Ways to Write Off Some Summer Sojourns
TAX ADVICE from Julian Block
(July 1, 2004) The tax code imposes tight restrictions on
deductions for travel that combines business with pleasure.
the IRS blesses some of these travel costs. Here are several
reminders on frequently-missed breaks for vacationers.
Business Travel With Your
The feds are absolutely
unyielding when your spouse accompanies you to a meeting
at some plush resort. No write-off for the portion of the
outlays attributable to your spouse's travel, meals and
lodging unless these three requirements are met: (1) the
dependent, or any other individual) is a bona fide employee
of the outfit that pays for the trip; (2) the spouse undertakes
the travel for a bona fide business reason; and (3) the
spouse is otherwise entitled to deduct the expenses.
TIP: Tax relief remains available for lodging
costs even when your mate tags along just to see the sights.
deduction for lodging based on the single-rate cost of similar
accommodations for you, not half the double rate you actually
EXAMPLE: You and your spouse go by car
to a business convention in St. Louis, where the two of
you stay at a hotel that charges
$150 for a double room and $130 for a single room. Besides
deducting the entire round-trip driving (the driving costs
the same whether your spouse accompanies you or not), claim
a per-day deduction for your hotel room of $130, rather
than just $75, half of $150.
As a volunteer worker for a church, university
or other philanthropic organization, you get to deduct
unreimbursed out-of-pocket expenses, including travel.
Say you are elected
or appointed to attend a church convention as a delegate.
You can deduct reasonable amounts for travel, lodging and
meals (100 percent deductible, unlike business meals, which
are only 50 percent deductible). There are no deductions
for other personal expenses, such as sightseeing or theatre
tickets. Similarly nondeductible are expenses of accompanying
Be aware that IRS regulations take direct aim at disguised
vacations. There must be no significant element of personal
pleasure, recreation or vacation.
EXAMPLE: John Hickey takes his Boy Scout troop camping
and is on duty throughout the trip. John is entitled to deduct
his payments of expenses for himself and for boys who belong
to the group, but not for his own children. It makes no difference
that he enjoys the trip or supervising scouts.
There are no deductions for costs incurred
by investors to attend conventions, seminars or similar
meetings at which they obtain information that helps them
strategies. Disallowed expenses include travel to the meeting
site, attendance fees and meals, lodging and local travel
The disallowance applies solely to outlays made for investment
reasons, like those of an investor seeking to obtain information
about whether to buy or sell particular stocks. It does not
apply to costs incurred for business reasons, like those
of a financial adviser who meets with prospective clients
as part of his job.
EXAMPLE: International Investments holds a convention
at which stock market investors pay for the opportunity to
discuss strategies with representatives of brokerage firms
and listen to presentations from executives about their companies.
Result: The seminar rules bar deductions of expenses by
investors, but not deductions of expenses by stockbrokers
who are at the conference for business reasons.
Julian Block lives in Larchmont and is a syndicated
columnist, attorney and former IRS investigator who
the New York Times has called “a
leading tax professional.”
His “Year Round Tax Savings” shows
how to save big money on taxes – legally. To
purchase a copy, email: at email@example.com.
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