Ten Recordkeeping Rules and Five Bonus Tips in Claiming Travel Expense

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Ten Recordkeeping Rules and Five Bonus Tips in Claiming Travel Expense

Mar 20, 2017 Posted by Sanjiv No Comments

Good recordkeeping may not be in the list of business secrets of successful entrepreneurs. But for the company’s accountant or bookkeeper, it is very important.  It can significantly reduce the amount of profit that a business will pay tax on. Keeping accurate and organized records make it easier for companies to track their cash flow, save time and trouble in filing their tax returns, and perhaps more important, ensure that they are tax-efficient.

Good recordkeeping is particularly vital for business owners and contractors who go on a business trip.  The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) allows business owners to claim tax deductions for travel-related expenses such as:

  • Lodging
  • 50 percent of the costs of meals
  • Baggage charges
  • Air, rail, and bus fare
  • Cleaning and laundry
  • Taxi fare and car rental
  • Computer rental
  • Public stenographer fees
  • Telephone or fax expenses
  • Tips on qualified expenses

If you are a business owner,  you should understand how good record keeping is vital. Keeping accurate records will back up your tax deduction claims. And it can spell the difference between winning an audit and the IRS possibly digging up your other tax returns.

The following are some of the recordkeeping rules you should keep in mind when you are to claim on a business trip:

  1. You can’t claim tax exemptions for estimated or approximated expenses.

The IRS doesn’t allow businesses to deduct amounts based on approximate or estimate. You cannot guess the amount you spent for your gas or toll fees,  neither for the cost of your meals during the business trip.

It is thus recommended for entrepreneurs or their bookkeepers to keep adequate records proving their business trip -related expenses.

You should be accurate on the amount to be written off. The IRS recommends keeping documentary evidence to prove your expenses, such as receipts, bills, and checks.

 However, documentary evidence isn’t required when the travel related expense is lower than $75.  You don’t also have to present receipt for meals and lodging expenses if you are to claim per diem, or you took public transportation for which a receipt isn’t readily available.

 You should keep timely records.

 The IRS also recommends keeping records of a business travel during or near the time of the trip. It should also be supported with sufficient documentary evidence. This can make the record more believable than a statement prepared at a later date.

 Let’s cite an example. A business owner wrote off more than $20,000 in his tax return, citing that the amount represented the gas expenses he had when he went out of town during several occasions in 2013 to meet several prospective clients.

 Two years after the trip, the IRS decided that it had enough grounds to audit his tax returns. In order to substantiate his claim, he presented a 2013 calendar as well as printouts of driving directions generated by an online web mapping service. The directions also specified the distance supposedly traveled by the business owner from his place to the offices of his clients.

 Despite those documents presented , the IRS will still disallow the claims of the business owner.  For one, the documents presented were prepared two years after the business trip. Therefore, there is a lack of truthful recall on the part of the entrepreneur to justify the said claim even though an online mapping service was used.

 This illustrates the importance of keeping timely records of your business trip. While you don’t have to record information as soon as you get home, you don’t have to wait for months to do so, either.

  1. You must state the business purpose of an expense.

The IRS encourages business owners and employees who are claiming a business travel exemption to provide a written statement indicating the purpose of an expense. You can indicate that a conference you attended is for networking and meeting potential clients.  You can back up your claim by showing the conference program or invitation from the organizer.

However, this may not be needed if the purpose of an expense is obvious given the surrounding circumstances.

The easiest example of this would be a sales representative. Given the job description of the worker, it is understood that he or she is constantly travelling.  Thus there is no need to submit a written statement detailing the business purpose of each and every trip. The sales representative would only have to record the date of each trip, total miles covered, and back up his or her claims with documentary evidence like receipt or record of delivery.

You can also withhold confidential information in stating the purpose of a business travel expense.  You don’t have to be explicit in stating the purpose of a business meeting like mentioning the amount of deals you booked over dinner.

  1. You can’t use credit card statements to claim an expense.

One of the more common mistakes that business owners make when writing off a business trip expense is using their credit card statements. The IRS, though, won’t accept this as documentary evidence.

A credit card statement can be likened to a canceled check. It only shows the costs but not any further evidence to prove that the expenses were for a legitimate and necessary business purpose.

You should present a receipt alongside the credit card statement to substantiate the travel expenditure.

  1. You should provide direct and supporting evidence in case you have incomplete records of an expense.

If you cannot provide complete records to support a tax deduction, you can still write off an expense by furnishing direct evidence in the form of a written or oral statement and supporting evidence. The written or oral statement details the cost, time, place, and date of a business trip expense like meals or transportation. It may be a written statement from you, your associates, and guests. Documentary evidence, on the other hand, may be receipts or paid bills.

In the absence of documentary evidence, you can present adequate evidence to prove the character of the expense. In the case of lodging expense, a hotel receipt can be presented to and admitted by the IRS if it provides essential information such as the name and location of the hotel, the dates of the stay, and separate amounts for lodging, meals, and communication expenses.

 Another example of adequate evidence would be a restaurant receipt. It can be presented to the IRS for meal expenses as long as it indicates the name and location of the restaurant, the number of people who were served, and the date and amount of the expense.

6. You should record expenses separately.

The IRS says that each payment is considered a separate expense.

Let’s say that you took a taxi to go to a restaurant where you met a client. The dinner expense and the taxi fare are two separate expenses. You should, thus, record them separately in your records.

It is also common for businessmen to treat their clients to sports events. If you bought season or series tickets, and then used these for business purposes, then each ticket in the series should be treated as a separate item.

You can divide the total cost of the season tickets by the number of games in the series to get the cost of each ticket.

 7. You can combine items if the expenses are of a similar nature.

You can combine expenses of a similar nature, and record them as a single expense. These expenses should have happened during the course of a single event.

For instance, you don’t have to record each and every drink during a cocktail party as separate expenses. You can record the total expenses for the refreshments as a single expense.

 8. You can record all vehicle/transport expenses and then divide them into business and personal expenses at the end of the fiscal year.

You can claim gas expenses if you used your car during a business trip. It is also possible to record all your expenses during the year, and then divide them into business trip and personal expenses at the end of the year.  However, you should keep an accurate mileage log if you are to claim a tax deduction for your business trip related expenses.

The mileage log should indicate the starting mileage on the odometer at the beginning of the year, as well as its ending mileage at the end of the year. Every time you use your vehicle for a business trip, you should record details such as the date of your travel, your starting point, and destination. You must also write the purpose of your trip, the starting and ending mileage of the vehicle, and other trip-related expenses such as tolls and parking fees. It is important to keep your mileage log updated regularly, so that your records will be precise.

 9. You can claim deductions using your actual expenses, or by using the standard mileage rate.

There are two ways of claiming transportation related expenses during a business trip. You can deduct your actual expenses, or use the standard mileage rate set by the IRS.

The latter is easier to follow, which makes it the more popular option among employees and entrepreneurs. For 2017, the mileage rage is 53.5 cents for every mile. You simply have to multiply the miles that your vehicle has accumulated for business-related expenses.

For example, your car drove 20,000 miles for business trips in 2017. You will then multiple 20,000 by 53.5, giving you a total of $10,700. This is the amount that you can write off in your next tax return.

