I had a fuel efficient little car, so as annoying as getting called in was, I also liked it because one call in would almost cover my gas for the entire week.

      2. GythaOgden*

        Ours is 10 miles or to your normal place of work. It’s the UK, which is smaller and denser-populated; it does mean some of us who live further from the base office we’re assigned to generally WFH but the two senior managers who work on our patch have to travel a long way for that. They’re not on massive salaries even by British standards, but equally, they chose to live in Bristol or Birmingham and apply for jobs in our region when their patch includes Reading, Oxford and Aldershot. Likewise I chose to stay where I am and not move closer, because I have an attachment to where I live and I’m able to do my job remotely with only sporadic in-person days.

        I get the reasonable adjustment of being able to stay overnight if I’m expected to be in-person at a site that’s not my own office. My own office is 15 miles away but I travelled there unreimbursed every day for ten years. When I was promoted I tried to come in when I could, but I very quickly started getting expected to do reception duties while there, so I had to draw a line under that. My boss didn’t want me doing that (she put her foot down when my former line manager, who I still serve as an admin but don’t actually report to any more, started asking me to cover when both my former colleagues were out), I have too many Teams calls to be able to answer reception calls or do those duties and it’s easier for me to work at home due to issues of stamina and mental health that were close to sending me off on sick leave before I landed the new job.

        So yeah, it’s common, although OP should be being reimbursed for travel around the catchment area of their sales duties, storage (they should definitely spring for a unit somewhere) and transporting merch.

        However, their focus issues are their own to solve. I got into the habit of buying sandwiches out because there were some days when I couldn’t be bothered to make my own, but that was on me. Likewise the Uber and stuff when they don’t /want/ to drive…that’s not reimbursable. But OP was looking for advice on what to ask for when they talked to their bosses about this, not on the equity issues around it, and it may be more helpful for them if they get that help from us rather than all the righteous indignation.

    2. Melicious*

      Oh heck yes! ESPECIALLY in a challenging to drive in metro area, ten 5 mile trips need to be reimbursed for 50 miles at some mileage rate. Wear and tear on your vehicle is major in a driving heavy job.

      1. OP*

        Okay this is how I was feeling haha. I just didn’t know if it was professional to say so. They’ve given no inclination that they wouldn’t be receptive. I genuinely did not know if it was acceptable for me to be like “I’ve driven one mile, but put ten years on my car.” I still don’t know… is that a me problem or is there a professional way to phrase it?

        1. Carly*

          My husband is in sales and travels for his job. He rents a storage unit for his work samples that he is reimbursed for. His company uses a company called Motus that reimburses him for mileage as well as maintenance/wear and tear on his personal vehicle for the work travel he does. They also pay for his EZPass and his boss has made it clear that it is unnecessary to parse out the few times he uses it for personal travel. Those are all reasonable things to ask for from your company!

        2. Cyborg Llama Horde*

          So, IF you talk to your boss using the language someone suggested above, and the answer you get is “you can only submit for reimbursement if the TRIP is over 30 miles,” I think the professional way to push back is something like:

          “I understand that the company generally only reimburses trips over 30 miles, but I’m expected to move $equipment between as many as seven different sites in a day. The transportation expectations of this job mean that I’m spending upwards of three hours a day in $Boston traffic, and putting 200-300 job-required miles on my car every week, of which fewer than 60 are reimbursable under the current policy. If we can’t find a way for the company to cover these costs, I’m going to have to find a different job, because I can’t afford my living expenses when I’m spending this much on company travel.”

          Assuming, of course, that that’s the way the math breaks down and you would, in fact, find a different job if they won’t cover this. The slightly-softer last sentence is something like, “These are business expenses, not personal expenses, and I need the company to find a way to cover them.”

          There’s probably an even-softer way to end it, but I’m not thinking of it at the moment.

        3. Princess Sparklepony*

          Seems to me, but I am not in management, that there is a difference between big city driving and suburban driving. Suburban driving can be very easy, big city driving is never easy. There should be some sort of differential for the added stress. (Like they require you to have a ten mile trip instead of a thirty mile trip.)

    3. Ann O'Nemity*

      I’ve seen employers restrict mileage reimbursement to longer trips only, or outside a certain mile radius of the city. My last employer used 50 miles, I believe. That said, that was for the very occasional local travel to a client or vendor.

      It sounds like the OP is spending a ton of time driving for work and hauling stuff, so I’d expect a better reimbursement policy to make them whole.

      1. Starbuck*

        Well, that sucks. If it’s not far enough to be worth reimbursing, I better be able to easily walk there and back, or you better forget about me driving my personal vehicle on work time for work purposes. Like what? No!

    4. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

      It may be that the rule is 30 miles if using your own car and under 30 miles, take a cab or a car share. LW seems to be ruling out an Uber, but if that’s what they’ll reimburse, he should do that.

    5. Antilles*

      The only sort of minimum mileage reimbursement I’ve ever heard is relative to your normal work commute.
      If you normally drive 10 miles from your house to the office, but this week you’re not going to the office and instead going to a client’s job site, you only claim the mileage beyond mile 10 (under the theory that the first 10 miles is effectively replacing your ‘commute’). But even this seems to be fairly uncommon.

      1. Banana Pyjamas*

        At my last job we had to be outside of a 50 mile radius to claim reimbursement, and we had a pre-approved maximum mileage we could claim based on the longest route Google suggested.

      2. Sparkle Llama*

        My employer is confident that you are breaking federal tax law if you don’t remove your normal commuting distance and any time you submit mileage from your house you need to include a Google map showing home to work distance, even when it would be substantially further to drive from the office so you are already saving them money by going from home. They claim it would be taxable income otherwise.

        1. Thegreatprevaricator*

          In the UK but this is the rule for my employer. You can’t claim for ordinary commute. Expense claims don’t have a minimum mileage but have to be calculated as from the office. We’re govt adjacent/ public sector so we also are expected to use public transport where pissible

        2. fhqwhgads*

          If you normally commute to the office, say, 20 miles, and on a given day you’re going to a client site 10 miles from your house in the opposite direction and not going to the office at all, then yeah, no reimbursement for mileage. If you went 30 miles the opposite direction from your house, you could be reimbursed for the 10 (30 minus usual-commute 20). But if you never go to the office, your home-base is your home, and you always go from there to client sites, then all of the mileage is reimburseable because the “usual commute” that needs subtracting is zero.

      3. umami*

        Yes, we do this too. Reimbursable mileage is the mileage to the other location from your usual worksite, normal commuting miles to your usual work site. If it’s fewer miles, you obviously wouldn’t get reimbursement.

    6. Sloanicota*

      I’ve seen similar policies where the employer won’t pay expenses in the “home region” which they define by a mile-based radius, but I’m pretty sure it was just expenses like food; I’m not sure why they would refuse to reimburse less than 30 mile trips. However, it does get weird when you’re traveling from a location to your home (because that’s like your commute essentially). In past places I’ve worked, we’ve been able to deduct our standard commute and be reimbursed for the difference.

    7. Rick Tq*

      At my employer if I travel anywhere from the office and back I get full reimbursement. If I start or end at home they deduct my reference mileage for that part of the trip but still pay the rest, all based on IRS rules. Our Sales Reps get a car allowance they have to document as business related each year but don’t submit mileage reports each month too.

      OP, if you are based in the US it doesn’t sound like your employer is following IRS rules.

      I’d also look at renting (and expensing) a storage unit to keep all the swag, it doesn’t belong in your home and might not be covered for theft by your renter’s insurance.

      1. Annie*

        Excellent point about the renter’s / homeowners insurance not covering work swag and equipment!

        I do seem to recall that my current job (when I was working in an office) would reimburse only if the mileage was different from my commute. So I could go straight to work (26 mi commute) or go straight to a client (26 mi commute) and not get paid, or I could go to work, then drive to the client, and get paid that mileage (work and client were nearly opposite directions, so the cost going between them was probably 15 mi).

    8. Tio*

      Mileage reimbursement depends a lot on the industry and position.

      Lots of places wouldn’t do a standard reimbursement if you’re not meant to be driving around. There might be a cap on miles, or just no standard reimbursement. Those same places might have different rules for, example, for sales people who travel a lot and are expected to have more mileage.

      I think it would be worth OP clarifying the policy with their managers. Also, if it’s not working, lay out why and explain to them what the actual costs are looking like vs what they expected. A startup might not have the same frame of reference as a regular company.

      I agree with Alison that the $400 parking is a non starter – you agreed to take a driving position in this city, it should probably have been researched ahead of time and factored in on the salary negotiations – and I’m hesitant to think they’ll offer up the storage items, but maybe if they make a good case.

