How are most small business owners losing thousands of dollars every year? Eva Rosenberg, author of Small Business Taxes Made Easy notes, “Many small businesses are cheating themselves out of at least $2,000 to $3,000 worth of tax benefits a year by not knowing the deductions and credits available to them.”
For travel agents, travel is a tax write-off — whether to an industrial center or an island resort! If a purpose is to discuss business with other travelers, have business appointments, or to attend a business-related seminar, you go tax free. Travel agents may also deduct their travel if it is simply for the purpose of familiarizing themselves with a resort, ship, tour, etc. This means that almost any travel an agent does can be a tax write-off! It is helpful if prior to the trip you can substantiate prior planning for familiarization or for making business contacts. Your spouse’s travel can even be deductible if the individual is part of your business or his or her presence is helpful in conducting your business.
Transportation expenses include all those costs incurred getting to and from your destination: airfare, vehicle, on-the-road expenses such as lodging, meals, laundry, dry cleaning, and others. For fees under $75 it is not necessary to keep receipts. For example, if while traveling you pay $20 for dry cleaning, the IRS does not demand a receipt. The only exception is for lodging. If you stay overnight, you must get a receipt for your payment. If you drive your car, 300 miles per day is allowable tax free.
For foreign travel, you can deduct all weekends and holidays that fall between business days and you can deduct on-the-road expenses for days in transit. In the case of cruise ships, you can claim it as a deduction if you can substantiate that you used the trip to familiarize yourself with this cruise package/ship.
First and foremost, whether you’re in the travel business or some other, the IRS’s primary requirement is that you legitimately treat your home business as a business — not a hobby. That means regularly working your business. Hand out your business card, talk to people, all the time, everywhere you go about travel. Let them know you are a travel agent and would appreciate their business.
When you’re out to lunch or dinner with other travel agents, prospects, or friends and you discuss “business”, your meal is 50 percent tax deductible. Some try to also write off trips to the theater, opera, or sports events because they’re “entertaining a possible client.” Be careful with this one. Entertainment expenses are generally non-deductible. If you try to claim deductions for sporting events, gala or social nights, concerts or other similar functions you’d better be able to substantiate that you were dealing with possible customers. If you definitely discuss business matters with a client or possible client while at the event, this does open the door to a possible deduction.
Home to work travel is deductible in limited circumstances – for example, if you are engaged in itinerant work, but many independent travel agents have a home office. A home office deduction is available if a portion of your home is used as a principal place of business, you meet or deal with clients or customers, you use it to conduct administrative or management functions, or you store some sort of inventory or product samples. You should use your office at least three to four days per week or 10 to 12 hours per week. In regard to indirect business expenses, you can receive a deduction of approximately 12 to 16 percent based on the square footage or the number of rooms in your home. Home computers, fax machines, telephones, office supplies, and office furniture are tax deductible. But it’s important to have your home office on business cards, have business visitors sign a logbook, keep a work-activity log for time spent, or be able to demonstrate work you have accomplished online from your home office.
It is wise to keep a separate “tax diary” of appointments, general transportation, meals, trips, business appointments, contacts. If the IRS ever questions your claims and you don’t have receipts for everything, this tax diary will be of great assistance.
So what in heaven’s name are you waiting for? If you love travel and have some time to travel, becoming a travel agent is a no-brainer. It is easy and inexpensive to become an agent and between hugely discounted trips and the tax write-offs, the savings can be almost unlimited.