You may opt to deduct your actual expenses instead of using the standard mileage set by the IRS. However, you should have a thorough record of your gas, parking, and toll expenses. You can also deduct other expenses like repair and maintenance, tires, car washing, car repair, and gas and oil replacement. While this method requires a lot of record keeping, it can save you a lot of money because it usually results in a larger tax deduction.

  1. Keep records and receipts as long as you can.

You may wonder how long should you keep those receipts related to a business trip that you had two years ago. The IRS recommends keeping records as long as you can, as there will always be a possibility that your tax return is audited up to three years from the date that you filed it.

Bonus Tips

While entrepreneurs are entitled to many tax deductions when they go on a business trip, they won’t be able to write off expenses if these are not properly recorded. The last thing you want to have is the IRS auditing your tax returns for making unsubstantiated claims. Here are some tips to keep in mind so that you will have an easier time in recording your expenses while on a business trip:

  1. Scribble down notes on receipts. This is particularly helpful if you are to claim meal expenses. You should list down the names of those who you dined with, and the business purpose of the meeting.
  1. Scan receipts. If you’re the type of person who keeps on losing receipts, you can simply scan or take photos of these essential documentary evidences.
  1. Keep track of your expenses in a daily business journal. You can download a good daily business journal that you can use to record all your expenses during a business trip.
  1. Use debit and credit cards as much as possible. Using cash can be disadvantageous for anyone on a business trip. It is easy to spend but hard to keep track of.  Instead of using cash, simply your debit and credit cards, then reconcile them with your receipts.
  1. Use an app. There are many apps that you can use to track your business travel expenses. These apps can make it a lot easier for you to document your expenses and make an accurate tax claim.

How to Get Reimbursed for Tips and Other Incidental Expenses During a Business Trip

Mar 18, 2017 Posted by Sanjiv No Comments

Traveling for business has a lot of perks. It may mean spending some time away from the office and dealing with a lot of tasks as a result, but for the most part,  it can be very rewarding.

You do not have to be a boss to understand how rewarding business trips can be. Business owners and executives, for one, can meet prospective clients and suppliers.  They can seal deals by wining and dining their associates. Or they can strengthen their relationships with current partners.

Employees, meanwhile, can improve on their skills, update their knowledge, and network with peers when they attend conventions and business conferences. Plus, the time away from the office can re-energize them and make them more productive and inspired when they return to their respective work stations.

Claiming tax deductions

What’s more encouraging is that most business-related expenses can be claimed as tax deductible. Anything related to the business trip can be written off, from airfare, taxi fare, lodging, communication charges, and supplies.

Even incidental expenses can be claimed as tax deductible. These are small costs incurred during a business travel. It may cover for tips or fees that an employee or business owner gives to porters, baggage carrier, maids, and stewards.

In short, incidental expenses are gratuities given to staff of restaurants, hotels, cruise ships, and similar establishments.

Tipping Standards

Tipping is a customary practice in the United States. It should be noted that the federal minimum wage of $8 an hour, so tips can help make up for the low pay of servers.

Thus, business travelers will normally have to spend for gratuities extended to waiters, bell boys, porters, and other servers that they will encounter during their trip.

While there’s no standard rate as far as tips in the US are concerned, the following is a guide on how much business travelers tip for people who serve them:

  • Taxi/limousine driver—at least 15 percent of the total fare
  • Porter- $1 per bag
  • Valet parking attendant– $1-2 for every car retrieved
  • Restaurant waiter/waitress- at least 15 percent of the total bill less tax
  • Bell staff- $1 for every bag delivered to a room
  • Buffet service– $1 to $2
  • Bartender/cocktail—at least 10 percent of the total bill

Tipping, however, is not practiced in other countries.  In fact, outside the United States, the practice is not customary.

For instance, tipping in Australia is practically non-existent. This can be attributed to the fact that the minimum wage in Australia is $16 per hour, or around $622 a week.

It’s also not a practice in other countries such as Japan, Argentina, and Estonia. In most countries in Europe, such as France, United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Finland, tips are already included in the bill.

What’s Not Included in Incidental Expenses?

The IRS, however, does not consider the following as incidental expenses:

  • Costs incurred in cleaning and pressing of clothes
  • Long distance telephone calls
  • Local calls
  • Internet connection
  • Fax services
  • Gas for rental vehicles
  • Parking fees

These costs incurred, after all, are reimbursable as other expenses.  For example, costs of cleaning and ironing of clothes can be written off as cleaning expenses. Local and long distance calls, as well as fax and Internet services, may be claimed as communication expenses. Gas for rental vehicles and parking fees, meanwhile, are considered as transportation expenses.

Incidental Expenses-Only

Because incidental expenses are small, it is very common for business owners and employees usually pay out in cash.  The minimal amounts involved in a tip, and the fact that there’s no need to issue a receipt for such expense, has prompted the IRS to set a rule when it comes to claiming incidental expenses during a business trip.

According to the IRS, a business owner or employee who was on a business travel can opt for the incidental-expenses only method in claiming a deduction. In this method, the taxpayer can write off incidental expense of $5 a day.

This method spares taxpayers from the hassle of keeping tabs of the costs they incurred for the tips given during the course of a business trip. Since tips are very small, it can be difficult for business travelers to keep track of the expenses they have incurred.

This method, however, can only be used when the taxpayer did not incur any meal expense.

Thus, a taxpayer cannot claim incidental expenses if he or she had and claimed meal expenses during the business travel.

Let’s cite an example.  Victoria was sent by his boss to a three day business trip to New York.  She incurred meal expenses during that trip.  She could have claimed half of the total amount of those meals under tax rules, but because she could not present the actual costs of the meals,  she just opted to claim a standard meal allowance.

Standard Meal Allowance

For 2016, the federal standard meal allowance is $51 a day.

Thus, Victoria can write off $153 for her meals during that trip. However, because she had claimed meal expenses as tax deductions, then she won’t be allowed to deduct $15 as incidental expenses.

If Victoria didn’t claim any meal expenses, then she can write off the $15 incidental expenses that she incurred during the trip.

By using the standard meal allowance, Victoria has practically claimed both meal and incidental expenses.

Victoria can receive this allowance if her employer does any of the following:

  1. Provides her with lodging, or furnishes it in kind.
  2. Reimburses her for the actual cost of lodging basing on the receipts presented
  3. Pays for the lodging
  4. Expresses reservations about Victoria incurring lodging expenses. This may be due to her having friends or relatives in New York, where she can stay with.
  5. Devise an allowance based on a formula similar to computing Victoria’s compensation like number of hours worked or number of miles traveled.

As mentioned earlier, the M&IE allowance of $51 applies to most small localities in the United States. However, a higher allowance applies to bigger cities like San Francisco, and yes, New York. As of 2017, the M&IE allowance for New York is $74.

There’s also a special standard meal allowance for those working in the transportation industry.  The IRS defines workers in the transportation industry as those who are directly involved in moving goods and people by various modes of transportation such as airplane, bus, barge, ship, or train.

Workers who are regularly required to travel away from their residence, and have to travel to different areas that are qualified for standard meal allowance rates, are also considered to be transportation workers by the IRS.

Those who are in the transportation industry get a standard meal allowance of $64 a day.

Claiming Per Diem

There are instances, though, when claiming the standard meal allowance or using the incidental expenses only method won’t suffice to cover the expenses incurred by a business owner or employee.