    9. Dinwar*

      ” I’ve never heard of there being a minimum mile requirement for reimbursement anywhere I’ve worked.”

      I have. The rule where I work is that if your drive is longer than your drive to the office, they reimburse you. If it’s equal to or less than that, they consider it on par with commuting. (They will pay for a rental if you’re going to a jobsite, but that’s because of insurance issues.) The logic is that they don’t pay you to drive to the office, so they shouldn’t pay you for a normal commute. You’re still paid for your time, though. And you’re not expected to deduct the travel distance to the office. They actually tried that, but then they realized that everyone would go to the office–usually increasing drive distance, because the office is the wrong way from the jobsite–and then start the trip, and very quickly scrapped the idea.

      Honestly, it rarely comes up as it’s generally up to the project managers what they’re willing to pay for. If I’m asking you to drive 20 miles to do something, it’s because it needs done and the mileage is a way to incentivize you to do it.

      Parking and tolls the company pays for, absolutely.

    10. Coverage Associate*

      I have had clients who won’t pay mileage if the appearance is within 50 miles of my office, but the firm/employer paid the mileage and bridge tolls. They just didn’t get reimbursed by the client.

    1. Wendy Darling*

      They never pay you more later. I have been promised three different times at different jobs that I would get a promotion/raise at some future date and somehow every time the future date came the goal posts got moved.

      The other thing they all had in common was the unbelievable temerity to be shocked when I quit.

      1. Sloanicota*

        This is tough because my parents and mentors always gave me the “you’ll have to do the job to prove you can get the job” advice and I think there’s a modicum of truth to that, but I really misunderstood what it meant and companies were happy to take advantage of that. You should never count on any promises that are more than a month away and not already in motion, to be honest – and even then you have your fingers crossed. But the flip side is, if it doesn’t happen after a month, bail on those extra responsibilities!

        1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

          Yeah, there’s nuance there.
          I was hired in as a temp. I started to create a spreadsheet for the work I was doing. (creating books). They got more books from the same client. I made a bigger spreadsheet. They hired more temps. I shared my spreadsheet. We were all doing the work. We were getting paid a fair wage for it. I kept making spreadsheets and tracking the project. I got a raise. Then I was given the lead on the project. Then I got hired full time.
          I did what I thought needing doing and it turned into a better job.
          Nobody said, “hey, lead this project and we will see how you do.”

      2. AJ*

        My brother actually DID get paid more later based on spoken word. But I didn’t believe a word of it until the check came through. He got hired as a door-to-door salesman, and the way compensation worked was salary was based on expected comission, and then anything over the expectation was paid out as commission. But he had to work long enough to have a commission track record before they’d pay him salary, and there was also some issue with paying commission, and then they cited a budget shortfall, even though the department was going gangbusters and he was one of their star salesmen… I was SHOCKED when his salary agreement arrived.

      3. MigraineMonth*

        I feel like there’s a nuance to this I’m missing, because I have had a manager tell me they were trying to get a new position approved, then that they had submitted me for promotion, then that I’d been given the promotion (with automatic salary increase). Promotions do happen.

        On the other hand, there are scammers who promise you the moon as soon as you achieve [impossible goal], managers who try to get you to do the work of the higher position without plans to actually promote you, and businesses that reorganize and eliminate promised promotion opportunities. I guess the lesson is to be reasonably skeptical of all promises?

    2. The Cosmic Avenger*

      “Oh, guess what? We know you’ve been here two months now, but we just hired a new person who is going to do the job at the introductory rate. But please keep storing our merch until we send someone over to pick it up.”

      1. Snoozing not schmoozing*

        Ooh, I got suckered into one of those jobs! Once you hit the six month mark and were eligible for benefits like health insurance, it was bye-bye time! Since it was just 30 hours a week, some people had full-time jobs elsewhere with insurance, so they got to stay. But not if it was your sole income. Horrible cheapskate place!

    3. Ace in the Hole*

      Exception: if there is a really clear, WRITTEN definition of “later” and “more.”

      For instance, “Starting pay is $X but will increase to $Y after 6-month probationary period.” Or “Trainees paid at $X per hour, after completing 160 training hours and passing certification exam wage increases to $Y per hour.”

      If they can’t/won’t put this level of detail in writing, they don’t really mean it.

      1. Beth*

        Even that is honestly kind of sketchy. It’s not a full on red flag, but it’s not good either.

        My first job out of college had a setup like that, with lower pay during a designated training period and an automatic bump to a documented higher rate at the end of that period, and they did in fact use that period for training and then give everyone the higher rate promised.

        But it was a sign that the company didn’t really respect the people they were hiring very much. They clearly thought of us as replaceable; they preferred to hire a new grad straight out of college, rather than either hire people with experience or retain people who’d already worked there for a few years. It wasn’t a bad place to be day-to-day, but they didn’t offer much room for growth, either in terms of salary or in terms of job duties. I lasted three years and that was longer than most.

        1. Sydney Ellen Wade*

          But it was a sign that the company didn’t really respect the people they were hiring very much.

          How is that a sign of not respecting people? To me, a salary bump after the probationary period is a sign of encouragement—they’re happy with your work and want to reward you for being successful.

          1. Beth*

            In this case it wasn’t a “here’s the initial offer, and we’ll guarantee a raise if you perform to X level;” it was “here’s the initial offer, but you’ll make less for the first 4 weeks for training”. They had a standardized training program that was mandatory for everyone, regardless of role or experience level, and the bump came when the training period ended, before ever seeing how we performed on the job. I didn’t read much into it when I started, but by the time I left, it was very clear that the company treated most of their employees as basically replaceable by any new hire regardless of background–they didn’t value skill building or experience, offer room for growth, or make any attempt to retain high performers. In retrospect, them basically implementing a pay cut during training was a sign of how much they (didn’t) value employees for the skills and experience they brought to the table.

            1. Ace in the Hole*

              Paying less for the first 4 weeks is bizarre and penny pinching, that does sound like a red flag… but for different reasons than “we’ll pay you more later.”

              When I’ve encountered this, it’s for jobs with a prolonged training period (6-12 months or more) and tends to be done specifically to increase retention because they do put a lot of resources into training and skill building.

    4. OP*

      It totally can be. In this case, our revenue was $0 when I started and is now above current salary, so that’s why it began with a pay ladder (idk if this is correct term)— bc the company’s success was also not promised. It was definitely a risk to accept. If I go into debt bc of this I will obviously update tho.

      1. CityMouse*

        Your pay should not be low because it cost them money to expand into a new city and the company’s success wasn’t guaranteed. Your pay should be based on the competitive cost for your labor in your city. You are not responsible for the expansion costing money and the risk, the company is.

      2. e271828*

        OP, you do not need to fund your employer. That’s not how it works. Money flows to the employee.

  4. E*

    Easy solution on the tolls – get an EZ pass and have them reimburse you for the business tolls. Keep track and submit the invoice with business ones highlighted. But I have to say, 2 of 3 employers I’ve had where driving is part of the job just pay all my toll expenses (personal & business) as a perk.

    1. OP*

      This is the answer I was hoping for. Like what is normal with EZ pass? So it’s my responsibility to get one and then submit tolls. It’s not their responsibility to get me an EZ pass. 10/10 answer. Appreciate you!

      1. Pink Candyfloss*

        If you were driving a company car and not your personal vehicle, they would provide an EZ Pass for the car.

        Since you are driving your personal car it is your responsibility to submit the receipt with the highlighted expenses specific to business activity.

    2. MigraineMonth*

      I disagree slightly, I think the company should reimburse for the cost of anything bought for doing work such as an EZ pass. (Though I think EZ pass does something confusing with crediting the account with part of the purchase cost, so that might be more hassle than it’s worth.)

  5. Precious Wentletrap*

    Are you positive you’re not working for a Devilcorp? Look ’em up and get back to us.

    1. Slow Gin Lizz*

      If by Devilcorp you mean an MLM, it doesn’t sound outside the realm of possibility. Or is Devilcorp a specific name for one company that keeps changing its name? (I’ve done some googling, but I’m still not sure what you mean by Devilcorp.) In any case, I wouldn’t be surprised if this is a Devilcorp or an MLM, but wow, I’m so sick of those kinds of “companies” existing.

      1. Precious Wentletrap*

        It’s the specific company that keeps changing its name and has people start branch offices everywhere, recruiting young, naïve, desperate folks for poorly paid, poorly managed commission-based sales. Notorious for stringing along employees with promises of better pay and fast promotion, then closing up shop before delivering.

