For Business Owners, a business trip can be a valuable tool and tax deduction. Typically however, the business owner gets to tax time and finds out there is a big tax liability due.
Then the wheels start turning. “What other deductions have I missed? Oh yes, the family vacation!” Thoughts turn to the family vacation and how it could possibly be construed to be a business trip. The truth is that unless you actually conducted business, after the fact is too late.
It is possible to combine a business trip and family vacation, but there are things you should do right to make it legal. Every summer there are seminars and work related trips to be taken and it is fine to take your family along. Be aware that only the business part of your trip is tax deductible.
If you drive your vehicle, it doesn’t cost anymore in gas to take along the spouse and kids so all the gas is deductible. But if you stop to eat, only the persons involved in the business part of the trip can deduct the meal.
If you all stay in one hotel room then it may not cost anymore for the room than if you stayed alone the whole 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 a business related to amusement parks. Deductions need to be honest and related to your business field.
Here are some things that you should do when planning and taking a business trip.
1. Plan ahead. Make a plan of where you are going and what business you will conduct. There are many sources (especially on the internet) that can give you information of the businesses and events in the area you plan to go.
2. Business Purpose. Have a specific purpose for the trip. It can include such things as visiting other businesses like yours to see how they operate, making customer or vendor contacts, looking for opportunities for expansion, etc.
3. Keep receipts. The key to taking deductions is being able to prove you had expenses. Receipts include the actual sales receipt, checks, credit card statements and bank statements.
4. Enlist family members. Depending on the type of business you are involved in, there are times when your family can help gather information and a give a different perspective to the information you gather and places you research.
If you ask family members to help, have them write a report at the end of the trip telling their opinions and perspectives. Make sure they tie it into the purpose of the trip.
5. Log where you go. Keep a record of the places you go that are business related. A note book or day planner can work. Also an envelope with the log on the front and receipts and information from the places you go inside is handy.
6. Log who you talk to. Keep a record of who you meet and what you discuss. Again, a note book, day planner or envelope can be useful.
7. Log what you research. Keep a record of the information you gather.
8. Business cards. Keep a business card from the people you meet and the businesses you visit that are business related.
9. Keep ticket stubs. Keep the stubs from events such as seminars and trade shows. Note what you learned from thee events.
10. Summarize. At the end of the trip write a summary of what you accomplished and the conclusions you made.
The IRS looks carefully at business trips. Their purposes and validity can be stretched. By planning ahead and keeping good records, your legitimate expenses can be deducted comfortably and within the IRS codes and rules.
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