You work in Atlanta and take a business trip to New Orleans in May. Your business travel totals 900 miles round trip. On your way home, you stop in Mobile to visit your parents. You spend $2,165 for the 9 days you are away from home for travel, meals, lodging, and other travel expenses. If you hadn’t stopped in Mobile, you would have been gone only 6 days, and your total cost would have been $1,602. You can deduct $1,602 for your trip, including the cost of round-trip transportation to and from New Orleans. The deduction for your meals is subject to the 50% limit on meals mentioned earlier.
A trip to a resort or on a cruise ship may be a vacation even if the promoter advertises that it is primarily for business. The scheduling of incidental business activities during a trip, such as viewing videotapes or attending lectures dealing with general subjects, won’t change what is really a vacation into a business trip.
Public transportation. If you travel by public transportation, any place in the United States where that vehicle makes a scheduled stop is a point in the United States. Once the vehicle leaves the last scheduled stop in the United States on its way to a point outside the United States, you apply the rules under Travel Outside the United States .
You fly from New York to Puerto Rico with a scheduled stop in Miami. Puerto Rico isn’t considered part of the United States for purposes of travel. You return to New York nonstop. The flight from New York to Miami is in the United States, so only the flight from Miami to Puerto Rico is outside the United States. Because there are no scheduled stops between Puerto Rico and New York, all of the return trip is outside the United States.
You travel by car from Denver to Mexico City and return. Your travel from Denver to the border and from the border back to Denver is travel in the United States, and the rules in this section apply. The rules under Travel Outside the United States apply to your trip from the border to Mexico City and back to the border.
How much of your travel expenses you can deduct depends in part upon how much of your trip outside the United States was business related.
Exception 1 – No substantial control. Your trip is considered entirely for business if you didn’t have substantial control over arranging the trip. The fact that you control the timing of your trip doesn’t, by itself, mean that you have substantial control over arranging your trip. You don’t have substantial control over your trip if you:
- Are an employee who was reimbursed or paid a travel expense allowance, and
- Aren’t related to your employer, or
- Aren’t a managing executive.
“Related to your employer” is defined later in chapter 6 under Per Diem and Car Allowances . A “managing executive” is an employee who has the authority and responsibility, without being subject to the veto of another, to decide on the need for the business travel. A self-employed person generally has substantial control over arranging business trips.
Exception 2 – Outside United States no more than a week. Your trip is considered entirely for business if you were outside the United States for a week or less, combining business and nonbusiness activities. One week means 7 consecutive days. In counting the days, don’t count the day you leave the United States, but do count the day you return to the United States.
You traveled to Brussels primarily for business. You left Denver on Tuesday and flew to New York. On Wednesday, you flew from New York to Brussels, arriving the next morning. On Thursday and Friday, you had business discussions, and from Saturday until Tuesday, you were sightseeing. You flew back to New York, arriving Wednesday afternoon. On Thursday, you flew back to Denver.
Although you were away from your home in Denver for more than a week, you weren’t outside the United States for more than a week. This is because the day you depart doesn’t count as a day outside the United States.
You can deduct your cost of the round-trip flight between Denver and Brussels. You can also deduct the cost of your stay in Brussels for Thursday and Friday while you conducted business. However, you can’t deduct the cost of your stay in Brussels from Saturday through Tuesday because those days were spent on nonbusiness activities.
- You were outside the United States for more than a week, and
- You spent less than 25% of the total time you were outside the United States on nonbusiness activities.
For this purpose, count both the day your trip began and the day it ended.
You flew from Seattle to Tokyo, where you spent 14 days on business and 5 days on personal matters. You then flew back to Seattle. You spent 1 day flying in each direction.
Because only 5/21 (less than 25%) of your total time abroad was for nonbusiness activities, you can deduct as travel expenses what it would have cost you to make the trip if you hadn’t engaged in any nonbusiness activity. The amount you can deduct is the cost of the round-trip plane fare and 16 days of meals (subject to the 50% limit), lodging, and other related expenses.
If you travel outside the United States primarily for business but spend some of your time on other activities, you generally can’t deduct all of your travel expenses. You can only deduct the business portion of your cost of getting to and from your destination. You must allocate the costs between your business and other activities to determine your deductible amount. See Travel allocation rules , later.
