Success Tips for Travel Write-offs

Posted by Heather Villa, CMA, MBA, MSM on October 02, 2009 in: Bookkeeping & Accounting, Business - Plain & Simple

If you run a small business, you may find yourself traveling on trips that are obviously business-related. For example, if you travel to a conference in your field, stay in the recommended hotel, and are away only the same number of days as the conference, then the trip is obviously a business trip.

Likewise, you will find that some trips are solely vacations. If you take your family to a tourist destination, spend your time on theme park rides or lying on the beach, and do not pack your laptop, the trip is obviously a vacation.

However, for most entrepreneurs, many trips lie somewhere in between. “The gray area” is not a travel destination; it’s a complicated tax situation! The gray area is not quite a vacation and not quite a business trip: These are the trips in which you spend some time seeing sights and doing tourist activities, but you also accomplish a certain amount of work. How do you count these trips for tax purposes?

Tax law is extremely complicated, and it is highly recommended that you seek the advice of an expert tax professional before claiming any business write-offs, especially for trips that are only partially business-related. However, provided here is a general guide to IRS regulations.

Guide 1
: “Business Purpose”: In order to qualify as a full or partial business trip, there must be a clear business purpose for the trip. A freelancer who can perform his work anywhere may not claim business expenses simply because he decided he liked the scenery better in Paris. However, that same freelancer who conducts a research trip for an upcoming project may be entitled to claim business expenses.

Guide 2: Claim Only the Part of the Trip that is Business Related: The IRS website uses the example of someone who travels from Atlanta to New Orleans on business. The hypothetical person stops in Mobile to visit his parents. He can deduct the amount that the trip would have cost if he had gone directly to and from New Orleans. He cannot deduct any expenses for the Mobile segment of the trip.

Guide 3: Primarily for Personal Reasons: If the trip is primarily conducted for personal reasons, but some work is performed, then the travel expenses may not be deducted. However, any specific expenses that are incurred as a result of business may be deducted.

Guide 4 to Business Write Offs
Assistance with Tax Filing: As mentioned above, tax law is extremely complicated. A qualified bookkeeper can help you keep track of those expenses and a certified accountant can help you to navigate the complex tax laws.

It is very important that you keep all receipts and other documentation neatly organized in order to back up your claims.

About the author: Heather Villa, MBA CMA MSM, is a Business Coach and Entrepreneur. She helps business owners achieve success in operations, productivity, project management, and social media. Read her other articles at and visit for more information.

Disclaimer: © 2009 Heather Villa. Permission is granted to repost this article. Article must be published in its entirety, including author bio, and all links must remain intact.

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