Dec 27, 2022

This is How You Maximize Your Travel Write Offs!

The good news? Most of the regular costs of business travel are tax deductible. More in this blog.

This is How You Maximize Your Travel Write Offs!

The good news? Most of the regular costs of business travel are tax deductible. gets better! As long as the trip is mostly for business, you can add a few vacation days and still write it off on your taxes.  Are we saying to exploit this  deduction? Nope, but  we do want you to know how to use it to save money on your taxes and get some rest and relaxation at the same time. We are after all trying to show you how to EARN more, KEEP more and GROW more right? :) 

Here’s an example: 

Imagine that you fly to Las Vegas and that while there, you also need to travel to another location for a two- or three-day business conference. That qualifies as a business day.   Consequently, suppose you fly on Wednesday and attend a conference from Thursday through Friday. 

Why not add on a few extra days so you can enjoy Las Vegas and all of your travel expenses will be tax deductible as you went there and stayed there for work purposes. So why not make the most of the opportunity and enjoy a few days of vacation or a pleasant locale as one of your professional perks?

Grab your FREE Money Masters Travel Checklist here!

The trip must be qualified as a "business trip"

So can you just jump on the next plane to the Punta Cana and write the trip off as one giant business expense? As you probably guessed, not exactly. For it to be qualified as a deduction the IRS requires that the primary purpose of the trip needs to be for business purposes and primarily for business purposes. 

What does that imply? Let’s take a look.

1. You must leave your tax home

Your business's base of operations is where you file your taxes or otherwise known as your “tax home”.Traveling for work isn't considered to be a "business trip" until you leave your tax home for a period of time longer than a typical workday with the goal of conducting business elsewhere.

Top Tips for Business Travel

2. The "majority" of your journey must be on official business

The number of days you are away is what is measured by the IRS. To classify a vacation as a business trip, you must devote the vast bulk of your time to official company business.

For example: let's say you have a business conference that goes on for five days, then you spend two days relaxing at the pool.  This is an appropriate business outing. In contrast, if you have client meetings for three days and then spend the remaining four days relaxing at the pool. Then this would be considered a  vacation. The good news is that you can count the days you spend traveling to and from your location as actual workdays.

3. The cost of the travel must be considered "ordinary and necessary"

The IRS uses the term "ordinary and necessary" to describe costs that are both "ordinary" for a corporation in its line of work and "necessary" to the operation of the company. You can't deduct an all-expenses-paid trip to Maui if there are two almost identical conferences happening at roughly the same time and place back home. Sometimes it's not clear what counts as "ordinary and necessary," business costs leading to the temptation to stretch the truth. There are severe consequences to being investigated by the IRS for claiming an unnecessary business cost. 

Be careful, and if you're still not sure, get in touch with a Vincere Tax representative.

4. Organizing Your Travel Ahead of Time is a MUST 

Okay, so you cannot just simply show up at a location, hand out business cards, claim to be "networking," and then claim a tax deduction for the expense. Planning ahead with proof of that fact is essential for your business trip.

It's important to map out your daily itinerary and the people you'll be spending time with before you leave. Create a written record of your travel preparations. Sending a copy through email ensures that the message will be time stamped. This demonstrates that your trip was planned with business in mind.

Read more: 8 Business Travel Hacks You Need to Know

What about a cruise?

The expense of a cruise might be deducted up to the IRS-established ceiling, which stands at $2,000 per year as of 2022. You must be able to demonstrate how the cruise directly supported a professional occasion, such as a board of directors or business meeting. The IRS has extra, severe conditions that must be met in order to deduct cruise travel as a business cost.

Do the same rules apply when you travel outside the United States?

When you go internationally for business, the restrictions are a little more permissive. If you travel outside the USA, the trip can still be considered a business trip as long as you spend at least 25% of your time doing business abroad. Travel expenses can still be written off in proportion to how much time you actually spent working while traveling if you go outside the US but only spend less than 25% of the trip working.

This is How You Maximize Your Travel Write Offs!

Take a look at this example:

Take a seven-day international trip, for instance. Because three out of seven days is equal to 43% of your time away, you can deduct the entire cost of the flight as a business expense if you go for three days to conduct business.

A breakdown of travel costs

Here are a few instances of business travel expenses you can deduct:

  • Planes, trains, trams and bus tickets between your home and your business destination
  • Luggage fees
  • Any laundry and dry cleaning during your trip
  • Rental car costs
  • Hotel and Airbnb costs
  • 50% of qualified business meals
  • 50% of meals while traveling to and from your destination
Read more: AirBnb Tips for Guests 

Business travel expenses you can deduct:

Travel costs

You can deduct the full price of your plane, rail, or bus ticket if you're using it for a business trip. Travel expenses, including car rental fees, are fully deductible.

