Write From Home
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The Right Ways to Right Off Your Sojourns
by Julian Block
Some reminders for freelancers on the right way to
write off trips to writers' conferences and other kinds of
deductible travel without raising questions by the IRS.
The tax code imposes tight restrictions on
deductions for travel that combines business with pleasure.
Nevertheless, the IRS blesses some of these travel costs. Here are
several reminders on frequently-missed breaks for vacationers.
Business Travel with Your Spouse
The feds are
absolutely unyielding when your spouse accompanies you to a
meeting for writers or some other kind of business-related
activity. 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 spouse (or 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.
Tax relief remains available for lodging costs even when your mate
tags along just to see the sights. Claim a deduction for lodging
based on the single-rate cost of similar accommodations for you,
not half the double rate you actually paid.
You and your spouse go by car to a conference for writers 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). No deduction for
other personal expenses, such as sightseeing or theatre tickets.
Similarly nondeductible are expenses of accompanying family
aware that IRS regulations take direct aim at disguised vacations.
There must be no significant element of personal pleasure,
recreation or vacation.
To illustrate, 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.
No deductions for costs incurred by investors to attend
conventions, seminars or similar meetings at which they obtain
information that helps them to plot strategies. Disallowed
expenses include travel to the meeting site, attendance fees and
meals, lodging and local travel while attending.
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
An 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 and others who are at the
conference for business reasons.
Copyright © 2004 Julian Block. All rights reserved.
Julian Block is a syndicated columnist, attorney and former IRS investigator who has
been cited by the New York Times as "a leading tax professional" and by the
Wall Street Journal as an "accomplished writer on taxes." His "Tax Tips For
Freelance Writers, Photographers And Artists" shows how to save truly big
money on taxes—legally—and explains the steps you should take to reduce taxes
for this year and even gain a head start for future years. Send $9.95 for an
e-mailed copy or $14.95 (in the U.S.) for a postpaid copy to:
Washington Square, #1-G
Larchmont, NY 10538-2032.
Contact him at
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