For example, what if Victoria had to shell out more than $30 in tips alone during her three-day trip?  She might have brought a lot of bags so that meant she had to give tips to the bellboy and porter. She could have even given the taxi driver a tip for helping her carry her baggage.

One way that Victoria can reimburse those expenses is to claim per diem or per day. Per diem is a daily allowance for expenses that companies give to employees on a daily basis to cover expenses when on a business travel.

Per diem rates cover the costs of lodging, meals, and incidental expenses incurred by an employee during a business trip. If Victoria opts to use this method instead of the incidental expenses only method and the meal and incidental expenses allowance, then she can get reimbursed not just for the tips that she gave but also for her meals and lodging expenses.

Claiming per diem also has one distinct advantage—it spares employees from preparing documentation required to support business travel expenses.  If Victoria opts for this method, then she no longer has to collect every receipt she gets during the trip. There’s also no need for her to note the time, place and purpose of each business meeting she attends. Moreover, she no longer has to hold on to those receipts and other documentation for two to three years, just in case the IRS calls in and questions her business travel deductions.

It can also mean faster reimbursement of expenses on the part of the employee, as there is no need to review and approve monthly expenses reports. It can also prevent processing delays caused by incomplete documentation, or when a supervisor inquires on the reasonableness of a claim.

Simply put, claiming per diem rate simplifies life for employees like Victoria.

However per diem rates aren’t paid to individuals who own more than 10 percent of the business. Thus, business owners cannot opt for this method in claiming tax deductions.

The IRS uses the high-low method in determining the per diem in certain areas in the United States.  Simply put, employees who work in areas like San Francisco, Boston, and Washinton D.C. have a higher per diem rate than those working in areas in the ‘low cost’ list.

For the fiscal year 2017, the IRS has set the per diem rate for high costs areas at $282. The breakdown is $214 for lodging, and $68 for meals and incidental expenses. This applies to all high cost areas within the continental United States.

Some of the high cost areas for 2017 are Los Angeles, San Francisco, Santa Monica, Santa Barbara, and San Jose in California; Denver and Aspen in Colorado, and Sedona in Arizona.

Chicago, Maine, Maryland, and Seaside in Oregon are other high cost areas as defined by the IRS. In Florida, cities like Miami and Fort Lauderdale are classified as high cost areas.

Other areas where the per diem rate is $282 for 2017 are Hershey and Philadalphia in Pennsylvania, Park City in Utah, Seattle in Washington, Jamestown, Middletown, and Newport in Rhode Island, and Virginia Beach and Wallops Island in Virginia.

For all other areas, the per diem rate is $189 with lodging at $132 and meals and incidental expenses at $57.

Compared to the previous year, the rates have gone up by $7 for high cost areas and $4 for the low cost areas.

Employers should take note that lodging and meal and incidental expenses are separated from each other. Thus under certain circumstances, they can only reimburse for the meals and incidental expenses of their employers. For instance, if Victoria’s company paid for her hotel or lodging then she is only entitled to a per diem reimbursement of her meals and incidental expenses.

In such case, she can only receive a reimbursement of $68 for M&EI as the lodging costs have been shouldered by her employer.

Exclusions

It should be noted that transportation costs and mailing costs aren’t included in incidental expenses. These include transportation between places of business and lodging, as well as mailing expenses incurred for filing travel vouchers.

The IRS states that the high-low method must be used by companies in reimbursing their employees’ travel expenses within the continental United States for the fiscal year. However, it is up to them to use permissible method when it comes to reimbursing their employee expenses for business travel outside of the United States.

Employers are also required to continue using this method for an employee in the last three months of the fiscal year.  This means that the same method utilized in the first nine months of the year should also be used for the final three months.

Conclusion

While tips extended to waiters, bellboys, and other servers are not as costly as meals and transportation expenses, the amount can quickly accumulate during a business trip. Fortunately for most employees, the IRS allows these expenses to be reimbursed either through the incidental expenses-only method, per diem, or the meal and incidental expenses method.

How Freelancers Can Write Off their Business Travel Expenses

Mar 11, 2017 Posted by Sanjiv No Comments

While there are many risks of being a freelancer, it cannot be denied that there are plenty of benefits, too.

One advantage of being self-employed is that you can make more money than you would if you were an employee. You can also work at the comforts of your home.

Moreover, freelancers like you also get to enjoy many tax deductions like home office and business travel.

If you haven’t realized, going on a business travel can benefit your trade.

Here are three good ideas that you may want to explore if you want to maximize your tax deductions by going on a business trip anytime soon:

  1. Visiting a client

Perhaps you have a client in an area away from your tax home, or your primary place of work. You might want to visit that client and several customers to strengthen you relationship with them.

You don’t need to spend the entire them talking to them. You can schedule a meeting for a few hours.  Just make sure to keep note of the things you talked about during the meet.

  1. Meeting a Vendor

Do you know a supplier of a vendor that you can meet in Miami or another area that’s far from your home? You might want to meet him to negotiate a new deal, or how you can improve your business relationship together.

  1. Attend a conference

Are there any workshops, seminars, or conventions that you can participate in?  Attending one that’s relevant to your trade may teach you new skills or update your knowledge. The activity may also give you the perfect time to meet prospective clients or vendors.

What expenses can you write off?

 Any of the abovementioned ideas are justifiable enough to be the purpose of your next business travel. What’s more exciting is that you can deduct all your business travel-related expenses on your next tax returns.

Remember this–you can write off your business travel expenses as long as the primary purpose of your trip is ordinary and necessary for your work.

An ordinary expense is defined as common and accepted in the trade or business that you are in. If you are in the IT field, then your participation in an information security summit can be considered an ordinary expense.

On the other hand, the IRS considers travel as a necessary expense if it is appropriate for a taxpayer’s business.

You can write off the following travel expenses:

  1. Meal Expenses

You can also deduct the costs of meals that you had while you were on a business travel. However, there’s only a 50 percent limit on meal expenses.

There are two methods that you can choose from in figuring out your meal expenses.

The first is the actual cost.  This simply means claiming 50 percent of the actual cost of your meals during your business trip. If you are to use this method, you should have receipts or records of your actual expenses.

The second option is to deduct the standard meal allowance (SMA) of $51 a day, which is the rate for most of the small localities in the US. The advantage of this option is that you don’t have to keep every receipt, as you simply subtract the SMA.

However, the SMA is a bit low. Thus you may not be able to enjoy larger deductions on your tax return if you opt for this method.

Keep in mind that you can claim meal expenses even if your dinner or lunch with a prospective client didn’t lead to a deal. So even if you met potential clients, you can deduct the costs of their meals in your next tax return.

But you may also wonder—can you claim the meal expenses during a business meeting? After all, it is a common practice to discuss a deal or get to know a prospective partner while eating.

The answer is yes–you can also claim meal expenses that you incurred while entertaining customers or potential business partners.

In fact, it is not only the meals served to your clients that you can claim as tax deductible.  You can even include taxes and tips, cover charges if you brought your guests to a nightclub. The rent that you paid for a room in which you held a dinner party for your guests can also be deducted as a meal expense.

But the IRS won’t allow claiming deductible on lavish and extravagant meals. There’s no definite dollar amount for a lavish or extravagant meal, so it can really be tricky for most business owners to determine which meals to expense.

