For entrepreneurs, a business trip can be a valuable tool and a tax deduction. However, typically, the business owner arrives at tax time and discovers that he or she must pay a large tax debt.
Then the wheels start turning. “What other deductions have I missed? Oh yeah, family vacations!” Thoughts revolve around family vacations and how they could be interpreted as a business trip. The truth is, unless you’ve done business, it’s too late after the fact.
It is possible to combine a business trip and a family vacation, but there are things you need to do right to make it legal. Every summer there are work-related seminars and trips and it’s okay to take your family with you. Please note that only the business portion of your trip is tax deductible.
If you drive your vehicle, it no longer costs more in gasoline to bring your spouse and children, so all gasoline is deductible. But if you stop for a meal, only the people involved in the business part of the trip can discount the food.
If everyone stays in a hotel room, the room may not cost more than if you were to stay alone, the entire room is deductible. If it costs more for more people in the room, then the extra is not tax deductible.
Amusement parks are generally not tax deductible unless you are in an amusement park-related business. Deductions must be honest and related to your business field.
These are some of the things to do when planning and taking a business trip.
1. Plan ahead. Make a plan of where you are going and what business you will do. There are many sources (especially on the Internet) that can provide you with information on businesses and events in the area you plan to go to.
2. Business purpose. Have a specific purpose for the trip. It can include things like visiting other companies like yours to see how they operate, making contacts with customers or suppliers, looking for expansion opportunities, etc.
3. Save your receipts. The key to making deductions is being able to show that you had expenses. Receipts include the actual sales receipt, checks, credit card statements, and bank statements.
4. Recruit family members. Depending on the type of business you are involved in, there are times when your family can help gather information and give a different perspective to the information you collect and the places you do research.
If you ask family members for help, ask them to write a report at the end of the trip outlining their opinions and perspectives. Make sure they relate it to the purpose of the trip.
5. Record where you are going. Keep track of the places you go that are related to the business. A notebook or planner can work. Also helpful is an envelope with the registration on the front and the receipts and information for the places you enter.
6. Record who you speak to. Keep a record of who you meet and what you talk about. Again, a notebook, planner, or envelope can be helpful.
7. Record what you investigate. Keep a record of the information you collect.
8. Business cards. Keep a business card of the people you meet and the companies you visit that are related to the business.
9. Save your ticket stubs. Save your stubs for events like seminars and trade shows. Consider what you learned from the events.
10. Summarize. At the end of the trip, write a summary of what you accomplished and the conclusions you drew.
The IRS takes a close look at business travel. Its purposes and validity can be extended. By planning ahead and keeping good records, your legitimate expenses can be deducted comfortably and within IRS codes and rules.