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I just remember reading something about being "at the convenience of the employer" which I didn't think applied in this case, but I could find anything about it on the IRS pubs or the web for this situation - just about all examples focused on the in-home case.
Right. That "at the convenience of the employer" is part of the office-in-home rules. In this case, the only requirement would be the "ordinary and necessary" standard for business expenses. And with cash paid to an unrelated party, for a shared or sublet office space, to save a 100-mile one-way commute, it should certainly meet that requirement.

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