Let’s say that you treated a potential client to dinner at a five-star hotel. Would that be considered lavish or extravagant meal? Perhaps, but you can also justify that it is reasonable given the circumstances. Maybe the client that you met is the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, whom you just can’t bring to any ordinary restaurant.

  1. Lodging Expenses

Unlike in meal expenses where you are limited to a 50 percent tax claim, you can deduct 100% of your lodging expenses during a business travel.

You can even stay an extra day in your destination and claim associated stay-over costs. For example, you had your last meeting on a Friday, but you didn’t leave until Saturday afternoon because you wanted to get a reduced fare on that day. You can claim the stay-over costs on Saturday even though you had no business-related activities on that day.

But if you stayed for a couple more days just to enjoy the sights, then you can’t deduct the hotel charges for those extra days.

  1. Transportation Expenses

Whether you traveled by car, bus, train, or airplane, from your home to the business destination, you can write off your transportation expenses during a business trip.

But if you were provided tickets by a client, your cost is zero.

If you were able to fly because of a frequent flyer reward, then you won’t be able to claim the airfare.

You can also claim transportation expenses to and from the airport to your hotel, and the hotel to the offices of your clients or customers.

If you brought your own car, you can write off your gas expenses, toll fees, and parking. You can even charge the expenses you incurred for maintaining your vehicle, like car wash, replacement of tires, or oil change. However, you have to keep your receipts to prove that you indeed had paid for the said services while you were on a business travel.

Aside from the three major expenses, you can also write off the following:

  • Shipping of baggage
  • Dry cleaning and laundry
  • Business calls
  • Tips
  • Other out-of-pocket expenses such as computer rental fees

The rule of thumb is that expenses that are directly related to your business trip can be written off.  For example, you had paid for the shipping of your brochure or documents needed for a seminar or convention. You can deduct the shipping expenses.

But you can’t expense personal charges like gym or fitness fees. You can’t also deduct fees for movies or games.

Things to Remember Before Traveling for Business

 Now that you have learned the expenses that you can claim on your next tax return, you should then know the things that the IRS will look into before it accepts your tax deduction claim.

These include:

  1. Establish the Purpose of Your Travel

One, your travel should be primarily for business. You can prove this by showing that you have at least one business appointment or meeting schedule before you leave home.

This means that you can’t just depart for the Bahamas or Florida with the hopes of meeting a potential client there. Or collecting business cards of people you would present as business associates.

An invitation to a conference, emails, and other correspondences—these are enough to prove to the IRS that you went to a particular destination for a business-related activity.

But what if you don’t have any invitation or email proving that you went to a certain destination for a business activity?  Let’s say you want to spend a vacation in Miami, and also get some potential clients there.

You can mix pleasure with business, so to speak, by placing several advertisements in the area.

For example, you’re a distributor of computer software. You are hoping to expand your business by distributing more products in Miami.

What can you do to achieve that goal? You can post online ads showing to prove that indeed, you were looking for new business contacts in the area.

And when you get there in Miami, meet a couple of those who have responded to your advertisement. Document your meeting by taking photos, or keeping the business cards of your prospects.

However, you should also look at the time spent for business-related activities during your trip. It would be hard to justify travel costs for a week-long trip to Miami if you only spent 2-3 days meeting with clients.  The IRS will likely call your attention if you declared that you spent just half of your time in Florida meeting prospective customers or dealers.

What if your residence is just a few hours away from Miami? Does that mean you can’t claim your travel expenses as tax deductible?

You can, as long as you can prove that you had to sleep or rest in Miami so that you can meet the demands of your work. Let’s say that you slept in the hotel where you held a meeting to avoid possible traffic problems. The IRS will consider your overnight stay in Miami to be business-related, and allow you to make a claim.

  1. Allocate your expenses

If you traveled for a business meeting but also went to see some old friends or visited tourist destinations, you will have to allocate your expenses. You can only deduct your business-related expenses, and not the costs that you incurred for personal activities.

For example, you rented a car to take you to Miami from New Orleans. Your business travel amounted to around 2,000 miles round trip. But on your way back to NOLA, you decided to take a detour to Jacksonville to visit your old college buddy.

Because the detour to your college buddy is personal and not business-related, you cannot claim your expenses for that part of the trip.

Generally speaking, you can’t claim the expenses of your spouse if he or she accompanied you in your business trip unless the presence of your significant other was necessary.

No, your spouse taking down notes for you during your trip isn’t justifiable. Your partner should have done something more critical, like serving as your interpreter, or even helping you close a deal.

  1. Keep your receipts and related documents

Lastly, keep all your receipts during the trip. You may even write down details at the back of the receipt, like the names of the business associates you met and the purpose of the meeting.

If your total expense during the trip is $75, you don’t need to show your receipts, though.

Don’t throw away other papers such as conference or seminar program. Those papers can justify your tax deduction claim.

 

Going on a business travel is like hitting two birds with one stone. Your firm not only stands to benefit from you embarking on a business travel, but you can also reduce your tax obligations.

You can meet a potential client during a business travel, or strengthen your relationship with your current customers. You can also attend a convention or seminar to enhance your skills, or learn a new one.

Moreover, you can write off business travel expenses like lodging, transportation, and meals, although the latter has a limit of 50 percent of the total costs.

The IRS, though, has been quite strict when it comes to business travel claims. You can fend off an audit by properly allocating your expenses, keeping receipts and related documents, and establishing the purpose of your travel.

If you’ll follow the tips mentioned in this article, then you should have no problems in claiming business travel deductions.

Deducting Your Trip To India – Detailed Business Expense Guide

Feb 21, 2017 Posted by Sanjiv No Comments

Suppose that you have just arrived from a two week trip to Europe, where you were able to close some deals while visiting some old friends. You’re so happy not only because you were able to snag more business, but you were able to bring home some souvenirs for your family and friends. And of course, you were able to squeeze in some time for relaxation and got to see top sights like the Big Ben and the Eiffel Tower.

But did you know that you can even reduce your next tax bill by declaring your recent trip abroad? Indeed, jet setting can save you a significant amount of money, but only if expenses satisfy certain conditions.

Business Related Travel Expenses are Tax Deductible

According to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), you can deduct ordinary and necessary expenses for travel away from home or business as long as these are connected with your business or job. This applies to both domestic and international travel.

What are ‘ordinary’ expenses? The IRS defines this as a common or accepted expense in your trade or business. For instance, you can consider the costs associated with distributing promotional literature like newsletters and holiday cards as ordinary expenses.

On the other hand, a necessary expense is defined as something helpful and appropriate for your business or work.  Your business trip, which allowed you to close new deals, can be considered as one.

The IRS says that for travel to be considered deductible, it should be ‘away from home.’ This stipulation is almost always  satisfied for international travel. The IRS will consider  you to be away from home if you are on travel outside your tax home (where you live or work)  for a time longer than a typical day’s work.

Keep in mind, though, that eligible deductions for business travel are only for temporary work on the road. If you spent more than a year on the road for a business travel, then it is considered an indefinite assignment and thus doesn’t qualify you for a tax liability. Even short assignments to the same place during a fiscal year may be considered by the tax authorities as an indefinite assignment.