You don’t have to allocate your travel expenses if you meet one of the four exceptions listed earlier under Travel considered entirely for business. In those cases, you can deduct the total cost of getting to and from your destination.
Certain weekends and holidays. Count weekends, holidays, and other necessary standby days as business days if they fall between business days. But if they follow your business meetings or activity and you remain at your business destination for nonbusiness or personal reasons, don’t count them as business days.
Your tax home is New York City. You travel to Quebec, where you have a business appointment on Friday. You have another appointment on the following Monday. Because your presence was required on both Friday and Monday, they are business days. Because the weekend is between business days, Saturday and Sunday are counted as business days. This is true even though you use the weekend for sightseeing, visiting friends, or other nonbusiness activity.
Nonbusiness activity on the way to or from your business destination. If you stopped for a vacation or other nonbusiness activity either on the way from the United States to your business destination, or on the way back to the United States from your business destination, you must allocate part of your travel expenses to the nonbusiness activity. The part you must allocate is the amount it would have cost you to travel between the point where travel outside the United States begins and your nonbusiness destination and a return to the point where travel outside the United States ends. You determine the nonbusiness portion of that expense by multiplying it by a fraction. The numerator (top number) of the fraction is the number of nonbusiness days during your travel outside the United States and the denominator (bottom number) is the total number of days you spend outside the United States.
You live in New York. On May 4 you flew to Paris to attend a business conference that began on May 5. The conference ended at noon on May 14. That evening you flew to Dublin where you visited with friends until the afternoon of May 21, when you flew directly home to New York. The primary purpose for the trip was to attend the conference.
If you hadn’t stopped in Dublin, you would have arrived home the evening of May 14. You don’t meet any of the exceptions that would allow you to consider your travel entirely for business. May 4 through May 14 (11 days) are business days and May 15 through May 21 (7 days) are nonbusiness days.
You can deduct the cost of your meals (subject to the 50% limit), lodging, and other business-related travel expenses while in Paris.
You can’t deduct your expenses while in Dublin. You also can’t deduct 7/18 of what it would have cost you to travel round-trip between New York and Dublin.
You paid $750 to fly from New York to Paris, $400 to fly from Paris to Dublin, and $700 to fly from Dublin back to New York. Round-trip airfare from New York to Dublin would have been $1,250.
You figure the deductible part of your air travel expenses by subtracting 7/18 of the round-trip fare and other expenses you would have had in traveling directly between New York and Dublin ($1,250 × 7/18 = $486) from your total expenses in traveling from New York to Paris to Dublin and back to New York ($750 + $400 + $700 = $1,850).
Your deductible air travel expense is $1,364 ($1,850 − $486).
Nonbusiness activity at, near, or beyond business destination. If you had a vacation or other nonbusiness activity at, near, or beyond your business destination, you must allocate part of your travel expenses to the nonbusiness activity. The part you must allocate is the amount it would have cost you to travel between the point where travel outside the United States begins and your business destination and a return to the point where travel outside the United States ends. You determine the nonbusiness portion of that expense by multiplying it by a fraction. The numerator (top number) of the fraction is the number of nonbusiness days during your travel outside the United States and the denominator (bottom number) is the total number of days you spend outside the United States. None of your travel expenses for nonbusiness activities at, near, or beyond your business destination are deductible.
Assume that the dates are the same as in the previous example but that instead of going to Dublin for your vacation, you fly to Venice, Italy, for a vacation.
You can’t deduct any part of the cost of your trip from Paris to Venice and return to Paris. In addition, you can’t deduct 7/18 of the airfare and other expenses from New York to Paris and back to New York.
You can deduct 11/18 of the round-trip plane fare and other travel expenses from New York to Paris, plus your meals (subject to the 50% limit), lodging, and any other business expenses you had in Paris. (Assume these expenses total $4,939.) If the round-trip plane fare and other travel-related expenses (such as food during the trip) are $1,750, you can deduct travel costs of $1,069 (11/18 × $1,750), plus the full $4,939 for the expenses you had in Paris.
The university from which you graduated has a continuing education program for members of its alumni association. This program consists of trips to various foreign countries where academic exercises and conferences are set up to acquaint individuals in most occupations with selected facilities in several regions of the world. However, none of the conferences are directed toward specific occupations or professions. It is up to each participant to seek out specialists and organizational settings appropriate to his or her occupational interests.
