Travel, Taxes & Texas: The Houston Relief Veterinarian Roadmap

Ross Zimmerman
November 30, 2023

Today, we’re taking it all the way back to our Roo Roots — that magical place where it all started. It was only four years ago, in 2019, that Roo began the relief veterinarian revolution in Houston, Texas! So today, we’re very excited to take you on a tour of our H-Town hometown! 

But enough about us, it’s time to talk about the three Ts: Travel, Taxes, and Texas. Let’s ride!

The Texas Travel Veterinarian home state advantage

Everything’s big in Texas. Even Texas. Turns out, this is HUGE for vets and techs who want to break out of their normal routine and take the travel vet/tech path. 

In most places, becoming a travel vet/tech means crossing a lot of state lines, which means holding a lot of licenses. This gets expensive, though we should note any licensing fees can be written off on your taxes (more on that in a moment). However, Texas has a whole heck of a lot to offer right inside this giant heart-shaped state. From Dallas to Austin to Houston, there’s so much to explore right in your backyard without having to tangle with any licensing hurdles. 

You smell that? That’s the salty sea air of— 

Head on down to H-Town — and get paid doing it!

If you’re a relief veterinarian or technician living in Texas and you’ve never been to Houston, you’re missing out. What other city in Texas has literal spaceships! 

Did you know you can actually get paid to travel to Houston? Just pick up one or more vet or tech shifts, and you’ll not only get paid for your shift, you’ll be able to write off a lot of your travel expenses for extra savings on your year-end taxes.  

50 Mile City

Check this out: The magic number for 1099 travel write-offs is 50 miles — that’s the distance you’ll need to travel for work to be able to write off lodging and meal expenses. Yes, ALL your meals, plus coffee and snacks! And every mile you traveled to get there - that’s a tax write-off too (no matter how far you travel)! 

Houston just so happens to be the perfect city for these types of write-offs because it’s absolutely massive at more than 50 miles across! That means even locals may be able to get in on these crazy tax savings by taking a shift across town. 

Here’s everything you can write-off if you’ve traveled over 50 miles for a relief shift:

  • Hotel / AirBnB stay before or after your shift
  • Meals - Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner (within reason)
  • Coffee and snacks 
  • Milage
  • Parking 

Your suburban escape hatch

Driving in from the Houston suburbs for a vet or tech relief shift? There’s a reward for fighting all that traffic: all of the above is available to you once you’ve driven over 50 miles. That’s a meal downtown and an overnight stay that will get discounted with tax savings. 

It doesn’t matter how long you work, only how far you’ve driven. You can work a 4-hour shift and spend the rest of the day downtown. Uncle Sam don’t mind! 

Make a day of it! You’ve come all this way to Houston, work your shift and stick around. There’s so much to do in this city, especially for animal lovers, plus tons of top-notch Texas eats, which if you recall, you can also write off. The best part: when you do head home, you can time your trip with traffic and dodge those pesky 7:00 - 9:00 and 2:00 - 6:00 rush hour stretches. 

So what is a tax write-off anyway?

This can often be a point of confusion, so we want to make sure you really understand the benefits here. When you work a full-time job, your employer takes income taxes directly out of your paycheck. As a relief veterinarian or technician with Roo, in Texas or anywhere else, you’re an independent contractor, which means we don’t take taxes out of your pay. You get every penny! 

That sounds great, but there’s a catch: at some point, Uncle Sam’s gonna come knocking and you’ll have to pay those taxes. This can be a large bill depending on how much income you made working relief this year. We recommend planning ahead for this eventual tax bill, and there’s a few ways to do that: 

  1. Set money aside in advance - the exact percentage depends on your state, ask a professional what they recommend. 
  2. Pay your taxes quarterly instead of annually to break up that large payment. 
  3. Lower your tax bill with tax write-offs. 

Anything that can be considered a business expense can be a tax write-off, which gets deducted from your taxable income, lowering your eventual tax bill. And you don’t want to sleep on these savings.

Income - Tax Write-Offs = Lower Taxes

If you’ve made a good deal of money working as a Roo relief veterinarian or technician this year, a quick shift-trip to Houston is a pretty solid way to lower your tax bill AND get something out of it — especially if you already live in Texas! Think of it as a discount on your hotel, meals, and gas that comes in the form of tax savings. 

Here’s a full list of tax write-offs for relief veterinarians and technicians provided through our partnership with Fit Money CPA. You can also write-off stuff like CE, veterinary conference registration fees, licensing fees and renewal fees, liability insurance, and any equipment you use on the job. Please please please take full advantage of these, and don’t leave money on the table.

I like to highlight that one line in there that reads “Travel and Lodging Expenses” because the opportunities here are a lot more expansive than people think.