Eligible Business Travel Tax Deductibles

Now you may ask—what are the travel related costs that you can normally deduct on your tax bill?

Among the travel related costs that you can deduct on your next tax bill are:

  1. It doesn’t matter whether you travel by plain or car; you can normally reduce the expenses related to getting to and from a business destination as long as it is not close to your tax home.

For example, you took a cab to get from the airport to the hotel where you met your client. You can deduct the cab fare as a work-related transportation cost. You can also declare car rentals, and even costs incurred when you took your own car (gasoline expenses, parking and toll fees, for example.) You can even claim the expenses of operating and maintaining a vehicle such as repairs, washing, oil change,  and tire replacement as tax deductibles.

What if your client provided you with a free ticket? Or a friend in London gave you a ride? Obviously, you can’t declare these as deductibles.

But what if you took an ocean liner on your way to London? Can you also deduce the costs on your next tax bill?

The IRS has special rules when it comes to luxury water travel. There is a daily limit on the amount that you can deduct. The amount varies depending on the time of the year. It is typically 200% of the highest federal per diem rate allowable during the time of your travel.

For instance, the highest federal per diem for the period January 1 to March 31 is $428. The daily limit on luxury water travel is double that amount, which is $856.

So let’s say that your total bill for a five-day cruise to London from New York for a business travel conducted in February is $5,000. You can only claim $4,280 as your deductible because you exceeded the daily limit of $856 per day.

  1. Shipping and Baggage. You can also deduct expenses that you incurred for shipping almost anything you need for your business or job while on travel. For instance, the $100 bill that you incurred for sending props or other materials required for a presentation.
  1. You can also deduct the full cost of the hotel room or other accommodations if your trip is overnight. Thus, you can reduce a $7000 per night stay at The Savoy on your next tax bill.
  1. You can deduce up to half of the cost of your meals if you are traveling for business. However, the meals should not be lavish or extravagant. There’s no clear-cut definition for a lavish or extravagant meal, but you can expect to get audited if you claimed a meal consisting of lobster and champagne as a deductible.
  1. You can also deduct any communication-related expenses like phone calls and faxes while you are traveling for business. This also includes international calls.
  1. Cleaning – this includes expenses for washing and ironing your clothes during the trip. Because you have to be presentable during your meetings with clients, right?
  2. Tips— you can also deduct the tips that you handed out to waiters, bellboys, and other workers.

Travel Considered Entirely for Business

The IRS maintains that only foreign travel which is spent solely for business is fully deductible. This means that if you spent your entire stay abroad on business-related activities, then you can claim all your travel expenses as tax deductible.

Since you did go spend time visiting friends and sightseeing during your trip, then you’ll have to allocate between tax deductible business expenses and the non-deductible personal ones.

But let’s face it–you do want to deduct the entire cost of transportation during your entire trip abroad, right?  You can deduce your travel expenses even if you didn’t spend the entire trip on business-related activities if you meet any of these conditions:

  1. You don’t have substantial control. According to the IRS, you don’t have substantial control over your trip if you are not a managing executive, or you are not related to your employer. The IRS defines a managing executive as an employee who has the authority and responsibility to decide on the necessity for business travel.

You also don’t have substantial control if you are merely an employee who was ordered by your boss to go to say, Paris, for a business trip.

But if you’re self-employed, then you might not satisfy this condition at all.  The IRS maintains that self-employed individuals and business owners have substantial control over arranging their business trips.

  1. You were outside the US for less than a week. The IRS will consider your travel entirely for business if you were out of the country for a week or less. However, you will have to count the day you return to the US, and not the day that you left.

This can get a bit confusing if you were traveling to different parts of the US before you left for London. For instance, say your home is in Denver. You left for New York on Tuesday, stayed there for a few days for a series of meeting, before flying to London on Saturday morning.

You had several business meetings in London on Sunday and Monday, then spent the next two days sightseeing. You went back to the US on Thursday before going back to Denver on a Saturday.

Although you were away from your home for more than a week, you were out of the US for less than a week. Remember that the IRS won’t count the day you left your home.

So, you may be able to claim the costs of your stay in London from Saturday and Sunday, but you won’t be able to do so for Tuesday and Wednesday.

  1. You spent less than a quarter of your travel on personal activities. But what if you spent more than a week outside the US? Does this mean that you can’t claim that as business related, and thus make you unqualified for tax deductibles?

You can, as long as you spent less than a quarter of your trip on personal activities.

So let’s say that you spent 14 days in London, and only got to see the sights and visit your friends in 1 to 2 days. You deduct the cost of the round trip plane fare, cost of meals, lodging, and other related expenses as mentioned earlier.

  1. Vacation was not a major consideration in arranging the trip. You can claim deductions on your tax bill if you can prove that a vacation was not a major consideration in arranging the trip.

Tips in Filing Business Travel Expenses

Now that you have an idea which business-related travel expenses you can claim as a tax deductible, here are some tips that you should remember so that you will be able to maximize your savings the next time you file your tax returns:

  1. Keep track of all your receipts and records. You can save a lot of time in looking for receipts when you keep every slip that you get during the course of your travel. You should also write on the back of each slip the location and date, the name of the person that you met, as well as the reason of the expense. This way, you won’t have to scavenge for slips when it is time to file your tax returns.
  1. Document everything. If you’re taking a client to a fancy dinner, you can claim that as a deductible. But you should be able to justify to the IRS that the nature of the meeting warranted such a fancy dinner. Thus it is recommended that you document the business you discussed so that you can justify the claim or pass an audit.

If you attended conferences or meetings while on travel, it would be a good idea to keep the programs or brochures you received. You can also keep the emails sent to you by people whom you met during the business meetings as proof to back up your claim.

Make it a habit to write down the names and business relationship of all the people you met during your travel. Write down their names as well as the business discussed.

You should also know that the IRS does not require receipts for travel expenses less than $75. So if you checked in a hotel for an overnight stay at a discounted price of $70, you’re not obligated to show the actual receipt.

  1. Try apps. If you have too many documents to keep track of, you might want to download and use apps for travel expenses. There are apps such as Tax Tracker that can help you in documenting business and travel expenses.

Mobile apps can monitor your travel expenses, time spent on the road, and miles traveled so you can file taxes and claim deductions quick, easy, and accurately.

  1. Be honest. The best way to avoid a date with the IRS is to be honest about declaring your tax returns. Deduct only the expenses that you are entitled to. Keep all supporting documents just in case you are called for audit. Remember, you not only end up losing deduction but also pay additional tax, interest, and penalties if the tax authorities find out that you make unsubstantiated claims.

Worse, the IRS may subject your tax return to further scrutiny. And you don’t want them to start digging.

The bottom-line is that you can make a lot of exemptions when you travel abroad for business purposes. Now that you know which travel expenses you can deduct, start saving those receipts and recording every expense. You’ll be surprised at the amount that you can save during the tax season.

tax audits

Dealing with IRS and other Tax Audits

Sep 7, 2016 Posted by Sanjiv No Comments

It’s one of those fears that bog the minds of rich people and even ordinary taxpayers—getting audited by the IRS. But what are the chances that you’ll be audited by the government for your tax returns?

The chances of a tax audit are very low these days. Taxpayers with moderate income levels have a 1 percent chance; while those earning $1 million and up were audited at a 7.5 percent clip.