Lodging costs:

You may deduct your hotel expenses from your taxable income. Depending on your travel plans, you may even be able to write off the expense of your hotel room on days when you aren't actually conducting business. The trick is to intersperse workdays with "vacation days."

Meals and entertainment on business location:

You can only deduct a fraction of food and entertainment costs that are specifically related to conducting business, even when traveling on business.

Meals and entertainment while you are traveling:

The meals you consume while en route to your business destination can be written off as business costs at a rate of 50%. This could be your chance to indulge in local favorites and deduct them from your taxes. Just be careful not to go overboard. The meals must continue to be "ordinary and necessary" for doing business, just like any other deductible business cost.

Note: Record the particulars of the meeting you had—who you met with, when, and what you discussed—on the receipt or in your expense-tracking software. If you want to try the local food and there isn't a compelling business need to do so, you'll have to pay for the lunch yourself.

Read more: 5 Tax Saving Strategies for Business Owners

How to Maximize Your Travel Write Offs

Tip #1 Taking family and friends on a business trip

Even though you can't directly deduct the cost of bringing family and friends on business trips, some of those costs can be offset in other ways. For example, you are saving with costs for you so that’s one less person to budget for!  

Tip #2 When driving to your destination…invite friends!

If you are traveling alone then you have empty seats so invite some friends! As long as you're traveling for business and renting a car is a "necessary and ordinary" expense, you can still deduct your business mileage or car rental costs, even if other people are along for the ride. One exception is if you have to pay for extra mileage or "unnecessary" rental costs in a big van to pick up friends, these costs are no longer tax-deductible because they aren't "necessary or ordinary." If you could have traveled alone without renting the same car, the cost of the extra-large van is no longer a business deduction.

For more information, refer to Publication 463, Travel, Entertainment, Gift, and Car Expenses.

Tip #3 When renting a place to stay

You can only deduct hotel costs according to what you would spend if you were traveling alone, just like with commuting costs. You can write off the portion of hotel expenses that are equal to what you would spend on yourself alone if you pay for lodging for yourself and your companions. This deduction may enable you to significantly reduce the cost of lodging for your friends. Keep receipts and records that detail the costs of various rooms, just in case you need to provide evidence of the amount to the IRS. You should be aware that AirBnB can be challenging. If you stick to "conventional" housing options like hotels and motels, an audit may not be as extensive.

How Vincere Tax can help

Travel costs are just one of the many unexpected costs that you can deduct and use to lower your tax bill. But if your finances aren't organized or aren't complete, you might miss these tax-saving expenses and end up with a bigger bill than you should have. They can help you find deductions, find unexpected ways to save money, and make sure you pay the least amount of tax possible. Talk to a representative today!

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What if the trip is technically a vacation with some business?

Any expenses connected to your business are still deductible! You can no longer deduct business travel expenses after your trip crosses the boundary from "business trip" to "vacation." 

For instance, a vacation is typically thought of as:

  • A vacation where you aren't primarily engaged in business
  • A business travel that you are unable to support with adequate evidence

If you happen to do business when you're on island time, you can still deduct normal business-related expenses.

2. What if I use my own car to travel to my business trip destination?

When driving your own car for business, there are two ways to write off your travel costs.

  • The "actual expenses method" entails multiplying the entire actual cost of operating your car by the proportion of time you used it for business.
  • The "standard mileage rate method" is keeping track of the business miles you traveled throughout the tax year and then deducting those miles at the standard rate.

3. Where do I file for business deductions if I am self employed?

If you're self-employed, you can deduct travel expenses on Schedule C (Form 1040), Profit or Loss From Business (Sole Proprietorship), or if you're a farmer, on Schedule F (Form 1040), Profit or Loss From Farming.

4. What are the tax penalties for disallowed business expense deductions?

If you were caught claiming a deduction for which you were not eligible and which resulted in you paying far less income tax than you should have, you will be fined. The penalty often equates to 20% of the income tax gap between what you should have paid and what you really did pay. You must also make up the difference. Consequently, you are paying back to the IRS 120 percent of the amount falsely claimed.

5. What if I deduct something without knowing? Do I still have to pay a penalty?

There is a way to file tax returns without running the risk of being punished if you believe an IRS challenge may be forthcoming. Along with your tax return, submit Form 8275. You have the opportunity to emphasize and elaborate on the deduction on this form. You won't be subject to the 20% penalty, but you will still be required to pay the difference to make up for the income tax you should have paid in the event that an audit reveals that the deduction you claimed on Form 8275 was invalid. Unfortunately, submitting Form 8275 won't make you less likely to be audited.

The Bottom Line

When it comes to utilizing travel tax write-offs—or any other tax write-offs, for that matter—the assistance of a qualified bookkeeping staff and a dependable CPA is crucial.

The team at Vincere Tax would be happy to help you get back as much money into your pocket as possible.


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