Have more questions about taxes as a relief veterinarian or technician? Check out our helpful Tax Center on Vet Concierge.

Alright, I’m going to Houston - what now?

Houston is absolutely massive, and there is so much to do here.

Obviously, there’s the NASA Space Center. You didn’t come all the way to Space City to miss the main attraction, and there’s only a handful of places in the US where you can see actual rocketships. This is as close to real life 'Star Wars' as we’re gonna get, even if these spacecraft are a bit light on lasers. GeoVet Animal Clinic offers Roo relief shifts right around the corner — grab a shift and take an (imaginary) interstellar trip!

The Kemah Boardwalk is a great time for everyone with tons of rides and restaurants, featuring tons of top-notch seafood you can save money eating, especially if you’ve grabbed a shift at the VetCo Total Care that’s right there. Grab a shift and hit the boardwalk before or after! 

Hermann Park is a massive green space smack dab in the middle of Houston, which includes the Houston Zoo, the Houston Museum of Fine Arts, and the Houston Museum of Natural Science! The zoo covers 55 acres and has over 6,000 animals, plus they support wildlife conservation all over the world, so your tickets here will benefit animals across the globe. There’s a Banfield Hospital on either side of Hermann Park if you want to help even more animals before or after. Just add the zip code “77030” to your Roo search, and the Houston Zoo will pop up on your map!    

Finally, if you're visiting in March, the Houston Rodeo is a real good time that's especially unique to Houston as it's the largest rodeo/livestock show in the world, but you'll have to catch it while it lasts — it's only around for 20 days a year!  

Budget Activities

Looking to save even more money? There’s plenty to do around Houston on a budget.  For starters, you’re gonna want to book your shift around Thursday as there’s a lot in Houston that’s free on Thursdays

The Museum of Fine Arts is free all day on Thursdays, and kids 12 or under always get in free. Also on Thursdays, the Houston Zoo is free after 2:00, and the Museum of Natural Science is free from 5:00 - 8:00, perfect for swinging by after a shift to wait out rush hour.  

Buffalo Bayou Park is the top spot for outdoor activities in Houston with miles of hiking/biking trails as well as a dog park if you want to bring your pup along! You can even rent kayaks and get out on the water. The Houston Humane Society offers shelter shifts just a few blocks away, typically from 9 to 3, so you can grab one of the most rewarding shifts on the Roo platform with plenty of time to hit the park afterward!  

Good eats from your friends at Roo 

So many members of the Roo Crew call Houston home, so we asked them for their favorite places to eat. Remember, if you drove over 50 miles, you can write off your meal at any of the below restaurants:

  • The Original Ninfa’s on Navigation is the go-to for Houston Tex-Mex, which you can’t miss when visiting Houston.  
  • The other can’t-miss foodstuff down south obviously has to be Texas BBQ. Pappas Bar-B-Q and Corkscrew BBQ both come highly recommended by your friends at Roo, giving you two great options depending on what part of town your shift is in. Corkscrew is a bit north of the city right by VCA Champions Northwest Animal Hospital. Grab a shift and top it off with some tax-expensed smoked meats!  
  • Aga’s in southwest Houston offers something special: incredible Indo-Pakistani food. 
  • Killen’s Steakhouse might be pushing Uncle Sam’s limit on what counts as a “reasonable” meal expense, but would you even trust me if I didn’t put a Texas steakhouse on this list? Come on.  
  • Uchi comes strongly recommended if you’ve got a hankering for sushi. Houston is the biggest coastal city in Texas and this may be the freshest seafood you’ll find in the state! 

Finally, Axelrad Beer Garden is just a good time if you’re looking for a place to grab a drink and listen to some live music. Drinks aren’t usually a tax write-off unless you’re able to grab a shift at Banfield Inner Loop and convince some of your newly-met peers to grab a drink with you afterwards. Then, it’s a networking event, which qualifies for tax write-offs of the alcoholic variety.  

Travel Texas as a relief veterinarian or technician

Relief work is an excellent way for any veterinarian or technician to experience all the unique opportunities that surround them, and if you live in Texas, there’s so much to explore without ever leaving your home state.  

It’s important to always be mindful that your Roo relief income isn’t taxed, so you’ll have to set money aside for taxes. Taking a short trip to work a shift somewhere special is a great way to cut down this tax bill while getting a great experience out of it in the end.  

We absolutely love Houston and want to share this special city with all of you. Come visit us in Houston, we know you’ll have a blast! 

Sources & disclaimer

These great tax tips are brought to you through our partnership with Fit Money CPA, who have been tremendously helpful supporting our Roo relief veterinarians and technicians manage their taxes as independent contractors. The advice provided here is for informational purposes only, and you should always check with your tax professional for up-to-date information that applies specifically to you.

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