For companies, the rates are also low. Firms with total assets of less than $10 have a 1 percent chance. Those with assets between $1 and $5 million have a 1.2 percent rate, while firms with asset size of between $5 and $10 million have a 1.9 percent chance of being audited. Even the middle-sized firms or those with assets between $10 and $50 million had a low 6.2 percent chance of being audited.

Sure, the chances of getting a visit from the IRS have shrunk to all-time lows. But that should not be enough reason for you to be complacent. It still pays to know what to do just in case someone from the IRS knocks at your door or you get a letter from the said agency.

Individual Tax Audit

You may not be a millionaire but there are conditions that can increase your risks of being visited by the IRS:

• Being self-employed. There are lots of write-offs that self-employed taxpayers can claim, unlike most employees. These range from a home office to the use of a car, and the IRS may have queries about these claims.
• You have itemized deductions that are a lot higher than those of taxpayers with comparable incomes. The tax department will likely flag your return when it notices that there’s a big difference between your write-offs and averages.

Should you get a notification that you are to be audited, don’t panic. Keep in mind that the audit will be done in a professional manner. And if you can give the IRS people the right paperwork then you will be off the hook, so to speak.

You must not also think of ignoring the IRS. Your problem won’t go away. Worse, your interest and penalties will continue to accrue. So the earlier you deal with it, the better.

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Types of Audit

There are three types of audit. The more common is correspondence audit, which is handled by a way. According to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, 76 percent of individual audits were of this kind.

These computer-generated correspondences may tell you that there was a mathematical error on your return, or that your return wasn’t the same as the 1099 statements that the IRS received from your bank or broker. In these cases, you simply send the money that you owe.

The letter may also dispute a tax break that you claimed. If you can’t prove that you were correct, then you will have to pay additional taxes.

But what if you’re right? You’ll have to collate the right paperwork then send it back to the IRS through certified days within 30 days of receipt of the letter. You’ll also have to prepare a letter that includes a copy of the correspondence audit plus your reference number.

In some cases, you imply have to go back and get receipts. But there are cases when you can’t do that. Instead, you may have to get a written acknowledgment from the charity that you gave to in order to claim a charitable contribution.

This is a task that you can handle yourself, especially if the issue is simple enough to reply to. You may ask a tax pro to help you out, but you’ll obviously have to pay him or her for the service

If you feel you are deserving of the tax break but you want a stronger case or reply to the IRS, a tax professional can be of significant help. He or he can prepare your return respond to the agency, and give you a better shot at defending your case.

The second type is field audit, which is conducted in person at your home or at IRS offices. However, the chances of an IRS guy dropping by your home are very low these days. The agency is no longer conducting a lot of field audits because these often mean additional expenses.

This type of audit is conducted when the IRS has lots of questions about your return. The agency may also resort to this type of audit when there is a certain write-off that is difficult to handle by mail.

The field audit in an IRS office shouldn’t last more than four hours. However there will likely be a follow-up visit, or the agency would require you to pass additional paperwork.

The last type is the ‘random’ audit. Among the three types of audit, this is the least likely that the IRS will conduct. You have a very slim chance of being selected for this audit.

But then again, it pays to be prepared.

The random audit is perhaps the most detail-oriented and intrusive of the three types of audit. IRS agents may even ask for your birth certificate and marriage license just to check your filing status.

This is also the type of audit where a professional expert can help you. There’s a good chance that something will happen at the audit that can cause the agency to demand you to pay more. With the help of a pro, you’ll be ready just in case the proverbial can of worms is opened.

Attitude During the Audit

Whether you are going to the IRS office or accompanied by a tax pro, you need to behave professionally during the audit. Don’t become argumentative, and treat the agents with respect.

Be honest and truthful with your answers. But you should also answer straight to the point. Avoid talking too much because the more you talk, the more questions that the agency will have.

You should also come to the office prepared and organized. You don’t want to upset the agent with your messy folder and jumbled receipts.

If you are unable to provide the document the agent is looking for, politely ask if there’s any other documentation that you may provide in lieu of the document. For example, you claimed the business use of a vehicle but couldn’t show receipts for gas. Maybe a calendar of your business meetings may be accepted as a substitute.

You can go through the appeals process if you disagree with the contention of the agent. This is where a tax pro can help you as he or she would be able to handle this step.

So what happens if you have to pay the IRS more money but you don’t have cash? You have three choices—one is to pay with a credit card, although you will have to pay a convenience fee of around 2.35 percent. You can also for an installment agreement or request for a compromise.

Business IRS Audits

Again, the chances of a business getting audited by the IRS have gone down in the past few years. But this still should not give your company a false sense of security.

What are the possible issues that the IRS will look into your company’s tax returns? Here are some of the red flags that should make the IRS agents knock on your door:

1. Net loss in more than two of the past five years.
2. Excessive deductions for travel, business meals, and entertainment
3. High salaries paid to shareholders
4. Shifting income to tax-exempt organizations in a bid to avoid payment of taxes
5. Claiming 100 percent business use of a vehicle

Like in individual tax audits, it is important for a business to be prepared if it has been picked for an audit. There’s a silver lining to being audited, as if the agency’s findings show that there is no change to the tax liability then the business won’t be audited on the same issue for the next year.

Hiring a tax professional is the first step that you need to undertake if your business has been pinpointed by the IRS for auditing. Don’t be anxious in thinking that this will indicate that your business is guilty, after all, the IRS is very much used to this practice. A tax professional can help you through the audit.

You can even sign a power-of-attorney agreement to give your tax professional the legal authority to deal with the IRS directly. This is ideal if you are unsure of what to say and what not to say during the audit. This basically takes you out of the loop and puts your tax professional in.

But there are three things that you, as the business owner, should remember when your business is faced with the prospect of being audited by the IRS:

1. Review the audit letter carefully.

An IRS agent won’t just barge into your door and announce an audit. The agency will send an audit letter to your office informing you that your firm has been picked for the audit.

Be cautious with scammers who will masquerade as the IRS by sending you email messages or leaving phone messages. Those guys will attempt to hack your personal data. The real IRS doesn’t communicate through email or phone.

Once you receive the letter, open it promptly. Read and understand what the IRS needs from you.

If your company doesn’t have a financial adviser, you can hire an accountant or tax professional to help you review the review letter. He or she will also identify the issues that the agency has flagged.

Don’t ignore the letter because the IRS will not go away. Worse, the auditor may become more suspicious and even antagonistic.

2. Organize your records.

The next step is to organize your records. Gather and organize all your business records from the previous tax year even before you meet with the tax professional and IRS auditor.

These records range from receipts and invoices from income and expenses, accounting books and ledgers, bank statements, leases or titles for properties and hard copies of tax-prep data. You should also make sure that you have the specific documents requested by the IRS for review.

3. Answer the questions honestly.

During the audit, the IRS agent will ask you a lot of questions about the information reported on your business tax return. Simply answer the questions of the auditor—no more, no less. Giving any information that you are not required to give may put you in more hot water.

Similar to dealing with individual tax audits, providing unasked-for information may give the auditor more questions to ask. The last thing that you want to happen is for the auditor to uncover more issues about your tax returns. IRS auditors won’t forgive tax debt or mistakes, so any admission that you may have will be used against you.

Be straightforward in replying to the questions. However, don’t manufacture excuses. IRS agents would know if you’re making any.

Also, don’t be antagonistic with the auditor. It would only make things worse for you and your business.

In order to avoid future audits, you should track bank transfers and other financial records aside from receipts. Anything that you cannot explain on the standard IRS form must be explained on paper. Of course, double-check all your calculations before filing your returns.

Aside from keeping proper documentation, you can avoid getting picked for an audit by deducting ordinary and necessary business expenses as allowed by the IRS. So even if your company is chosen for an audit, you have nothing to be afraid of.

Indeed, getting a letter from the IRS informing that you are to be audited can be very worrisome. But if you know how to deal with tax audits, then you don’t have anything to be afraid of. It also helps to have a tax professional guiding you to be assured that you can respond to whatever audit findings the IRS guys have with you or your business.

Tax Deduction: Entertainment for Customers and Clients

Mar 25, 2015 Posted by Sanjiv No Comments

A crucial part of business is building and nurturing relationships with clients. While doing this, the business owners meet clients, customers and business partners during social events and occasions. The expenses incurred on these are considered by the IRS for tax exemption. Tax deductions and considerations are very essential part of business interactions. Business owners and employees are allowed to take a federal tax deduction that amounts to half of their qualifying costs when they entertain their customers and clients. Although the IRS does not allow complete tax deduction, but approximately 50% of deduction is allowed on all kinds of entertainment. The pointers mentioned below would help to understand how tax deduction would help in entertainment for customers and clients.

  •  Expenses incurred in almost all kinds of business recreational activities that involve a business owner and clients can be considered for tax deduction. Entertainment deduction is applicable if that form of entertainment relates to the specific business field. Activities include going to nightclubs, theaters, films, fishing trips, hunting, athletic club and even vacations.
  • As per the IRS, meals, beverages, tips and taxes combine to form entertainment expenses. Tax deduction helps entertainment of customers and clients whereby business owner and employees pay on behalf of their clients. In return they get 50% deduction on the meal prices. When both the parties are found to divide the bills, neither of the two can avail tax deduction of the meal. Thus, if you plan to take your client out for a lunch in order to discuss a new project and the objectives, you can go for deduction in taxable income. However, if you are self-employed, then IRS would let you deduct a part of the entire lunch bill as you travel or meals and entertainment business cost when you successfully comply with certain criteria.
  • Tax deduction for entertainment of customers and clients can happen when entertainment fulfills personal and also business agenda. In such a case, an individual would get a deduction for a part of expenses that he incurs for business reasons. Such business expenses include the taxes and tips that are paid on meals, room rents, parking fees and nightclub cover expenses.
  • It may happen that an employee pays for business-related entertainment from his pocket and later gets reimbursement from the employer. But in a situation where the employee does not get the cost reimbursed by the employer, then the former can get a 50% deduction on tax for the difference that the employer compensated in return and the actual amount that he paid from his own pocket.
  • Tax deduction clause can help you in keeping customers and clients entertained if you keep all the records. You should keep tangible records handy at the time of IRS audit. Such records include itemized restaurant receipts and credit card slips correlating to the meals during a business meeting.

 

But just because tax deduction can help entertainment for customers and clients, you cannot exploit it.

tax shelter for business

Tax Shelter Ideas

Feb 23, 2015 Posted by Sanjiv No Comments

Tax Shelter Ideas for Small Business Owners

In general, a tax shelter refers to a program which allows business enterprises or individuals to either defer or reduce payment of income taxes. Such programs may not suit everyone and legitimate ones do involve some level of risk, which not all investors are comfortable to undertake. However, with the correct information, the process of taking advantage of these shelters becomes less involving.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) applies huge discretion when applying tax shelters as this area has traditionally been prone to abusive practices by both individuals and businesses.

How IRS Views Tax Shelters

Tax shelters are defined by the IRS as investments that normally requires making substantial contributions which oftentimes are associated with commensurate risk levels. For an individual, tax shelter implies an investment which involves liability incurred within the short-term, with hopes of making appreciable gains across the long term.

For instance, if someone invested in property situated within a low-income environment, depreciation benefits of such property would be termed as legitimate tax shelter.

The losses or tax deductions which a person can take on potential tax shelter gets limited to total worth of investment or amount at risk. The amount viewed as being “at risk” for example might get limited to:

  • Adjusted basis of property
  • Cash invested
  • Loans taken for which someone bears personal responsibility to repay

Treatment of Losses

It is vital gaining the understanding that business activity losses or credits are easily considered passive activity losses or credits. These may only be utilized for offsetting income from different passive activities. You cannot utilize them for offsetting income sources like wages, dividends or interest. Passive losses generated in excess from any tax shelter can be carried forward, or till the investor sells off the asset.

Take care of tax shelters which get marketed with promises of write-offs being more significant that the invested amount. IRS considers such as Abusive Tax Shelters. People generally make investments with hopes of generating huge amounts of profits. Legitimate shelters involve a certain level of risk, cut down fairly on taxes and generate income. If IRS takes note of someone operating an abusive scheme, the individual is then required to pay tax owed along with penalties and interest.

Legitimate Tax Shelters

It is vital knowing how to identify a questionable program. You may achieve this goal by adhering to three primary rules in order to distinguish between legal and illegal tax shelters as follows:

  • If the primary purpose of a given transaction is lowering taxes and not offering other economic gains to parties involved, consider such a business deal unethical or questionable.
  • Transactions involving exchange of goods, assets or even services at prices which lie well below the fair market value should be viewed with suspicion.
  • If the interest rate paid to a different party is unusually high or low, with the sole intention being sheltering income from taxes, such an arrangement should be seen as unethical.

Tax Accrual Work-Papers

The IRS maintains a policy of requesting tax accrual along with other financial audit work-papers that relate to tax reserves. This applies to deferred tax liabilities and footnotes which disclose contingent tax liabilities that appear in audited financial statements.

Owning a legitimate auto repair business enables you take advantage of numerous tax deductions, which are unavailable to mere employees. This includes partial deductions to expenses incurred on housing, automobile, entertainment and meals as well as cell-phone expenditure.

While some expenses get deducted within a year, others get spread out over a number of years.

You can write off full cost of new furniture and computers within this year as per IRS Code Section 179. This might not be significant to a relatively new business that may not generate a lot of income within at first. A wiser strategy therefore might be deferring some portion of deductible expenditure to years in future, which accountants call “depreciation”.

You may deduct some portion of “start-up costs” if this year is your first in business. However, beyond a certain level you will require spreading the remainder of associated costs across your tax returns for the next several years. This practice is termed “amortization” in accounting.

Remember not to overlook the expenses below when filing tax returns:

  • Legal and Accounting Fees
  • Website/ Advertising costs
  • Association Dues
  • Truck and Auto Expense
  • Computer Expense
  • Bank Charges
  • Subscriptions and Dues
  • Training and Education
  • Furniture and Equipment
  • Home Office Expense
  • Gifts
  • Insurance
  • Permits and Licenses
  • Postage and Delivery
  • Meals and Entertainment
  • Printing
  • Office Administration Fees and Rent
  • Maintenance and Repairs
  • Start Up Costs
  • Retirement Savings
  • Materials and Supplies
  • Telephone
  • Travel
  • Taxes (Payroll Tax, Property Tax etc)

Knowing the tax code is important for anyone who owns a business and IRS Publication 463 spells out on available business tax credits relating to travel, entertainment, gift as well as car expenses. Think about hiring services of a tax professional to aid in preparing tax returns for your auto repair business.