Three-hour sessions are held each day over a 5-day period at each of the selected overseas facilities where participants can meet with individual practitioners. These sessions are composed of a variety of activities including workshops, mini-lectures, role playing, skill development, and exercises. Professional conference directors schedule and conduct the sessions. Participants can choose those sessions they wish to attend.
You can participate in this program since you are a member of the alumni association. You and your family take one of the trips. You spend about 2 hours at each of the planned sessions. The rest of the time you go touring and sightseeing with your family. The trip lasts less than 1 week.
Your travel expenses for the trip aren’t deductible since the trip was primarily a vacation. However, registration fees and any other incidental expenses you have for the five planned sessions you attended that are directly related and beneficial to your business are deductible business expenses. These expenses should be specifically stated in your records to ensure proper allocation of your deductible business expenses.
If you travel by ocean liner, cruise ship, or other form of luxury water transportation for business purposes, there is a daily limit on the amount you can deduct. The limit is twice the highest federal per diem rate allowable at the time of your travel. (Generally, the federal per diem is the amount paid to federal government employees for daily living expenses when they travel away from home within the United States for business purposes.)
|2016 Dates||Highest Federal Per Diem||Daily Limit on Luxury Water Travel|
|January 1 – March 31||$428||$856|
|April 1 – April 30||376||752|
|May 1 – May 31||344||688|
|June 1 – August 31||350||700|
|September 1 – September 30||380||760|
|October 1 – November 30||375||750|
|December 1 – December 31||436||872|
Caroline, a travel agent, traveled by ocean liner from New York to London, England, on business in May. Her expense for the 6-day cruise was $5,200. Caroline’s deduction for the cruise can’t exceed $4,128 (6 days × $688 daily limit).
Meals and entertainment. If your expenses for luxury water travel include separately stated amounts for meals or entertainment, those amounts are subject to the 50% limit on meals and entertainment before you apply the daily limit. For a discussion of the 50% Limit , see chapter 2.
In the previous example, Caroline’s luxury water travel had a total cost of $5,200. Of that amount, $3,700 was separately stated as meals and entertainment. Caroline, who is self-employed, isn’t reimbursed for any of her travel expenses. Caroline figures her deductible travel expenses as follows.
|Meals and entertainment||$3,700|
|50% limit||× .50|
|Allowable meals &|
|Other travel expenses||+ 1,500|
|Allowable cost before the daily limit||$3,350|
|Daily limit for May 2016||$688|
|Times number of days||× 6|
|Maximum luxury water travel|
|Amount of allowable deduction||$3,350|
Caroline’s deduction for her cruise is limited to $3,350, even though the limit on luxury water travel is higher.
If the convention is for investment, political, social, or other purposes unrelated to your trade or business, you can’t deduct the expenses.
Your appointment or election as a delegate doesn’t, in itself, determine whether you can deduct travel expenses. You can deduct your travel expenses only if your attendance is connected to your own trade or business.
|American Samoa||Johnston Island|
|Antigua and Barbuda||Kingman Reef|
|Guyana||Trinidad and Tobago|
|Howland Island||U.S. Virgin Islands|
The North American area also includes U.S. islands, cays, and reefs that are possessions of the United States and not part of the fifty states or the District of Columbia. See Revenue Ruling 2016-16, available at www.irs.gov/irb/2016-26_IRB/ar09.html, for more information.
- The purpose of the meeting and the activities taking place at the meeting.
- The purposes and activities of the sponsoring organizations or groups.
- The homes of the active members of the sponsoring organizations and the places at which other meetings of the sponsoring organizations or groups have been or will be held.
- Other relevant factors you may present.
You can deduct these expenses only if all of the following requirements are met.
- The convention, seminar, or meeting is directly related to your trade or business.
- The cruise ship is a vessel registered in the United States.
- All of the cruise ship’s ports of call are in the United States or in possessions of the United States.
- You attach to your return a written statement signed by you that includes information about:
- The total days of the trip (not including the days of transportation to and from the cruise ship port),
- The number of hours each day that you devoted to scheduled business activities, and
- A program of the scheduled business activities of the meeting.
- You attach to your return a written statement signed by an officer of the organization or group sponsoring the meeting that includes: