For the most part, an individual’s travel expenses from attending conventions or seminars can be deducted (provided that attendance benefits the taxpayer’s trade or business). But, the following travel expenses cannot be deducted: family members’ travel expenses, or expenses from attending investment, political, social or other types of meetings not related to the taxpayer’s trade or business. The entire cost of transportation and lodging, plus 50% of the meal expenses, is deductible for meetings held within the North American area. For a detailed list of areas within North America, please consult IRS Publication 463.
Meetings Outside the North American Area – Deducting travel expenses for a convention or meeting outside the North American area has requirements:
- The meeting must be directly related to the taxpayer’s trade or business (whereas meetings within the North American area need only benefit the taxpayer’s trade or business), and
- It must be reasonable to hold the meeting outside the North American area. There is no specific definition of “reasonable” for this purpose, which places the burden of proof on the taxpayer. Considerations include the meeting’s purpose and activities and the location of the meeting sponsors’ homes.
Even if the above requirements are met, the amount of deduction allowed depends upon the primary purpose of the trip and on the time spent on nonbusiness activities:
(1) If the entire time is devoted to business, all ordinary and necessary travel expenses are deductible.
(2) If the travel is primarily for vacation and only a few hours are spent attending professional seminars, none of the expenses incurred in traveling to and from the business location are deductible.
(3) If, during a business trip, personal activities take place at, near or beyond the business destination, then the expenses incurred in traveling to and from the business location have to be appropriately allocated between the business and nonbusiness expenses.
(4) If the travel is for a period of one week or less, or if less than 25% of the total time is spent on nonbusiness activities (on a day-by-day basis), then the travel deductions are treated the same as they would be for travel within the North American area.
Meetings Held On Cruise Ships – When a convention or meeting is held on a cruise ship and is directly related to a taxpayer’s trade or business, the taxpayer is limited to $2,000 per year in deductions for expenses from attending such conventions, seminars, or similar meetings. All ships that sail are considered cruise ships. The following rules also apply:
- The cruise ship must be registered in the United States.
- All of the cruise ship’s ports of call must be in the United States or its possessions.
If you have questions related to the deductibility of expenses from conventions and meetings or from foreign travel, please give Dagley & Co. a call.
Image via public domain
Are you a childcare provider? If so, did you know are certain tax laws that provide you and your business with special tax breaks? These breaks include deductions for travel, capital purchases, supplies, children’s meals and the business use of your home. Dagley & Co. has broke down each tax break category for you:
Travel – Your auto expenses are based on the number of qualified business miles that you drive. Auto expenses for you (as a day care provider) could include transportation:
- To and from a class taken to enhance your day care skills;
- For field trips with those for whom you are providing care;
- For errands related to day care business (e.g., going to the bank to deposit day care receipts or to the store to shop for day care supplies); or
- To chauffeur day care attendees.
To claim business use of your vehicle, use the actual expense method or the standard mileage rate. However, the actual method requires far more detailed records; you must keep track of your business miles and total miles to prorate the costs of fuel, insurance, repairs, etc. You will probably find the standard mileage rate to be far less complicated, as you only need to contemporaneously record your business miles and the purpose of each trip. Even with the standard method, you’ll still need to know the total miles driven for the year. For 2017, the rate is 53.5 cents per mile, down from 54.0 cents per mile in 2016.
Capital Purchases – Capital items are those that normally last more than one year, including cribs and playground equipment. Be sure to keep receipts for these items, as they can generally be depreciated or expensed, whichever works best for you.
Supplies and Business Expenses – The cost of items such as crayons, coloring books, paper plates, cups, cleaning supplies, and first aid supplies are also deductible in the year they are purchased. However, you need to keep receipts for all such purchases.
Food – You can also deduct the actual cost of any food that is provided to the children in your care. It can be a bookkeeping nightmare to keep track of which grocery items were purchased for the childcare business and which were for personal consumption. Luckily, the government allows a care provider to deduct standard meal rates in lieu of actual amounts. This method does not require you to keep grocery receipts, and the IRS will not contest a food deduction based on the standard rates. The rates are the same throughout the contiguous U.S. states, with higher allowances for Alaska and Hawaii.