Business Travellers Tax Deductions

Mar 17, 2014 Posted by Sanjiv No Comments

You might be surprised at some of the business expenses that are tax deductible for business travelers. It is important that you keep proper records and receipts. Handwritten notes are also important to keep track the reason for the expense, name of the person who met with you, the date and location.

There are many people who do not take advantage of all the deductions they are eligible for. Most of the time it is because they are lazy or do not keep proper records. All little extra time and organization can save you a lot of extra money.

If you travel for business and your employer does not reimburse all of your expenses, you are able to deduct any expenses you pay out-of-pocket that exceed 2% of your AGI. If you are the business owner or are self-employed, you do not even have to reach the 2% threshold.

Anything relating to your business is fair game including gasoline, airfare, fees for baggage, lodging, taxis, supplies, meals and phone calls. You are even allowed to deduct your dry cleaning, laundry service or bar tab while you are traveling.  The expenses have to be both necessary and ordinary. That means that they are typical business traveling expenses in your industry and necessary for your business. In other words, you need to prove you are trying to make money on the business trip.

What Happens When You Mix A Business Trip With Pleasure?

Business travelers need to be aware that the IRS is big on watching business travel related expenses because they know there is plenty of room for manipulation. They come across many tax payers that try to group personal expenses with business travel expenses. If you want to make the whole trip tax deductible, you need to make the primary purpose of the trip for business. You are able to take some personal time.

There is not anything wrong with mixing business with pleasure as long as you make the distinction very clear. Do not try to pass any personal expenses off as business expenses.

Also make sure that any conferences or conventions you attend are related directly to your profession or trade. The IRS wants to make sure they are really not disguised vacations. Make sure you keep any materials you receive at the convention.

What Is Deductible As A Business Related Travel Expense?

There are many things that you can deduct as a business related travel expense. If you attend a seminar or conference that lists an optional excursion for meet and greet purposes, you can deduct the expense even if is a balloon ride or trip to a winery. You need to keep the paperwork from the seminar listing the excursion. The trick is to keep meticulous records of all the expenses you incur when you are traveling for business.

If you cannot substantiate your tax deduction you will face serious penalties. In addition to losing the deduction and being required to pay the tax, you will have to pay interest and penalties. When your taxes are recalculated, you could get a 20% penalty for understatement if your taxes were understated by $5,000 or 10%.

It does not stop there. If the IRS finds a discrepancy, they will question what other deductions are personal or bogus. It is hard to get them to stop once they start digging.

Tips to Maximize Tax Savings

May 19, 2013 Posted by Sanjiv No Comments

You may be working hard and earning big money but what is the use when you have not planned your taxes properly? Not planning for tax payments is as good as being unemployed because a lot of hard earned dollars are wasted in paying taxes due to the lack of planning. So it is imperative to plan for tax payments, well in advance.

Here are a few tips, from well-accomplished financial consultants, that may help you to maximize your tax savings and have more money in hand to spend for yourself.

  1. Working for a company

Sometimes it is good to work for someone than have your own business. Wondering why? Let me explain. By working for a company or by being on someone else’s payrolls, you may have to take a cut in your pay package. Nevertheless, you may still be left with more take home money than what you had when you owned a business because you end up paying less in tax. For example, if you were working for a University as a professor, fringe benefits such as health insurance and worker’s compensation would take a big chunk of your salary thereby leading to lower tax payments.

  1. Combining vacations with Business Trips

Going on expensive vacations may burn a big hole in your pocket in terms of tax payments. But if these vacations are combined with business, there could be a lot of savings in terms of tax payments because hotel bills, meals and car rentals are partly deductible from tax payments. But this is not a good practice to follow always as there could be a lot of questions from IRS when this becomes a regular pattern. So, sometimes it is better to pay taxes fully for expensive vacations than claiming for deductions.

  1. Keeping a tab on Business related expenses

Normally when on business trips we are lax and do not keep a tab on the expenses incurred during the trip. It is critical to keep track of all these expenses because in the case of an IRS audit, it is this information that will come in handy to substantiate expenses incurred during a business trip. Also, it is a good practice to tag all business transactions to a single credit card. By using the same credit card for all business related expenses, the expense statement from the credit card company can be used to back up claims made towards expenses incurred during a business trip.

  1. Employing your Spouse

Though a little tricky, this option provides a lot of tax savings. Being your spouse’s employer you can claim for health reimbursements that cover out-of-pocket medical expenses such as spectacles, co-payments and dental costs with pretax dollars. But under these circumstances payroll tax payments are unavoidable. In order to claim for tax payments under this option it is imperative to have an employment contract, signed by your wife and a perfect time sheet recording your wife’s working hours. It is very important to keep track of payroll tax payments because payroll mistakes can completely wipe away the tax savings.

While these are just some of the many tax saving options available, it is always advisable to seek the guidance of a qualified CPA in order to maximize tax savings.

Avoiding the Dirty Dozen Audit Red Flags

Feb 10, 2013 Posted by Sanjiv No Comments

The taxpayers are warned on manipulating any information related to the filing of their tax return deductions. This can let loose the ever inquisitive nature of the IRS and you can invite trouble upon yourself, which is best avoided at any cost. There are many factors that may flag your return for an audit and you should always consult with your tax professional to ensure that your return is in compliance with all applicable laws. In this article, I am going to point out twelve indicators / warning signals which in case exceed from what is believed to be normal, can trigger an inquiry from the IRS. The twelve ‘Red Flags” as they are addressed, are listed below.

  1. Filing higher income.
  2. Failing to report all taxable income as stated by the duplicate records available to the IRS.
  3. Filing for large charitable deduction, disproportionate to your known income.
  4. Filing for home office deduction.
  5. Filing for deduction on real estate rental losses.
  6. Filing for deduction on travel, business meals & entertainment.
  7. Filing the deduction for full (100 %) use of a vehicle.
  8. Filing the deduction on the losses related to a hobby activity.
  9. Filing a deduction for running a business on cash.
  10. Failing to report the account you hold in a foreign bank.
  11. You engage in transactions involving currency.
  12. Filing for deductions which exceed the average.

Availing of deductions sufficing the dictates of being reasonable can actually help you avoid unnecessary hassles, which would emanate out of a situation like facing the IRS audit. A part of the mentioned “hot spots” are clear manifestations of a planned deceit; the rest can be majorly attributed to ignorance on the taxpayer’s part on filing deductions. An experienced tax expert can help you remain on desired procedures along with putting up an effective representation for you in case required.

Handling the IRS audit on your own is not advisable: you wouldn’t have the expertise and skill required in handling the excruciatingly long & intimidating interrogation by the examiner. Rather the nervousness ensuing from the process holds the potential of you spilling off the restricted information to the auditor. This would worsen the matter further for you.

The bill raised by the examiner would be proportional to the information you give, as he digs for more.

Taxpayer has the legal right to representation. You can contact a seasoned tax expert to represent you at the IRS audits and aid you in resolving your tax issues forever.