    2. OP*

      omg thank you for the referral. tbh I’m mortified my own disorganization prompted this type of reaction. They haven’t turned down any reimbursement requests, but I am (obviously) lacking the clear communication necessary— which was the guidance I was initially hoping for.

        1. GythaOgden*

          Eh. I’d expect someone who worked for a company to read up on policy before it became an issue. Like having to call out sick two hours before your shift starts rather than one hour as you’ve been used to — you need to read up the policy or ask rather than just assume. There’s a lot that an employee should pre-emptively ask about as they start or as it comes up. I generally check with my manager which trips are covered under my reasonable adjustment plan (staying overnight at the company’s expense before an in-person day which takes a while to get to by public transport) before I book travel.

          OP is asking what expenses are reasonable to ask for reimbursement for, not saying the company won’t reimburse them. Let’s take them at their word that they’re trying to calibrate what’s reasonable to ask for rather than getting so aggressive about the company. If I’m having practical difficulties at an otherwise ok job, I’d be frustrated about the general response here too. (Like in my case, how do I learn to do decent, objective HR minutes? Why are you EXPECTED to do HR minutes as a regional administrator? It’s part of my job to sub in if there’s a need. But WHY are you even expected to do that? I like my job and want to do what my boss asks. BUT YOU SHOULDN’T HAVE TO YOUR BOSS SUCKS OMG DO YOU WORK FOR AN MLM?!. No, she doesn’t, and no, I don’t. YES SHE DOES!’)

          Can you see how that becomes exhausting to read and why it discourages people from engaging with the comments?

          1. CityMouse*

            What I’m seeing is someone being gadlighted by a company to the point she’s blaming her own ADHD for her going broke and thr company not doing thing it’s supposed to be doing.

            It’s important to explain to this LW that the company is failing her and she shouldn’t be blaming herself for this. I don’t know why you think pointing out that something is wrong is so terrible, I’m seeing someone who’s potentially getting thrown under thr bus and could go broke blaming herself and flailing for something a company should have handled.

          2. Precious Wentletrap*

            It wasn’t just the confusion on mileage reimbursement that set off the Devilcorp alarm bells, for the record. That’s normal; most people, especially if you’re new to the workforce or in an early phase company, would have questions about that. It was the confusion in combination with extensive travel and the promises of bigger salary someday later even though the current salary minus work expenses is not viable.

            1. CityMouse*

              Yes, the idea that we’re being bad commenters telling OP she might be being scammed is weird. There are HUGE red flags here, she’s blaming her going broke on her ADHD. If someone’s in trouble we NEED to tell them that.

  6. Darury*

    I used to travel about every two months for work. I was billing the 19 miles each way to the airport as part of my expense report and no one ever batted an eye. Yes, it’s only a few dollars, but if I am allowed to claim $0.45 per mile (or whatever the rate is now), then I’m claiming it and not providing subsidies to my employer.

  7. Ellen*

    It should be very straightforward for them to set you up with an expense account and reimburse you for specific expenses incurred in work-related trips. Instead of paying for all of your EZPass charges, you would submit receipts for tolls paid in work-related travel, and similarly submit receipts for parking expenses incurred at work sites (just not at your home). That should be *in addition* to any mileage reimbursement, which is generally meant to cover gas and wear-and-tear on the car.

  8. Yup*

    “Start up” is such a huge red flag, often meaning you are supposed to want to contribute your time, money, and energy building someone else’s idea of a company. Bail now before you end up in debt trying to make other people’s dreams come true.

    1. AnonForThis*

      Well, that’s silly. “Start up” is not a red flag; it’s a type of business. Lots of people work for them. Lots of times they fail. Sometimes they succeed. They have certain pluses and minuses, like any other company, and individuals have different things they want out of their employers.

      Signed, Happily Working at a Startup After Happily Working at Fortune 500 Companies, and Making Close to 500k This Year

      1. not like a regular teacher*

        Note that they said “often”, not always. Many startups fail, so it’s not unreasonable to take that fact, in combination with OP’s description above, and see some red flags.

        I’m glad you’re happy at your job. There’s no need for #notallstartups though.

        1. GythaOgden*

          If startups often failed, there’d be no businesses around altogether. And practically speaking OP didn’t come here to hear about the iniquities of start ups.

          1. MigraineMonth*

            I’m confused by this statement. Start-ups very frequently fail. That’s why venture capital is such a risky way to invest money.

            That’s not necessarily a bad thing for the employees, though: a well-run startup can pay its employees well and then lay them off when it goes out of business (or is acquired), just as a regular business can (since regular businesses often fail as well).

            On the other extreme, there are high risk/reward setups where employees are paid mainly in equity that can leave employees working for a pittance years for the promise of a big payoff down the road that never comes. Personally I’d steer away from anything like that, but I’ve never been interested in gambling.

    2. Decidedly Me*

      Every job is contributing your time and energy to build someone else’s idea of a company – whether a start up or Fortune 500. You shouldn’t be contributing your money for any job, though.

    3. Beth*

      If you’re working in a start up and contributing money, or contributing more time and energy than your paycheck warrants, you should stop. It’s different if you’re the founder, of course–in that case, put in all the time and effort and money you can afford to invest. But for most of us who work at them, it’s just a job! Startups have their advantages (I’ve gotten to take on projects that I would be too junior for at a bigger company, which has definitely boosted my resume and skill set) and their disadvantages (my employer is way more likely to go under than a big, established company). But regardless of where you’re working, you shouldn’t be expected to act like you’re the owner unless you ARE the owner.

    4. OP*

      This is fair. They don’t expect me to foot the bill. I just was exhausted and hoping Alison’s response would lay out what is by the book normal/acceptable for presenting unique incurred costs in new market. I’m pretty embarrassed this was published, but I literally asked for it.

      1. What name did I use last time?*

        OP, something to remember is that Alison chooses letters that will be informative for lots of people, not just for you. You wrote in because you were confused what expenses you should expect to have reimbursed — lots of other people are confused about that, if they’re new to work or new to a role where they have mileage and parking and other expenses. You were feeling overwhelmed and not sure where to draw the line between expenses you submit and expenses that are your own problem — you’ve given Alison and the commentariat the opportunity to answer and tell anecdotes of their own experiences, which will be helpful for lots of other people.

      2. Pink Candyfloss*

        I did not see any unique costs in your lists. They may be new to you, but they are not new to businesses who need to operate with employees doing a lot of driving and storage/moving of equipment. Some give a monthly travel stipend. Some provide a company-owned car and a company credit card tied to an expense account for which these are booked. If your company is growing successfully, that may be a proposal to put on the table to reduce the burden on you of paying out of pocket then waiting to be reimbursed. Even when they pay you back, you’re providing a short term loan to them from your own funds, and that’s not something a business should ever require of employees. A company card makes things easy – submit the statement monthly along with your receipts from the expenses, and go on about your day.

      3. MigraineMonth*

        Please don’t be embarrassed, we all come here to learn. Your letter has informed a lot of people who had questions just like yours but were too shy to write themselves.

        Also, remember that you’re always in good company in embarrassment here: read the Mortification Week columns and remember it could be so much worse.

    5. MaskedMarvel*

      no… I have been decently paid at startups… more so than larger, more staid companies.

    6. Blue Pen*

      I mean, I hear what you’re saying, but I think there’s a big difference between the OP’s experience now and, say, Google in its nascency.

  9. SleeplessKJ*

    I had a driving heavy job that involved dozens of small (1-2 mile trips) and I submitted a monthly worksheet listing the trips (date/to/from/distance) and calculated the total mileage. You need to do this. You absolutely should be receiving mileage compensation. And NONE of this should be covered by an increase in pay. You pay taxes on your salary – so those expenses are costing you even more than you think.

    1. Sloanicota*

      There are also apps that people who drive a lot can use to keep track of such things. The phone is with you in the car anyway so you just hit “start” and “stop” for business travel and at the end of the month it has a whole list. That may help OP if she’s struggling with attention/concentration.

      1. 1 Year and Counting*

        Yes! My (very ADHD) hubby uses MileIQ, and you don’t even have to hit start/stop. It automagically knows when you’re driving, and at the end of the day you just classify what was work and what was personal.

  10. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

    If you’re saying that you can’t be reimbursed for using your car unless you travel 30 miles, I suggest traveling the way your employer requires for you to get reimbursed. If they won’t reimburse tolls and parking for work travel, but will reimburse Ubers, take an Uber; you can get larger ones. If it’s more expensive than driving, that’s on them for having the policy, not you.

    Also, if your work has parking, maybe they could agree to allow you to park there for free and use public transport for commuting. Or, if the Uber things works most of the time, find parking farther out of town and go get the car just when you really need it.

