Travel & Entertainment: Maximizing Tax Benefits

Tax law allows you to deduct two types of travel expenses related to your business, local and what the IRS calls “away from home.”

  1. First, local travel expenses. You can deduct local transportation expenses incurred for business purposes such as the cost of getting from one location to another via public transportation, rental car, or your own automobile. Meals and incidentals are not deductible as travel expenses, but you can deduct meals as an entertainment expense as long as certain conditions are met (see below).
  2. Second, you can deduct away from home travel expenses-including meals and incidentals, but if your employer reimburses your travel expenses your deductions are limited.

Local Transportation Costs

The cost of local business transportation includes rail fare and bus fare, as well as costs associated with use and maintenance of an automobile used for business purposes. If your main place of business is your personal residence, then business trips from your home office and back are considered deductible transportation and not non-deductible commuting.

You generally cannot deduct lodging and meals unless you stay away from home overnight. Meals may be partially deductible as an entertainment expense.

Away From-Home Travel Expenses

You can deduct one-half of the cost of meals (50 percent) and all of the expenses of lodging incurred while traveling away from home. The IRS also allows you to deduct 100 percent of your transportation expenses–as long as business is the primary reason for your trip.

Here’s a list of some deductible away-from-home travel expenses:

  • Meals (limited to 50 percent) and lodging while traveling or once you get to your away-from-home business destination.
  • The cost of having your clothes cleaned and pressed away from home.
  • Costs for telephone, fax or modem usage.
  • Costs for secretarial services away-from-home.
  • The costs of transportation between job sites or to and from hotels and terminals.
  • Airfare, bus fare, rail fare, and charges related to shipping baggage or taking it with you.
  • The cost of bringing or sending samples or displays, and of renting sample display rooms.
  • The costs of keeping and operating a car, including garaging costs.
  • The cost of keeping and operating an airplane, including hangar costs.
  • Transportation costs between “temporary” job sites and hotels and restaurants.
  • Incidentals, including computer rentals, stenographers’ fees.
  • Tips related to the above.

Entertainment Expenses

There are limits and restrictions on deducting meal and entertainment expenses. Most are deductible at 50 percent, but there are a few exceptions. Meals and entertainment must be “ordinary and necessary” and not “lavish or extravagant” and directly related to or associated with your business. They must also be substantiated (see below).

Your home is considered a place conducive to business. As such, entertaining at home may be deductible providing there was business intent and business was discussed. The amount of time that business was discussed does not matter.

Reasonable costs for food and refreshments for year-end parties for employees, as well as sales seminars and presentations held at your home are 100 percent deductible.

If you rent a skybox or other private luxury box for more than one event, say for the season, at the same sports arena, you generally cannot deduct more than the price of a non-luxury box seat ticket. Count each game or other performance as one event. Deduction for those seats is then subject to the 50 percent entertainment expense limit.

If expenses for food and beverages are separately stated, you can deduct these expenses in addition to the amounts allowable for the skybox, subject to the requirements and limits that apply. The amounts separately stated for food and beverages must be reasonable.

Deductions are disallowed for depreciation and upkeep of “entertainment facilities” such as yachts, hunting lodges, fishing camps, swimming pools, and tennis courts. Costs of entertainment provided at such facilities are deductible, subject to entertainment expense limitations.

Dues paid to country clubs or to social or golf and athletic clubs however, are not deductible. Dues that you pay to professional and civic organizations are deductible as long as your membership has a business purpose. Such organizations include business leagues, trade associations, chambers of commerce, boards of trade, and real estate boards.

Tip: To avoid problems qualifying for a deduction for dues paid to professional or civic organizations, document the business reasons for the membership, the contacts you make and any income generated from the membership.

Entertainment costs, taxes, tips, cover charges, room rentals, maids and waiters are all subject to the 50 percent limit on entertainment deductions.

How Do You Prove Expenses Are Directly Related?

Expenses are directly related if you can show:

  • There was more than a general expectation of gaining some business benefit other than goodwill.
  • You conducted business during the entertainment.
  • Active conduct of business was your main purpose.

Record-keeping and Substantiation Requirements

Tax law requires you to keep records that will prove the business purpose and amounts of your business travel, entertainment, and local transportation costs. For example, each expense for lodging away from home that is $75 or more must be supported by receipts. The receipt must show the amount, date, place, and type of the expense.

The most frequent reason that the IRS disallows travel and entertainment expenses is failure to show the place and business purpose of an item. Therefore, pay special attention to these aspects of your record-keeping.

Keeping a diary or log book–and recording your business-related activities at or close to the time the expense is incurred–is one of the best ways to document your business expenses.

If you need help documenting business travel and entertainment expenses, don’t hesitate to call us. We’ll help you set up a system that works for you–and satisfies IRS record-keeping requirements.

Tax Lawyer-CPA Gets 15 Years for Fraud

Paul M. Daugerdas, 63, a tax attorney and CPA, was sentenced this week to 15 years in prison for orchestrating a massive fraudulent tax. The Department of Justice says Daugerdas and his co-conspirators, including five former partners at BDO Seidman, generated more than $7 billion in phony tax losses for clients. Daugerdas, who received $95 million in fees, used the same shelters to pay only $8,000 in taxes. Forfeited assets and restitution payments will cost him than $535 million.

Daugerdas has been ordered to forfeit $164.7 million in proceed, including a lakefront home on Lake Geneva, Wis., and more than $20 million in securities and financial accounts. He must also pay $371 million in restitution to the IRS. BDO Seidman agreed to pay $50 million in June 2012 to settle its issues. Daugerdas received a new trial after his original convictions were overturned.

The IRS and the Justice Department said Daugerdas and co-conspirators designed, marketed and implemented fraudulent tax shelters used by wealthy individuals to evade more than $1.6 billion in federal taxes. Without the shelters, Daugerdas would have owed $32 million by himself. Daugerdas, a resident of Wilmette, Ill., was convicted of conspiring to defraud the IRS, to evade taxes, and to commit mail and wire fraud, and of corruptly endeavoring to obstruct and impede the internal revenue laws. He was also convicted of four counts of tax evasion relating to the use of various tax shelters for specified clients, and of mail fraud.

The former head of the Chicago, Ill., law office of Jenkens & Gilchrist, he was found to have participated in the scheme from 1994 through 2004 in designing, marketing, implementing and defending fraudulent tax shelters. Daugerdas and the others plotted to prevent the IRS from understanding how the shelters worked–as cookie-cutter products intended exclusively to eliminate or reduce large tax liabilities with clients not seeking profit-making investments.

The co-conspirators helped create transaction documents that masked clients’ motivations for utilizing the shelters. They also backdated some shelter transactions, in particular some in which transactions had been incorrectly implemented and failed to produce the amount or type of losses sought by clients. But instead of reporting those results, Daugerdas and others were involved in “correcting” transactions after the close of the pertinent years and then backdating documents to support their reports.

Among others convicted was David Parse, a former broker at Deutsche Bank, who received 46 months in prison in March 2013 after being convicted in a May 2011 trial. Also going to prison was Donna Guerin, a former lawyer at J&G’s Chicago tax practice who drew an eight-year sentence in March 2013 after pleading guilty to various tax fraud charges in September 2012.

Others previously convicted were former J&G partner Erwin Mayer; former BDO Seidman vice chairman and board member Charles W. Bee Jr.; the firm’s principal and member of its TSG and Tax Opinion Committee Michael Kerekes; and its former vice chairman and TSG member Adrian Dicker; and BDO partners Robert Greisman and Mark Bloom.