taxes

Tax help for business, pleasure trips

Don't try to get cute here. The IRS frowns on counting a full day as business if you simply schedule a quick breakfast meeting with a client and then spend the other 23 hours on your own. In this case, that night's lodging will come out of your own pocket, not as a deduction on your tax return.

Eating out

Speaking of eating, closing a deal over a meal is a time-honored business practice, but the IRS only helps out so far here.

Generally, you can only deduct 50 percent of your business-related meal costs. That limit also applies to your individual meals on business travel.

As for that breakfast business meeting, it isn't a total tax loss. Even though it isn't likely to get you the full day for lodging deduction purposes, you can include the morning meal's costs -- subject to the 50 percent limit -- with your client as a deductible expense.

Miscellaneous expenses

When collecting your travel, hotel and meal receipts, be sure to note other miscellaneous expenses, too. Many of these work-related costs also are deductible.

You can write off taxi fares to and from the airport (or other transportation hubs, such as a train or bus station), as well as local fares from the airport to your hotel. And don't forget the cab costs from your hotel to your business meetings (and back).

If you shipped work material to your meeting destination, that expense is deductible. So are the extra charges you incur for business calls while on your trip, as well as Internet connection fees.

If your trip lasts longer than you planned, dry cleaning and laundry fees paid to make you look presentable also are deductible.

Taking family along

If you want to make a real mini-vacation out of your next business trip, take the family along. Just be prepared for more diligent record keeping.

Your spouse's and children's expenses won't be deductible unless they work for your company and are involved in the out-of-town business meetings. The tax code will, however, pay for at least part of your expenses. In some cases, that could be more than you expect.

Take lodging. When you share a room, the charge for added occupants typically is not double the fee for one guest. That means that for the days you conduct business, most of your family-shared room will be deductible.

And while only your airfare is deductible if you fly, when you drive to your out-of-town meetings, the mileage is fully deductible even with your family along for the ride, says Weltman.

It also works for employees

If you are an employee, you also might be able to take advantage of company travel for a bit of a personal break.

"Make sure you follow the company policy," says Infante, who previously worked in the finance offices of several large corporations. This means keeping receipts and documenting the business portion of the travel, she says, since many firms base their employee travel policies on tax code guidelines.

Also keep in mind that the rules are somewhat different when business travel is outside the United States. In those cases, you still might be able to deduct some travel expenses, but check with your employer or your own company's tax adviser beforehand to ensure that the trip abroad goes smoothly on personal, business and tax levels.

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