    I agree with others about the “we’ll gladly pay for Tuesday for a hamburger today” salary discussion. Hopefully, you’ll be an exception, but that is a red flag.

    1. Moose*

      It sounds like the LW’s company doesn’t reimburse for any transportation unless it is a trip in a personal car over 30 miles. It does not sound like they’re willing to reimburse for Uber.

      1. danmei kid*

        I thought policies like that were intended for people who have to travel to sites only, not for people who are required to transport not only themselves but equipment/merch (i.e. company property) as part of the job. If you’re just getting yourself to a site it’s on you, if you’re transporting property in lieu of them hiring someone else to do it, it’s on them?

  11. Justin*

    Doesn’t sound like a dream to me, probably-fellow-NYer. My job just gives everyone in the company a stipend for commuting (150-200/month depending on our area, we live all over the country). And they reimburse for any non-commute work trips. As they should.

    Now that’s how it’s supposed to be.

    1. Justin*

      (I also have ADHD and could never commute to work via car. We have one, but it’s for near home as we just bought a house where we can park it. Having one without a spot is no fun – and frankly NYC not having as many parking minimums is good for housing and climate etc.)

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        I used to live in a neighborhood in my city (not NY, but another northeast city) where the parking was ridiculous. I could only stand it for a year. I so get OP and sympathize completely. It was a miserable year for me, working as a musician and often arrived home much later at night than everyone else who had already gotten all the good parking spaces…now I live in the suburbs and even though I don’t have a big apt or a large income, I absolutely cannot live anywhere without a dedicated parking space. I have a day job now but I still work as a musician and absolutely refuse to be in a situation where I’m arriving home at 11 pm and can’t find a place to park.

        1. I'm an NP now*

          I paid for a garage when I lived in a place without easy parking and worked late into the evening regularly. I just wasn’t willing to hunt for street parking every night.

          1. Slow Gin Lizz*

            I definitely couldn’t have afforded that. Parking spaces for my building were $400/month in 2002 and I was a broke musician.

    2. Brain the Brian*

      Let’s not speculate about where LWs live. Site rules technically only apply to employers, but still — LWs write in expecting anonymity. There are lots of very expensive, car-unfriendly metro areas in the world — many of them outside the U.S., even.

    3. Darkling*

      I had assumed LA to be honest – more pricey than NYC and the entertainment industry does this a lot.

  12. Ann Onymous*

    OP, I have ADHD and I am the child of a mental health professional who also has ADHD themselves, so I am well aware of paying an occasional “ADHD Tax”. But the mention of it in your letter makes me wonder if it’s become more than occasional for you. If I’m misreading, feel free to ignore, but if your ADHD is regularly impacting your day to day activities, please consider talking with a mental health professional if you haven’t already. There are all sorts of things that can help mitigate the impact of ADHD (including but not limited to medication) and a metal health professional can help you find what works well for you.

    1. Justin*

      That final typo there is funny.

      But yes, we can never fully remove the tax but we can do things to mitigate, usually needs actual support, though. Please get as much support as you can.

        1. Justin*

          Mine was I went on a work trip today and took my work computer. Good!

          Except I also teach grad students at night and my presentation is on my personal computer. Bad!

    2. CS*

      So, I **don’t** have ADHD and yet I found the book “How to Keep House While Drowning” incredibly helpful. It was written with neurodivergent folks in mind. In other words, organization, executive function etc are relative strengths for me. But I do find being single stressful because everything is up to me.

      Just as an FYI if anyone would find that helpful.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        I work for a nonprofit that does patient advocacy and funds research for a degenerative disease that disables people over time, such that many of them end up in wheelchairs but also need help feeding themselves and otherwise taking care of their personal needs. Recently a coworker brought up the fact that it really makes no sense why the entire world isn’t just built for disabled people since it’s not like able-bodied people can’t also use the things that disabled people can only use. Same goes for the accommodations for neurodivergent people; they usually only help to make things clearer for everyone else.

        I was recently diagnosed with ADHD and I realized that my ability to write very clear directions for things stems from the fact that I can also really easily see when directions are written very unclearly. This may or may not be an ADHD trait, but wanting written things to be really clear is my jam. (I am not a writer though – not creative enough for that – but when I know what needs to be said I am good at that part.)

      2. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

        Me too! It’s also great for people who whatever reason are low on bandwidth to keep the house clean, whether that’s a temporary situation (like a newborn) or a permanent one (like some disabilities). It’s literally the only self-help book I’ve ever bought.

    3. ferrina*

      A fellow ADHDer here. I’m very familiar with the ADHD tax (i.e., the extra cost incurred because of ADHD symptoms- forgetting food so you need to buy more; going grocery shopping then forgetting to use what you buy; forgetting to do something until the last minute and prices have gone up; forgetting to pay a bill one month then paying a late fee; losing/forgetting your library books so often that you have to cut up your library card because you can’t afford the library).

      The ADHD tax is a personal tax, not something we can ask our employers to take on. It just doesn’t make sense- they aren’t getting added value to explain the added compensation (unless your ADHD superpower makes you great at your job, in which case you are getting more compensation because of accomplishments). There can be tricks to diminish the tax- if you know you forget food, keep extra food in the car. I used to keep a checklist taped at eyelevel next to the door of all the things I needed for a normal day (including my shoes, because I’ve forgotten those). The driving one is a new one to me- that doesn’t seem like it can be managed with behavioral tricks. If you haven’t tried medication, talk to someone. My regular doctor was able to get me a prescription- there’s a lot of different types of medications out there, and a good doctor can help you sort through which might help you and your particular flavor of ADHD.
      Good luck!

        1. MigraineMonth*

          I used to work in an office and put the time of the first and second evening bus on my calendar to make sure I didn’t miss them. When I started working from home, I thought I wouldn’t need those. It’s not like I’d just keep working and forget to eat dinner, right?

          I now have a daily “leave work” reminder on my work calendar.

    4. Jessica*

      Awesome typo, I am now imagining a robot doctor specializing in ADHD care. Like a medical C3PO.

    5. OP*

      Thank you Ann! I’m medicated— albeit a bit stressed bc I have to find new healthcare provider in the next 30 days. Then there’s the prior authorization, the shortages… I assume you know how it goes. I’m taking care of myself I just wanna make sure I’m not asking for ADHD tax to be reimbursed when I formally present the reimbursement needs of position.

      1. Smurfette*

        Fellow neurodivergent here.

        Think of it this way: would those ADHD taxes you’re incurring be the same if you were in a different job? E.g. forgetting your lunch at home or having to get an Uber because you missed the bus? If they would, then it’s something you can’t reasonably ask your company to cover. That’s a general rule of thumb, it may not apply in every single case.

      2. MigraineMonth*

        It’s really smart to ask Alison about this kind of judgement stuff, but I don’t think you need to worry too much. From the examples you gave in your letter, it sounds like you’re already doing a really good job of separating ADHD tax items out from the more borderline-professional expenses.

    6. GythaOgden*

      Yeah, autism taxpayer here too. It’s frustrating but it’s not my employer’s responsibility beyond reasonable adjustments that help me do my job.

  13. Amy*

    I have had a job similar to this one in NYC and the immediate region. I’ve done it two ways.

    1) Company provides a leased car + gas card. I submit my monthly parking (also about $400), location parking costs and EZ-Pass roll statements as an expense. I also expense Ubers when driving is not practical due location parking costs.

    2) I use my own car and get a $400 a month base stipend to cover use of car + a per mile amount of 25 cents a mile. When I had this option, I no longer needed a paid garage but if I had needed the garage, they would have paid it.

    It is a known problem in my job that people with heavy NYC travel usually have very low miles despite many hours in the car, so they often have a higher monthly stipend + lower mile reimbursement rate.

    I’d never consider using my car under the circumstances described in this letter.

  14. Judge Judy and Executioner*

    In my industry salespeople typically have stock of our items to show current and prospective customers. My organization allows them to expense a storage unit as many of them do not have the space in their own home. In addition, there is also an automobile allowance that’s about $750 a month depending on the geographical area. A driving heavy job should for sure include mileage and reimbursement for tolls or parking while incurred on the job. When I have used my EZ pass for tolls while driving to a conference, I’ve been able to calculate the amounts based on the state’s turnpike website and have submitted those for reimbursement.

    It is concerning your company is not more forthright with paying for expenses incurred on the job, as most competent organizations would cover this automatically, without you having to ask. Some companies may require you to use a specific company credit card (when possible) for your expenses, but being reimbursed for mileage, tolls, and parking is a super normal and expected expense for any company that requires you to travel from location to location. Getting reimbursed for lunch because you forgot yours at home isn’t something any company would pay for, but if this is a frequent occurrence you should put protein bars or other snacks in your car as a backup.