Year State Breakfast Lunch Dinner Snack 2016 ContiguousAlaska
Business Use of the Home – Generally, when a taxpayer claims a business deduction for the use of his or her home, the portion of the home that is used must be exclusively used for business purposes. Knowing that childcare providers do not use a specific space in the home 100 percent of the time, Congress added an exception related to the business’s licensing, certification, registration, or approval as a day care center or family/group care home under the provisions of any applicable state law. This exception applies only if the childcare owner or operator has applied for, been granted, or is exempt from such approval. In addition, the exception does not apply if the services performed are primarily educational or instructional in nature (e.g., musical instruction). However, the exception does apply if the services are primarily custodial, such that any educational, developmental or enrichment activities are only incidental to the custodial services. The services must be provided for adults age 65 or older, children, or other individuals who are physically or mentally incapable of caring for themselves.
When calculating the percentage use of a home for business, there are two factors: the space used to operate the day care business and the amount of time that the space is used to provide day care, including preparation and cleaning time.
Example – Edna uses her living room, kitchen, and bathroom ten hours a day, five days a week to provide licensed day care services. The home is 2,400 square feet, and the living room, kitchen, and bathroom are a combined 1,400 square feet. Edna’s percentage use of her home for business is determined as follows:
Edna’s Home Use Expenses (full year)
Homeowner’s Insurance 550
Mortgage Interest 6,150
Property Tax 2,550
Business Deduction $2,514 (.1736 x $14,480)
There is also a simplified deduction method for the business use of a home; it may be useful for individuals who work from a home office, but it is generally unsuitable for a childcare business.
The deduction for the business use of a home is limited to gross income from the business. If that limit applies to you, any home mortgage interest and property taxes that you have paid, as well as any casualty losses that you have incurred for the year, are always deductible when you itemize deductions, regardless of whether you claim a deduction for the business use of the home.
If you have questions related to how any of these tax breaks apply to you and your childcare business, please give Dagley & Co. a call.
Image via public domain
Drive often for work? There’s a tax deduction for that. The Internal Revenue Service recently announced the inflation-adjusted 2016 optional standard mileage rates used to calculate the deductible costs of operating an automobile for business, charitable, medical or moving purposes.
Beginning January 1, 2016, the standard mileage rates for the use of a car (or a van, pickup or panel truck) will be:
- 54.0 cents per mile for business miles driven (including a 24-cent-per-mile allocation for depreciation). This is down from 57.5 cents in 2015;
- 19 cents per mile driven for medical or moving purposes. This is down from 23 cents in 2015; and
- 14 cents per mile driven in service of charitable organizations.
The standard mileage rate for business is based on an annual study of the fixed and variable costs of operating an automobile. The rate for medical and moving purposes is based on the variable costs as determined by the same study. The rate for using an automobile while performing services for a charitable organization is statutorily set and has been 14 cents for over 15 years.
Taxpayers always have the option of calculating the actual costs of using their vehicle for business rather than using the standard mileage rates. With the extension of the bonus depreciation though 2019, using the actual expense method may be a worthwhile consideration in the first year the vehicle is placed in service. The bonus depreciation allowance adds an additional $8,000 to the maximum first year depreciation deduction of passenger vehicles and light trucks that have an unloaded gross vehicle weight of 6,000 pounds or less.
However, the standard mileage rates cannot be used if the actual method (using Sec. 179, bonus depreciation and/or MACRS depreciation) has been used in previous years. This rule is applied on a vehicle-by-vehicle basis. In addition, the business standard mileage rate cannot be used for any vehicle used for hire or for more than four vehicles used simultaneously.
Employer reimbursement – Where employers reimburse employees for business-related car expenses using the standard mileage allowance method for each substantiated employment-connected business mile, the reimbursement is tax-free if the employee substantiates to the employer the time, place, mileage and purpose of employment-connected business travel.
