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Mixing Business With Pleasure

It is not coincidental that most conventions are held in resort areas during the spring through early fall months. Convention planners know quite well that convention timing and location is the key to its success. If planned properly, attendees can deduct a portion of the expenses for establishing business relationships and gaining business knowledge while enjoying a mini-vacation. Even without a convention, business travel can be married with some personal relaxation while still providing a partial or complete deduction. It is important to be aware of when the deductions are legitimate as well as when they are not.

Business and Personal Travel

A taxpayer can deduct all travel expenses while away from home if the primary purpose of the trip was business-related. Expenses such as transportation, meals, lodging and incidentals are deductible provided they are not lavish or extravagant. If the taxpayer engages in both business and personal activities while away traveling, he can deduct the transportation expenses in their entirety if the primary purpose of the trip is business- related. Lodging and 50% of meal costs are also deductible. Where a companion, such as a spouse, accompanies the taxpayer, the companion's meals and travel expenses are generally not deductible. In addition, deductible lodging expense is based upon the single occupancy rate.

Cruise Ships

Occasionally, conventions will be held on cruise ships. There are special rules related to the deductibility of cruise ship conventions, and the meeting must be directly related to the active conduct of the taxpayer's trade or business. The cruise ship must be a vessel registered in the United States. All ports of call must be located in the U.S. or any of its possessions.

In addition, the taxpayer needs to fulfill stringent reporting requirements, including a written statement providing specific information by both the attendee and an officer of the sponsoring organization. Also, the taxpayer is limited to an annual deduction of $2,000 regardless of how many cruises are involved.

Foreign Conventions

In order to deduct a foreign convention (held outside of North America), the costs need to be: 1) directly-related to the active conduct of the taxpayer's trade or business and 2) be just as reasonable to hold the convention or seminar outside the US as it is inside the North American area.

Please note that a higher standard is applied to foreign conventions than to conventions and seminars held within the North American area. Various factors are considered to determine the reasonableness of the location and convention, including, but not limited to, the meeting's purpose, the sponsor's purpose and activities, the residence of the organization's members, the locations of past and future seminars.

If you have a particular question involving travel and the deductibility of the expenses, please give this office a call so we can assist you.