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When it comes to relocating an employee – a new recruit or existing staff member who will be sent to a new location – choosing the right employee relocation allowance and policy can make or break the relocation and the company bank account.

In this article, we’re going to take a look at some different approaches. 

Employee Relocation Allowance – The Cost of Moving

No two relocations – or house moves – are the same. Depending on whether your employee is a domestic or international move, the costs can be as much as $97,000.

The kind of costs a relocation allowance should cover are:

  • Moving Costs 
  • House-Hunting Trip
  • Travel – employee and if applicable, their partner, children and/or pets
  • Temporary Housing
  • Home Sale and Lease Breaking Fees 
  • Spousal Support 
  • Children and Dependents – some relocation packages also include assistance and information on local schools
  • Cultural Support – including language lessons and assistance with adapting to a new country and culture
  • Relevant Documentation – visas and work permits
Relocation Budget Allowance

The Different Types of Employee Relocation Allowance

Lump sum relocation payments are simple. You pay your employee a cash amount; it is then up to them to manage their move with that money.

Janet’s Lump Sum:

  • Janet has been successful in looking for a role on the East Coast despite being a West Coast resident her whole life.
  • Her new employer has offered her $10,000 to relocate.
  • She doesn’t have a mortgage; she’s a private tenant but, she has a partner, three children and two cats.

With this money, she needs to arrange her entire move, and move her family too. This could go one of two ways: she manages to do it cost-effectively and pockets a large sum of the remainder for herself – which she can do. Or, the amount isn’t quite enough and it’s added stress to the process.

Many businesses like the lump sum approach, it’s the “quick and easy” approach, they hand over the money and all of the responsibilities to the employee.

There is a downside for both parties to a lump sum. These include:

  • There isn’t much control over how/what the money is spent on.
  • Moving costs can be hard to predict, especially if finding a home is harder than anticipated. 
  • The amount paid is taxable, and this can take quite a chunk of money out of the lump sum.

You want your employee’s relocation to go well, and you certainly want to uphold an excellent reputation as an employer. In the interest of keeping things running smoothly, you can gross up the lump sum or, take a look at a more structured option.

Capped Budget Allowances

A capped allowance is similar to a lump sum; however, rather than handing an amount of money over, the employer sets an amount for the employee to spend. They can also set a policy on what kind of items the employee can spend money on.

Return flights for a house hunting trip? Yes

First-class flights for the employee, four friends and a couple of pets? No

The most significant difference between a lump sum and a capped budget allowance is that if the employee doesn’t spend the whole of the allowance, they don’t get to keep the remainder.

Tyler’s Capped Budget Allowance:

Tyler is a new recruit for a company and will be moving to a new country for the role.

His new employers have agreed a capped allowance. He needs to source his flights, accommodation and removal. The company has provided Tyler with a relocation specialist to assist him with the move, and they also offer guidance on preferred flight companies and moving suppliers.

This approach keeps the company wallet happy and a good relocation company will keep the employee happy, by keeping them engaged every step of the way and raising issues with the employer to avoid dissatisfaction.

Flexible Allowances

Flexible allowance plans are another plan similar to lump sums, but there’s more structure. 

The employer will break down the different relocation costs into sections, and assign a maximum amount to spend per section. For example; you may be given up to $500 in flights and $6,000 in packing and transportation.

Much like a capped budget allowance, if an employee doesn’t spend the whole amount assigned to the section, they don’t get to spend the remainder or keep the cash. It goes back to the company.

Clara’s Flexible Allowance:

Clara has worked for her employer for ten years. Recently, they opened a new branch in another state and have offered her a position there.

Her employer has offered a relocation package and is using a flexible allowance model. Within that, she could spend up to $1,000 on flights; however; the ones she needed came to $500. This money cannot be used elsewhere in the relocation, and Carla cannot keep it.

The type of allowance is at the discretion of the company and what their relocation specialist would advise. Taking a look at the pros and cons of the allowances, applying it to your unique cases and running the numbers will undoubtedly give you a good idea of which approach to take.

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Reviewing the 2018 Tax Bill Implications on Relocation

It is important to review and understand the affect that the 2018 tax bill has had on the relocation industry.  Several aspects of relocation policies that were excludable in 2017 became taxable in 2018. 

One of the most common requests that we receive at ARC Relocation from our clients is to help write and or benchmark their company’s written relocation policies.

2018 Tax Bill for Employee RelocationAs an industry leader for employee relocation services, ARC Relocation is the sole source relocation provider for over 85 clients, which include the United States Government and corporations across virtually every industry. As such, ARC has amassed the largest database of relocation policies in the world.

2018 Tax Bill for Employee Relocation Best Practices

There are many aspects to “industry best practices” in regards to company relocation policies. Important considerations include but are not limited to:

At ARC we are able to leverage our expertise and experience to help you, the HR Professional to stay compliant and at the same time meet all of your company’s goals and initiatives for your relocation program.

2018 Changes

Important items that have changed in the new 2018 Tax Bill include but may not be limited to:

  1. Household Goods (HHG) – 2017 Excludable/2018 Taxable
  2. 30 Days Storage (of HHG) – 2017 Excludable/2018 Taxable
  3. Final Move Non-Meal – 2017 Excludable/2018 Taxable
  4. Duplicate Housing Interest and Taxes – 2017 Deductible/2018 Potentially Taxable
  5. Points – 2017 Deductible/2018 Potentially Taxable
  6. Loan Origination Fees – 2017 Deductible/2018 Potentially Taxable

It is important to revise your company’s relocation policies to reflect these changes.  One of the resources that our clients most often take advantage of that we want to share is our library of Example Relocation Policies


To access the library and view ALL example polices for: Renters, Lump Sum Relos, Capped Budget Relos, International Relos and more please visit our example relocation policies or contact ARC today!

To contact us today, click here!

For more information on IRS moving deductions, visit:

** ARC is not an accounting or legal firm and does not offer tax or legal advice. We advise all parties to consult a CPA and or attorney for all tax and or legal advice **

Bill Mulholland Headshot
Bill Mulholland, SCRP, GMS
Founder & Owner
ARC Relocation

About Bill

In his role as Director of Business Development at ARC Bill oversees all aspects of the growth initiatives for both government and corporate clients, domestically and globally. Bill graduated from George Mason University with a BA in Psychology and has been in the relocation industry since 2000. Bill has earned both his SCRP and GMS designations from ERC. Bill is the former President for the Greater Washington Area Employee Relocation Council (GWERC), ERC content committee member, ERC Ambassador, the recipient of the ERC’s “Meritorious Service Award” and “Distinguished Service Award”.