Employees whose actual employment-related business mileage expenses exceed the employer’s reimbursement can deduct the difference on their income tax return as a miscellaneous itemized deduction subject to the 2%-of-AGI floor. However, an employee who leases an auto and is reimbursed using the mileage allowance method can‘t claim a deduction based on actual expenses unless he does so consistently beginning with the first business use of the auto.
Faster Write-Offs for Heavy Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs) – Many of today’s SUV vehicles weigh more than 6,000 pounds and are therefore not subject to the luxury auto depreciation limit rules; so taxpayers with these vehicles can utilize both the §179 expense deduction (up to a maximum of $25,000) and the bonus depreciation (the §179 deduction must be applied first and then the bonus depreciation) to produce a sizable first-year tax deduction. However, the vehicle cannot exceed a gross unloaded vehicle weight of 14,000 pounds. Caution: Business autos are 5-year class life property. If the taxpayer subsequently disposes of the vehicle early, before the end of the 5-year period, as many do, a portion of the §179 expense deduction will be recaptured and must be added back to income (SE income for self-employed individuals). The future ramifications of deducting all or a significant portion of the vehicle’s cost using §179 should be considered.
If you have questions related to best methods of deducting the business use of your vehicle or the documentation required, please get in touch with us at Dagley & Co. so we can turn your mileage back into money.
Image via public domain
Do you often send your employees abroad – or even a state or two over? Sending employees on business trips is essential for many companies – even though travel can result in tax headaches for both the employer and the employee if the tax regulations are not adhered to. If the rules are followed, the cost of the employee’s travel will be fully deductible to the employer, with the exception of meals, which are only 50% deductible, and tax-free reimbursement to the employee. In addition, the reimbursement is not subject to FICA or payroll withholding.
With that said, if the rules aren’t followed, the expenses are still deductible by the employer, but the reimbursement must be added to the employee’s taxable wages, subject to both FICA and payroll withholding.
An employer is able to deduct ordinary and necessary business expenses, including an employee’s job-related travel and lodging expenses that are not lavish or extravagant, and under the rules of working condition fringe benefits, any such item that is deductible by the employer is not includible in the employee’s salary. In addition, an advance or reimbursement made to an employee under an “accountable plan,” which requires the employee to adequately account for the expenses and return any excess advances, is deductible by the employer and not subject to FICA or income tax withholding.
Reimbursements not made under an accountable plan are fully taxable to the employee, and the only way for the employee to deduct the expenses is as a miscellaneous itemized deduction on his or her 1040. To do that, the employee must itemize his or her deductions on Schedule A, as opposed to taking the standard deduction. The employee business expense category on Schedule A is subject to a 2% of AGI nondeductible threshold, and this frequently results in the employee not being able to deduct any or only a portion of the expenses.
With the exception noted below, to deduct the cost of lodging and meals, the taxpayer must be away from home overnight. Any trip that is of such a length as to require sleep or rest to enable the taxpayer to continue working is considered “overnight.”
Under an exception to the away-from-home rule, the cost of local lodging is deductible if the lodging is necessary for the individual to participate fully in or be available for a bona fide business meeting, conference, training activity, or other business function and the duration does not exceed five calendar days and does not recur more frequently than once per calendar quarter. For an employee, the employer must require the employee to remain at the activity or function overnight, the lodging must not be lavish or extravagant, and there can be no significant element of personal pleasure, recreation, or benefit.
A taxpayer’s home, for purposes of determining if he or she is away from home and can deduct lodging and meals, is generally where the taxpayer normally lives and works, although that fact is sometimes difficult to determine, in which case the IRS has numerous special rules that apply.
Where an away-from-home assignment, at a single location, lasts for one year or less, it is “temporary,” and the travel expenses are deductible. If the assignment is longer, there is a good chance the expenses will not be deductible based upon some complex rules.
The rules for the tax treatment of travel expenses and temporary away-from-home assignments can be complex. Please give us at Dagley & Co. a call or drop us an email for further details or assistance. You’ll find our information at the bottom of this webpage.
Image via public domain