    1. ferrina*

      I wonder what the company would do if OP didn’t have space at home for the supplies? What if OP said “starting on [DATE], I won’t be able to keep supplies at my home anymore”?

      1. Antilles*

        Depends how hard OP was willing to push.
        I suspect the answer is that if OP is really willing to hold firm and fight hard, then they’d eventually rent a small storage unit, but the process of getting there would involve a lot of pushing back “is it really that much stuff that you can’t just keep it at home” and “we can look but this takes time so we can’t do it by [DATE]” and “we’re still considering options” and blah blah blah.

        1. OP*

          I’m not a pusher, but thankfully they’re willing. This thread is exactly it. Like I also wanted to see if I could hire movers to move everything into the storage unit bc I have noodle arms. I’m just struggling to know what is too much and want my request to be professional and not a mess like the above post.

          1. Pink Candyfloss*

            If there is any risk of injury moving heavy or cumbersome things, or damage to the equipment, hiring a moving company with insurance and ideally workers who are physically capable and covered in the event of any of this – is a must. Insist (!!) based on the potential liability to the company if you get hurt, or to you if you break something.

          2. e271828*

            You need to stand in front of the mirror and practice shaking your head slightly while saying, “I’m sorry, but that’s not possible. No, I cannot do that. It’s not possible for me to do that for you.” At least five minutes every day, more if you need it (you’ll know you need it if you keep agreeing to things you are unable to do).

  15. Sloanicota*

    Oh, this is so tough because I really do end up shelling out a lot more on jobs that involve a lot of travel, which is one reason I would need to add literally like $20K a year if travel was more than occasional – there are just so many small fidgety expenses that either don’t quite seem right to bill (because the error was mine, or it’s more of a preference than a need, or because it seems way too picayune) or that aren’t eligible. I could see how easily someone would think a new job was a great salary without factoring those types of expenses in, unfortunately.

    1. Ruby Soho*

      I don’t travel anymore, but I used to about 4-6 times a year. Often enough that I knew the drill, but not so often that the novelty wore off. I’d end up buying a new book at the airport (even though I always brought one or two with me), buying either trial sizes of toiletries or TSA friendly packaging, or popping into the duty-free and finding some random interesting makeup, souvenirs for myself, friends, family…it really did add up.

      1. Sloanicota*

        For me it’s like “drove the wrong way for 10 miles and then had to turn around and go back” – “got delayed in the airport and had to buy a book and a sleep mask for my now-late flight” – “got a speeding or parking ticket, or worse towed, because I was unfamiliar with the signage and rules in this city.” And it added up fast! Plus the things that are never reimbursable, like needing to board my dog or having to replace personal items (especially phones, good lord) more often due to increased wear and tear.

          1. Sloanicota*

            Unfortunately, none of these expenses are what I would submit for reimbursement, I’m sorry to say (I **wish!!**). These kinds of costs, particular something like dog care, has to be made up by the overall salary in my opinion. Partly because of eating those costs though, I would certainly bill every mile to the penny and every toll that was for work purposes, and as others have said, I’d review their policies, or just ask, to understand if I can be reimbursed for a rideshare if it’s overall more convenient and economical to me vs driving my own car an having to wrangle with parking on either end. Good luck!!

        1. OP*

          Triple commenting bc everything you included so simply here is what I meant. I genuinely feel it will be worth my while and this stress is momentary. If it isn’t, I have enough professional experience to realize and move on. I just didn’t want to jeopardize an opportunity by submitting something like dog boarding in with parking.

        2. anon_sighing*

          I think 90% of the time its straightforward what is reimbursable (mileage) and what is the things you signed up for when you get a job you have to travel for/be away from home (having to get a dog sitter).

          For me the gray area is “well, increasing the wear and tear and miles on my personal car isn’t good for it in the long term. Are you paying for the mechanic? What about if there’s a care accident on the job? What is the policy around that?”

          This is why I advocate for company cars. Can’t do much about planes and trips though.

          1. Sloanicota*

            To be fair, the wear and tear on the car is why the mileage reimbursement rate is so much more than the cost of gas per mile. I used to think I was making bank on mileage reimbursement … until I needed all new tires and a tow truck, which was where that profit went.

          2. OP*

            I would 100% advocate for company car in retrospect. I still could and may. I guess initially I wasn’t sure if my willingness to contribute my own car was a factor in my hiring. The circumstances changed regarding the need to transport heavy items in the city after I started, so I think it’s normal for me to ask to alter terms… I just wanted to be way more clear than I was to Alison.

    2. OP*

      Thank you for compassionate response. I take full responsibility, and I haven’t been turned down regarding expenses. Was just seeking the most professional way to present my asks that’s aren’t currently included in Employee Handbook.

  16. Victoria*

    To break this down into a clear (and reasonable) ask, there are two options:

    Option 1: EZ Pass + Mileage reimbursement + Parking While On the Job + Storage System

    EZ Pass: If there is a one-time registration fee and/or a monthly subscription fee, they should pay it. You should use the pass to track your business expenses and submit those for reimbursement. (Or, if it’s possible to have the pass connected to a business payment account, you should do the opposite: track your personal EZ pass expenses and reimburse your employer for those).

    Mileage Reimbursement: It sounds like perhaps you don’t get paid for mileage reimbursement unless you are 30 miles from home? They need to adjust that policy for you. You should be able to claim whatever their standard reimbursement for mileage on personal vehicles is. This is intended to cover gas + wear and tear.

    Job-Related Parking: You should submit for reimbursement all parking when you are attending meetings and other work events. Parking overnight is not included.

    Storage System: Figure out what furniture/setup you want and request they they pay for it (including delivery and installation).

    Option 2: Driving Stipend + Storage System

    If you would prefer a standard stipend over all the reimbursements in the first option, you could propose a monthly driving stipend to cover the above expenses. The key here is that the stipend should be roughly the same as the average monthly expenditures above; some months you would spend more than the stipend and others you would spend less and you would be responsible for budgeting for that. The storage system is separate and should be paid for by your employer.

    1. Nathan*

      Parking overnight is not included.
      Parking overnight at home would not be included, yes, but the company should absolutely include parking overnight if travelling on business.

      1. OP*

        Thanks!! That’s precisely what I was looking for clarification on. Because there is essentially no night parking (not an exaggeration) near my home, the only safe option is to take additional transport home or pay for parking. If I didn’t need a car for work, I would not have mine here. I agreed to use car for work during offer, so the inconveniences of parking are my responsibility. I guess I was wondering if I could negotiate monthly parking until I receive higher salary, which makes me realize it’s a negotiation instead of reimbursement request.

        1. Freshest Pigeon on Kitchen Nightmares*

          “Because there is essentially no night parking (not an exaggeration) near my home…”

          I’m not asking you to out yourself, OP, but i don’t really understand this. Is it a situation where after a certain time of day, there isn’t any available street parking (or if there is, it’s like 10 blocks away, and/or in a worse neighborhood than yours, and/or you’re schlepping all that merchandise back and forth to your apartment, etc?)*

          *which kind of reinforces my personal belief, as someone who’s been working since 1999 in jobs ranging from basic retail to exempt white-collar roles (including almost getting sucked into Primerica and Mary Kay) , that this job of yours seems pretty janky? At best it’s super dysfunctional and taking advantage of you and will leave you high and dry :-(
          At worst, it’s another Cutco or Kirby Vacuums or even those shady AF “energy provider” companies that go door to door.

          I just feel like, in a few months to a year, some advice column like Slate or Carolyn Hax will get a letter from you about how your employer blew smoke up your butt for a year about a raise that never happened AND made you drive all over Manhattan with a bunch of shoddy merchandise that you also had to keep in your own residence.

  17. Polydactyl Cat*

    I am a company owner and I employ sales reps. I highly recommend the app “MileIQ”. It will track miles that you drive automatically then you just swipe left or right to categorize the drive as business or personal. Commuting is personal. And it applies to ANY work trip regardless of how long or how short. My employees then email me the business report at the end of the month. The app automatically tracks the IRS standard mileage rate (currently 67 cents/mile) and updates when that rate changes. You can also manually add in the relevant EZ-Pass tolls or relevant parking tickets so it all organized on one sheet. Think carefully and consult a tax professional if they decide to go the monthly stipend route. That is money is taxable and should not be run as a reimbursement. There is no excuse for a company to be asking you to pay for any portion of your work expenses.

    1. Polydactyl Cat*

      And it doesn’t sound like your company is considering a company car – but if they do – that is also a taxable fringe benefit and needs to be accounted for properly. As a business owner I found the hurdles of accounting for that value and writing contracts about how company cars would be handled to not be something I wanted to pursue (what if the employee returns it disgusting, are they allowed to let their spouse drive it, what about a fender bender that was their fault etc etc.).

    2. Payroll Lady*

      I am going to add my comment here since Polydactyl Cat gave a great general explanation. I would like to add, Under the Portal to Portal Rules, where you do NOT go to your base location first, the travel to the first location is normally considered commuting. Any travel from that stop to any other “work” location is allowed for reimbursement. The commute from your last location to home, is just that – commute time and not allowed for reimbursement. If your first commute is farther than your normal commute, then you can expense the difference.

      As for the going a monthly stipend route, keep all your receipts! The stipend is 100% taxable and should be included in your wages. The employee can then not reimburse any expenses and you can then deduct them when you do your tax return as unreimbursed business expenses. Definitely talk to a tax professional any part is considered a stipend and know what you can and can not claim.

    3. OP*

      Thank you for this. I will remove stipend as an option to consider bc this makes complete sense. As a previous freelancer, that is everything I was trying to avoid when I took a temporary pay cut for this haha.

  18. Ready...set...go.*

    Wow. I don’t say this facetiously, but I’m glad that this is someone’s “dream” job if it’s something that really needs to be done by someone because I can confidently say, this would be my “nightmare” job. And the whole crazy money situation is only one reason why. It sounds like a recipe for very fast burnout and I hope you take care of yourself.

  19. Abogado Avocado*

    Yes, your employer should be paying for your mileage on work trips, your parking, and your tolls. With regard to mileage, many businesses use the rate set by the General Services Administration because that incorporates fuel costs as well as maintenance.

    FWIW, I use the app MileIQ to track my drives. It is an app you have to pay for, but it works automatically. Also, use of it allows you to take the annual mileage deduction off your taxes. I highly recommend it as a way to track mileage without having to think too hard about it!

    1. Fluffy Fish*

      I’m not a tax expert but claiming reimbursement and then also deducting it from taxes sounds like a double dip.

      Definitely seek the advice of a qualified tax expert on that one.

      1. Seven If You Count Bad John*

        I’m not a tax expert either, but it seems to me there’s a place on the forms to put things like reimbursements, and then another place where you put the expenses, and it basically cancels out. It works because the employer may only reimburse up to X amount, but you can deduct the remainder or some portion of the remainder. Something like that.

        1. doreen*

          I don’t think you can deduct employee business expenses at all anymore – but when you could, you couldn’t deduct expenses your employer reimbursed you for with an accountable plan. For example, my employer reimbursed me the IRS mileage rate. I had to fill out a form documenting where I went , when, how many miles, how much paid for parking and tolls and provide receipts for the parking and tolls. Because it was an accountable plan, the reimbursement was not taxable income . If my employer had reimbursed less than the IRS rate for milage, I could have deducted the difference ( if it was worth it)

          My husband , however, got a travel allowance of $X per week no matter how many miles he traveled or if he traveled at all he got this payment even when he was on vacation) . Since it wasn’t reimbursement for his actual travel, it was supposed to be included in his salary and it was taxable income. He was able to deduct his actual expenses on our tax return because his payments were income.

        2. Coverage Associate*

          I think Seven and doreen are both right, except unreimbursed travel can still be deducted, if you itemize and are not a lawyer or accountant. Employers without a lot of travel use the “accountable” system described and pay at the maximum rate per mile, in which case it wouldn’t appear on the employee’s tax return because it cancels out. But presumably some employers pay more or less per mile, or a state could have a different maximum deductible rate, and then it would be an issue for state taxes. (In fact, why don’t states have different rates? The mileage costs vary widely. Anyone else paying $7/gal like California and Hawaii?)

  20. Seven If You Count Bad John*

    Oh my goodness, I need a nap—I read the headline as “can I be reimbursed for my expenses in a drinking-heavy job”

    1. Judge Judy and Executioner*

      I did the same thing! I was very confused when I read the article and it didn’t mention alcohol at all, and then I reread the heading. For those in drinking-heavy jobs, your company should be reimbursing your expenses for meals and entertaining guests, including alcohol. :-D

    2. Polydactyl Cat*

      Lol. Well…. my employees do have to sometimes drink intoxicating beverages on the job in order to sell our products, and yes, we absolutely insist on paying for an uber etc to prevent them from driving!


      Came here to say this. It really went down another path in my split-second mind.

  21. H.C.*

    LW did conflate business vs personal expenses a bit and AAM’s response did a good job parsing the two out, but agreed with others that business-related travel & home storage expenses should be reimbursed by your employer.

    1. HonorBox*

      I read that less as conflating and more about LW saying that there are some expenses like the lunches and Ubers that they have to pay for out of pocket already, so adding in the other things for the business is causing more financial difficulty.

      1. Pink Candyfloss*

        This is where LW having a company CC to put those expenses on separately from their personal expenses would save a lot of hassle.

    1. Kimmy Schmidt*

      Ha! I just commented the same below. Glad it wasn’t just me. I thought maybe the OP wanted to ask if they could be reimbursed for alcohol and was very concerned when they started talking about a vehicle.

    2. Justin*

      Lol yes.

      Though I’d prefer that to driving (bc with adhd, like op, I loathe driving, even though I don’t drink much)

  22. Kimmy Schmidt*

    I first read the title as “drinking-heavy job” and was even more confused.
    Get those receipts and reimbursements.

  23. QED*

    One thing that caught my eye was LW said that headquarters is in a different state and LW is basically in charge of the region. Given that, LW, you may need to do some educating of your higher-ups about what driving in your area is actually like, since it might be totally different where they’re located. For example, both LA and NYC are nightmares to park in with tons of traffic, but in NYC you spend more time on the streets rather than freeways, so you might need to explain how that difference affects your mileage per trip and wear and tear on your car to someone based in LA. And it’s like explaining an entire different culture if headquarters is located somewhere with light traffic and ample parking. But doing that education could make it easier to get them to cover expenses.

    1. I'm just here for the cats!*

      This is true. Also, it might be an oversight. Or that the LW misunderstood. Like they read the travel policy which is for most postions but it doesn’t apply to their position since their focus is on driving.

    2. linger*

      I think the bait-and-switching between “covering your state” and “oh, no, you’ll be covering the city” means that the 3o-mile minimum is deliberate policy to outsource business expenses to employees.

      1. OP*

        no. I am covering it all. but 1 city mile equates to 100 suburb miles or wear and tear, and I was honestly searching for a term for it if it exists. this post got fully misconstrued and it’s been a lesson in not projecting my anxiety onto the internet.

    3. OP*

      Thanks so much! That’s what I was looking for— ways to professionally educate. I tend to do better when I have a script in those situations, so was hoping for ways to phrase “I’ve put more wear and tear on my car in 1 mile here than its previous 25,000 miles there.”

      1. Polydactyl Cat*

        FYI – the IRS mileage reimbursement rate (currently 67 cents/mile) accounts for both gas and maintenance per mile. That standard number comes from a MASSIVE amount of data that the federal government collects and analyzes. Using it is the most unbiased fair wait I’ve found to reimburse employees. I have sales reps that purchase fuel efficient cars and I have sales reps that purchase gas guzzling giant monster trucks. I have sales reps with cars that breakdown a lot, and some with super reliable cars. Same rate per mile. (Of course the reps with tiny, modern, fuel efficient, reliable cars are probably doing better financially!)

  24. Rick Tq*

    At my employer if I travel anywhere from the office and back I get full reimbursement. If I start or end at home they deduct my reference mileage for that part of the trip but still pay the rest, all based on IRS rules. Our Sales Reps get a car allowance they have to document as business related each year but don’t submit mileage reports each month too.

    OP, if you are based in the US it doesn’t sound like your employer is following IRS rules.

    I’d also look at renting (and expensing) a storage unit to keep all the swag, it doesn’t belong in your home and might not be covered for theft by your renter’s insurance.

      1. danmei kid*

        It is calculated the same way because your home is technically the office (base work location).

  25. CityMouse*

    “However, I entered this position with a very small savings account, and am already breaking the bank to keep up with the demands of the position”

    This is such a huge red flag to me and, no, the promise of future pay does nothing to assuage that concern. You should not be going broke whole working a job, certainly not dipping into your savings!

  26. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    Storage – you might find you run into trouble with your home insurance company here. Do they have a clause about using your property for ‘business’ purposes (which working from home on a computer typically isn’t, but using it as a storage unit for your company almost certainly would be); who’s on the hook if your home gets broken into or if the merchandise is damaged in some other way (a water leak etc). What happens if you are off sick and someone else needs access to the merchandise? etc etc.

    1. Starbuck*

      Given the scenario, LW is very unlikely to be a homeowner; odds are much greater that they rent. But the issue is similar – their renters insurance almost certainly would not cover the work equipment if their apartment flooded or got broken into.

  27. Lark*

    I hope this is not as shady as it sounds! Because it sounds extremely shady – has there been high turnover in this position before, where they’re just churning through people who never really stay long enough to see that higher salary/more expense coverage?

    1. Starbuck*

      It honestly sounds kind of MLM-y based on what info they gave on the business model, but who knows. A lot of sales jobs seem scammy to me by default but that’s probably because I suck at sales and know I would make no money in a commission-based job.

  28. Alex*

    I have to admit that I read the title as a “drinking-heavy” job and was all set for someone to complain they had to keep buying $15 cocktails for their clients and weren’t reimbursed lol. So confused.

  29. I'm just here for the cats!*

    I think the OP needs to talk to their boss or whoever handles reimbursement. It sounds to me like there isn’t a home office in the city hence why the OP is storing thing in their apartment. If there is no local place to store things then the company needs to pay for a storage locker.
    I’m hoping that with the reimbursement that it was either a misunderstanding (like the 30 mile thing is for jobs that are not driving dependent) or that it’s something that was over looked since this is a startup.

  30. Lola*

    LW, I’m worrying your idea of this being a “dream job” is clouding your judgment and/or the leaedership is leading you to believe that these expenses are reasonable. They ARE NOT.

    Startup or not, they should budget for the funds to cover your expenses. You are getting THEM business with this travel!

    I have worked for some pretty cash-strapped nonprofits for the majority of my career and have always, always been reimbursed for travel (mileage and gas), garage/parking fees for that part of travel, etc.

    Don’t let them talk to you into accepting anything less!

    1. Dinwar*

      I’d make an exception if they were offering partial ownership AND the business had a reasonable chance of success. Knew some people who did that, the business got sold, and they’re retired in the Bahamas right now. But for an employee with no stake in the business? Nope. You’re there for the money, and they’ve got to (are probably legally obliged to) pay up!

    2. anon_sighing*

      > LW, I’m worrying your idea of this being a “dream job” is clouding your judgment

      Reading some of LW’s other comments, I think you hit the nail. I am not sure they’ve been in this job long enough to even properly assess if management is competent. People can be nice up front and let a lot fall through the cracks (and make your life hard as a result) or worse, you realize months down that they have another side to them that they show long term employees vs those just starting.

      1. OP*

        This is accurate. It’s my current impression, but I have enough professional and life experience to move on quickly if I’m wrong. I was asking for input with a glass half full mindset— which I understand is insane in 2024. But I worked hard with this specific opportunity in mind for several years.

  31. riverofmolecules*

    Want to trust letter writer that this feels like a great job to them, but these are all signals for a scammy job to me.

  32. e271828*

    If this job isn’t providing a company vehicle and an expense card, you, dear LW, are being taken for a ride.

    This isn’t a dream job. ****They owe you money.**** Start hunting a better position.

  33. theletter*

    In a big city, the company should be able to leverage available storage/delivery/setup services so that OP can just arrive on site.

  34. HonorBox*

    OP, while you may love aspects of your job, there are things that we still shouldn’t be doing for jobs we thoroughly enjoy. You shouldn’t be paying out of pocket for expenses related to your employment. Hard stop. While the 30 mile reimbursement policy may in fact be a rule, then go ahead and schedule yourself to be out, making multiple stops without returning to the office. Expense parking. Expense tolls. These are aspects of your job that are for their benefit…not yours. And by no means should you be inconveniencing yourself for the job’s benefit. You need to request the shelving that makes your home livable. If you’re expected to store stuff, they’re getting that rent-free. The shelves are minimal cost when compared to the cost of off-site storage. Approach this with the idea that while you can enjoy your job, there should be no expectation that you owe them the financial exposure they’re seemingly expecting from you now.

  35. BellyButton*

    When I was a corporate trainer and had to travel all over the city this is how it worked-
    I was given a parking pass that allowed me to park at any of the sites for free
    I tracked my daily mileage by using maps to get an exact mile count so from main office to location 1, location 1 to location 2, etc. I was then given a standard reimbursement that was to cover gas and mileage. (I think at the time the federal standard was .52 a mile). This was submitted monthly and added to my check. I used my own credit card to pay for gas and whatever the extra was on my check paid that card and I covered any of the gas not covered, since some would have been personal.
    Lunch, my commute to the main office, etc was all mine- just like it would be if I didn’t move around all day.

  36. Dawn*

    I get that we don’t know that much, but even as detail-light as this letter actually is, this is sniffing suspiciously like an MLM to me…

  37. Beth*

    1) You should request an EZ pass. You can just turn it off/put it where it can’t be read for personal trips, if your company really cares. (That would feel like they’re being cheap, to me, but it’s an easy solution.)

    2) You shouldn’t be required to store a large amount of work items in your home. One box of paper files, signs, cords, and other misc items? Probably not worth arguing over. Enough stuff to require a shelving unit? No. It’s entirely reasonable to tell your employer that you can’t store all this stuff and they need to lease a swag/merch hub space. It sounds like renting a small storage unit would probably do the trick.

    3) Your work should be paying for gas, mileage-based wear and tear (including all your driving, not just long-distance trips), and parking fees incurred while you’re working. (Good for you for negotiating for parking tickets already; normally I’d say tickets aren’t the same as parking fees, but it sounds like your schedule + the parking reality of your area makes them impossible to avoid sometimes.) I would expect this to look like you tracking expenses and filing for reimbursement; that’s the norm for variable costs, in my experience.

    4) Parking at home is on you. As another person living in a street-parking-unfriendly urban neighborhood, I hear you on it being annoying and expensive! But it is how this generally works. The assumption is that we’re choosing to live in neighborhoods like this, so the inconveniences are on us to deal with. I rent a spot in a local garage and consider it basically part of my rent. (If you’re only here because you can’t afford anywhere else, I would seriously reconsider how dreamy this job is! Promises of future salary increases don’t pay the bills now.)

    1. Former urbanite*

      Totally agree that parking at home is on the employee. However, it kind of sounds like OP only brought their car in their move to this city because they expected to need it for work.

      I had an old car when I lived in a big city because I used it to go hiking almost every weekend. The freedom and joy that brought me were worth worth the ways having the car restricted my choices of neighborhoods. But if I’d only brought my car as a favor to my employer? Heck no.

      While OP can’t ask their company to pay their parking fees in their neighborhood, I would strongly encourage OP to negotiate a way to stop using their personal vehicle for any work business. Then maybe they’d be freed up to not have the car in the city at all, or to park it for free on the street–a much more reasonable prospect when you’re not having to drive to work and then re-find street parking every day when you get home.

      1. Beth*

        I doubt OP can negotiate a way to stop having to drive for work when they were hired for a role that revolves so heavily around local travel. They should be able to get work-related car expenses (gas, parking, mileage-based wear and tear) reimbursed, or possibly get a company car if they negotiate for that instead. But either way, I have a hard time imagining that a role that involves this many trips and this much stuff can be done without a car. And if a car is involved–any car, personal or company–then OP will need to find somewhere to park it when they go home.

        To me, the ideal would be that companies expect to pay for a rented parking spot near the employee’s home when they require car use. If it turns out the employee has space at home and is willing to use it for the car, maybe that should be a lucky break, not the expectation. But right now, the norm is that parking at home is on the employee, and negotiating to change that would be an uphill battle. Since OP has a lot of requests that are in the scope of what employers normally cover, I think their energy is better spent on the battles they’re likely to win.

        1. OP*

          Precisely. Yes! Battles I’m likely to win are the answers I was hoping for. The subject of my email to Alison was “Reimbursement Reality Check” Thank you for understanding.

          1. Beth*

            I hope you can tackle negotiations for a parking spot as a stage 2 goal!

            I think you have a better shot at mileage-based wear and tear, gas, tolls, parking while not at home, a storage unit for all this stuff, etc. Those are normal things for an employer to cover, so you can approach them as a “what is the process for this?” question rather than an “is this covered?” negotiation.

            But once you have all the basics covered, I do think there’s room to pick a couple big things that would make your life significantly better and negotiate for them. Maybe that’s a parking spot rented near your house; maybe it’s having parking tickets covered; maybe it’s a lunch stipend (which you and I know would be because it’s hard to remember a packed lunch, but you could make a case is because you don’t have access to a fridge/microwave/other breakroom norms while on the road). It’s probably not all of them, so start with what’s most important to you. But especially at a startup where ‘normal’ is maybe not fully defined yet for your role, I think there’s room to ask.

  38. IngEmma*

    I second all of the advice above, but I would also suggest that OP check their states labor law. It’s possible that the company has a legal requirement to take on these costs.

    First hand, I know that Ontario requires reimbursement for business expenses on a personal car & a quick google suggests that California law works similarly. NY seems to have less stringent requirements but you might be able to expense things in your taxes (… not a tax or NY state expert!) BC not only requires business reimbursement but recently ruled that your car counts as a workplace if you use it for work, expanding your employers obligations / your rights considerably. (Obviously Canada & California are both considered more worker-friendly than a lot of the US, but they also cover some of the most expensive cost of living cities in the world. I promise I didn’t just pick Ontario, California & BC because I think their labor laws are favourable!)

    I would check if your region has similar rules – especially in a high cost of living area, it’s possible they might.

    1. IngEmma*

      Oh also for the sake of completeness – I’m not suggesting you take them to the labor board or hire a lawyer immediately if the law requires they carry the business expenses.

      It’s just that that would be useful information to bring to them in a classic, ‘the law actually requires us to do X in this case, and we could be in trouble otherwise!’

      (Of course you’d be free to escalate from there if you’d like!)

      1. Indolent Libertine*

        Since 2018, “employee business expenses” aren’t deductible on one’s Federal tax return in the US. So if the LW is a W-2 employee and not a contractor, these can’t be written off on their taxes. Some states still allow the deduction on the state tax return, but not all do.

  39. thanks i'd rather have plants*

    I keep reading the title as “can I ask to be reimbursed for my expenses in a DRINKING heavy job” and wow, that is a very different and weirder letter

  40. BigLawEx*

    I’ve only lived in HCOL areas with horrible parking. There are ways to mitigate that (so no 45 minutes looking for parking – but it’s always a cost – apartment with parking, separate parking, etc ), but this job sounds less like a dream, and more like a nightmare because the LW is bearing all that cost.

    The wear and tear in traffic-choked cities can not be underestimated. It’s well documented by Uber drivers who thought they could do well in SF/LA/NYC but the wear and tear could never be made up for by money when a transmission dies, or there are so many dings that trade-in is impossible, or mileage is too high.

    If this is commission, then I’m not sure this can work monetarily. Sales skills and mileage reimbursement are apples to oranges issues.

  41. anonymouse*

    This is bad! It will never cease to amaze me what companies can convince people is normal. Thank goodness AMA is here to tell people when things are NOT OKAY.

  42. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

    It’s not a “dream job” if, as you posted, it’s making you go broke.
    If the salary doesn’t provide at least a living wage after all expenses, even when starting a first job, then it’s a nightmare not a dream

  43. Turanga Leela*

    When you make your pitch to management, have some figures ready for them (maybe from last month or a representative month):
    -How many total miles did you drive to different work sites? Use Google Maps and calculate roundtrip distance from your office, or roundtrip distance from home if you don’t go into an office.
    -How much money is that at the federal mileage reimbursement rate, which I believe is 67 cents/mile?
    -How much did you pay in tolls for these trips?
    -How much did you pay in parking costs at job sites (or other parking that was mandatory for work)?

    Being able to have those numbers ready will be helpful.

  44. Red Canary*

    A few years ago I worked as a school photographer while I was in between permanent jobs. This was a driving-heavy position where I was required to keep tons of equipment in my car between jobs. (My tiny car was entirely filled with equipment, for the record; I could barely fit my week’s groceries in there, and I’m lucky I was only shopping for myself!) Some jobs were only a few miles away, but some were hours away. One job required driving most of the day and staying overnight to do the photography in the morning.

    But this was tolerable because 1) I was reimbursed for mileage and any expenses that I incurred because of the job and 2) I was paid hourly for all my time spent driving. If not for both of those things, I don’t think I could have handled it. (And even then, I quit as soon as I had a better gig lined up.)

  45. Smaug*

    RE: The ADHD tax lunch thing, it’s not actually clear to me whether the LW means lunch on a regular day or lunch when they’re having to travel to some other site for work. Considering that they are footing all or nearly 100% of the costs of their business travel already and have eaten up their savings to do it, it read to me like they probably mean on normal days too but also that they feel the need to bring their food when traveling in order to save money.

    If they’re including feeding themselves on the occasions where they’re driving around the region going to remote work sites, I think it’s actually pretty reasonable to lump food costs in with that the same as you would for any other business travel.

  46. OP*

    Hello! OP here. I wrote this after a day on the road and wish I had taken a breather instead. Responses are totally valid, but I was not clear enough about the fact that the company is very fair and willing to reimburse. It’s a new position, so my ask was looking for an answer about what is the best way to present all unique/additional incurred costs that are specific to new market and are ultimately my responsibility to bring attention to, so that I come across as a professional and not a stressed-out basket case (demonstrated above). Would appreciate any insight from anyone who has done so before. I understood what I was getting myself into, and ultimately I need to be more organized. The salary increase is in contract and was use of car was part of negotiation. Appreciate everyone’s concern! Less appreciative of patronization! Will respond to helpful comments (thank you so much to those who broke it down precisely as I hoped my SOS would inspire) and provide update if I have time.

    1. Smaug*

      lol I love this reply. I hope you got the guidance you were looking for in the response/comments, and good luck!

  47. anon_sighing*

    If its an expense occurred as a result of doing your job FUNCTION or are related directly to your work, then you can ask for a reimbursement. You could even ask them if lunches while traveling are covered or if you get a food per diem. They may not give it to you but it’s in the zone.

    Fringe things (street parking at home, dog sitting, gadgets to make traveling easier, etc) associated with the job you chose are not. If these expenses are too much, you might consider asking to do less travel if possible.

    You accepted a job that required frequent travel. There are reasons why these types of jobs are called a lifestyle and % travel of a job is stated clearly up front — it’s huge hassle (which is why some people think your job sounds like a nightmare).

  48. Student*

    You should look into the options for renting a nearby storage space for the swag stuff that you’re storing right now. The business can sign the rental contract and manage the payments and storage necessities directly, so that you don’t have to keep it in your home or front the costs. It sounds like the stuff is compact enough that you don’t need a big storage space, just one that is not in your living space and that is convenient for you to access. Even in expensive areas, these can be a lot cheaper than one might expect.

    The optics, to a manager who would need to approve this, of outfitting the separate storage space with any necessary shelving or bins will also be a much easier sell than buying shelves that will go in your personal home. Side note – if there is any chance whatsoever of ground water seeping into the storage space, then putting some very cheap pallets on the ground to set the bins of swag on is well worth it.

  49. Happy poet*

    Is this an MLM or an outright scam? Or a cult? Because this doesn’t actually sound like a legitimate company. If it is, then it sounds as “well-run” as Entertainment 720 and we saw how long they lasted (they went bankrupt before I could finish writing this sentence).

  50. Freelance Bass*

    Reminds me of when a company asked me to use my car but wouldn’t reimburse me for the gas I used while running errands for them… during an unpaid internship. Granted, it was an arts internship where everyone was getting paid next to nothing, but c’mon. Not a classy thing to ask of a college student.

  51. wear floral every day*

    Dear OP, I’m writing as a former operations manager for a company where most positions were driven-focused, meaning that driving in major cities and/or covering great expansions of rural areas was a major part of the job. Alison and the commentariat have excellently explained which costs should be covered or not but I need to raise another serious aspect of this job. In such cases, a company car (leased or permanently belonging to the company) should be provided to members of staff. Amongst other things, it is a business continuity issue. What if your car breaks down? Can business go on as usual? Can the company pay for 1-month Ubers, for example? What if you don’t have enough money to pay for the car repairs? Also, bear in mind that heavy usage of your vehicle will lead to more damage and reduce your car’s “life”. Who will pay for the repairs in case something happens while at work? What we did in ex-job, in cases where a company car was not available for various reasons, was to provide an X amount to the employee “rewarding” them for the use of their car on company time. Gas money was paid separately of course. Try to be extra careful here!

    1. OP*

      Oh, thank you for this!! I would love a reward and it’s nice to know that isn’t a crazy concept. They would 100% be able and willing to cover if my car broke down. They’re receptive to all requests, I’m just a little rusty with the corporate world and appreciated Alison’s insight—admittedly very dramatic in my ask. I so appreciate you sharing your experience.

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