Keep Track of Expenses When You’re On the Road
We live in an online business world, and you probably work out of your home. And if you’re like many creative business owners, you crave connection. Online video chats, Voxer, Facebook groups, local networking groups. But you want more.
Conferences are the perfect way to connect with others in your industry and gain knowledge at the same time. In fact, I just got back from the QuickBooks Connect conference in San Jose where I was able to connect with other financial pros and hear from myriad inspirational speakers.
The conference was fun (amazing, eye-opening, educational) but it was a trip that I took for my business. And as a business trip, it was tax deductible.
I know that when you’re busy and overstimulated, taxes are the last thing you’re thinking about. Shoot, you probably aren’t thinking about taxes even on a good day! But if you want to write off expenses when you’re on the road, you need to have a plan.
Before You Leave
Before you even book your plane tickets or buy your conference pass, make sure the event you want to attend is in your budget. Are you able to pay cash to get there? If not, how will you make enough to pay off the debt as soon as possible? (If you’re just starting out in business, try out a small, local conference first.)
When you know it’s in your budget, price out flights and hotels well in advance. When you book, jot down the prices (including tax) in a notebook you’ll use throughout the trip and save your emailed receipts in a separate folder. Don’t forget that your conference fee is also deductible!
If you buy anything special that you’ll need during the conference, you can deduct that too. Notebooks, a speaker gift (up to $25), etc. But, sorry, that fancy dress you want to wear to the conference kick-off is not tax deductible.
While You’re Away
Keeping track of receipts can be a pain. They clutter up your wallet and purse and you’re bound to lose one or more of them. Instead of holding onto paper receipts, use Shoeboxed, Evernote, Scannable or another app to keep track of receipts on your mobile device. You simply take a picture and/or scan your receipt and you don’t have to worry about it again! And bonus: Some of these apps even sync with your accounting programs, track mileage and sort receipts for you. Score!
Don’t forget to keep track of tips, bus fare and other expenses you wouldn’t necessarily get a receipt from. Yes, these are tax-deductible too! You can also deduct 50 percent of your meals, but be careful about trying to deduct alcoholic beverages. If you’re hanging out with other attendees after a day of sessions, you can’t deduct the drinks you’re enjoying during social time – unless business is being legitimately discussed.
And let’s say you decide to stay two days after the conference, to check out local sights or to visit with family. Great! But beware that once the conference ends, so do your tax deductions. Don’t try to write off dinner with Aunt Gladys or a trip to a national monument. You also can’t deduct the extra nights you spend in the hotel unless you’re there to expressly do business.
When You Return
When you’re back from your conference, it’s time to unload all those receipts. I recommend passing along a Dropbox file to your bookkeeper or accountant so the expenses can be properly recorded and reported. If you’re doing your own bookkeeping, go ahead and print out paper copies and store them with your documents for the current tax year. Be sure to earmark them as receipts from a business trip, so you remember come tax time.
I’m a huge fan of conferences because they’re such a great opportunity to connect with others and learn from experts I wouldn’t be able to afford otherwise. And they allow me to travel and explore, when I might not otherwise be drawn to an area. But I always make sure I have my electronic receipts on hand when I get back so I can get as much bang for my buck as possible! If you’re lost on how to get started organizing receipts from your last business trip, reach out to a bookkeeper sooner rather than later!
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GUEST BLOGGER: Heather Pranitis // Number nerd bookkeeping solutions
Heather is Chief Number Nerd at Number Nerd Bookkeeping Solutions and is a self-proclaimed systems and time management ninja. She has 20 years of experience managing and consulting businesses from law to fitness to information technology and everything in between.