write off

Deducting business meal expenses under today’s tax rules

In the course of operating your business, you probably spend time and money “wining and dining” current or potential customers, vendors and employees. What can you deduct on your tax return for these expenses? The rules changed under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), but you can still claim some valuable write-offs.

No more entertainment deductions

One of the biggest changes is that you can no longer deduct most business-related entertainment expenses. Beginning in 2018, the TCJA disallows deductions for entertainment expenses, including those for sports events, theater productions, golf outings and fishing trips.

Meal deductions still allowed

You can still deduct 50% of the cost of food and beverages for meals conducted with business associates. However, you need to follow three basic rules in order to prove that your expenses are business related:

  1. The expenses must be “ordinary and necessary” in carrying on your business. This means your food and beverage costs are customary and appropriate. They shouldn’t be lavish or extravagant.
  2. The expenses must be directly related or associated with your business. This means that you expect to receive a concrete business benefit from them. The principal purpose for the meal must be business. You can’t go out with a group of friends for the evening, discuss business with one of them for a few minutes, and then write off the check.
  3. You must be able to substantiate the expenses. There are requirements for proving that meal and beverage expenses qualify for a deduction. You must be able to establish the amount spent, the date and place where the meals took place, the business purpose and the business relationship of the people involved.

Set up detailed recordkeeping procedures to keep track of business meal costs. That way, you can prove them and the business connection in the event of an IRS audit.

Other considerations

What if you spend money on food and beverages at an entertainment event? The IRS clarified in guidance (Notice 2018-76) that taxpayers can still deduct 50% of food and drink expenses incurred at entertainment events, but only if business was conducted during the event or shortly before or after. The food-and-drink expenses should also be “stated separately from the cost of the entertainment on one or more bills, invoices or receipts,” according to the guidance.

Another related tax law change involves meals provided to employees on the business premises. Before the TCJA, these meals provided to an employee for the convenience of the employer were 100% deductible by the employer. Beginning in 2018, meals provided for the convenience of an employer in an on-premises cafeteria or elsewhere on the business property are only 50% deductible. After 2025, these meals won’t be deductible at all.

Plan ahead

As you can see, the treatment of meal and entertainment expenses became more complicated after the TCJA. Your tax advisor can keep you up to speed on the issues and suggest strategies to get the biggest tax-saving bang for your business meal bucks.

© 2019

The home office deduction: Actual expenses vs. the simplified method

If you run your business from your home or perform certain functions at home that are related to your business, you might be able to claim a home office deduction against your business income on your 2018 income tax return. There are now two methods for claiming this deduction: the actual expenses method and the simplified method.

Basics of the deduction

In general, you’ll qualify for a home office deduction if part of your home is used “regularly and exclusively” as your principal place of business.

If your home isn’t your principal place of business, you may still be able to deduct home office expenses if 1) you physically meet with patients, clients or customers on your premises, or 2) you use a storage area in your home (or a separate free-standing structure, such as a garage) exclusively and regularly for your business.

Actual expenses

Traditionally, taxpayers have deducted actual expenses when they claim a home office deduction. Deductible home office expenses may include:

  • Direct expenses, such as the cost of painting and carpeting a room used exclusively for business,
  • A proportionate share of indirect expenses, such as mortgage interest, property taxes, utilities, repairs and insurance, and
  • A depreciation allowance.

But keeping track of actual expenses can be time consuming.

The simplified method

Fortunately, there’s a simplified method that’s been available since 2013: You can deduct $5 for each square foot of home office space, up to a maximum total of $1,500.

For example, if you’ve converted a 300-square-foot bedroom to an office you use exclusively and regularly for business, you can write off $1,500 under the simplified method (300 square feet x $5). However, if your business is located in a 600-square-foot finished basement, the deduction will still be only $1,500 because of the cap on the deduction under this method.

As you can see, the cap can make the simplified method less beneficial for larger home office spaces. But even for spaces of 300 square feet or less, taxpayers may qualify for a bigger deduction using the actual expense method. So, tracking your actual expenses can be worth the extra hassle.

Flexibility in filing

When claiming the home office deduction, you’re not locked into a particular method. For instance, you might choose the actual expense method on your 2018 return, use the simplified method when you file your 2019 return next year and then switch back to the actual expense method thereafter. The choice is yours.

Unsure whether you qualify for the home office deduction? Or wondering whether you should deduct actual expenses or use the simplified method? Contact us. We can help you determine what’s right for your specific situation.

© 2019

Accounting Services: Should I consider this service for my business?

by Liana Ellison, CPA

Accounting Services Manager at Atchley & Associates, LLP

 

Atchley & Associates, LLP provides accounting services of various levels to many of our clients. The levels of services vary from consulting with startup companies about their accounting set up all the way to outsourcing their accounting department to us. We are able to provide a custom level of service to meet our client’s needs. Some of the accounting services we provide at Atchley & Associates include:

  • Outsourced payroll, set up, reporting, support and consulting
  • Outsourced bookkeeping, reconciliations of accounts such as bank, credit cards, loans and lines of credit, and preparation of any adjusting journal entries
  • Review of systems utilized and internal processes, and make recommendations of accounting platforms and ancillary applications
  • Customized Financial Statement preparation
  • Preparation or support for various compliance such as personal property renditions, Forms 1099, and Sales Tax
  • Year-end accounting analysis and clean-up in preparation for tax return

In addition, our team can take the pressure off business owners or executive directors that may not have the expertise or time to review and supervise the work performed by their accounting department.  These leaders may not want to deal with having to worry about turnover or fraud in this critical position, and often engage us to support them in this area of their business or organization.

Our services are not specific to any one industry, therefore we are able to support various types of service industries including a number of non-profit clients.

I’ve put together some recent questions that our group has received and compiled them into a True or False Quiz as examples of how we support our client. As in every case, that correct answer is- “it depends”. However, you may find some helpful information for your business or line of work.

  1. A client inquired, I receive a cell phone allowance with my payroll of $50 a month, this taxable compensation to me- true or false?

False- this can be considered non-taxable compensation, as a non-tax fringe benefit IF

– The employer has an accountable plan and

– There is a business connection for the cell phone use and

– The allowance does not exceed the cost of employee’s monthly plan (requires substantiation). Any excess allowance would be considered taxable compensation.

  i. IRS Notice 2011-72

  1. I had the privilege to attend the Rotary scholarship luncheon last month with our partner, Harold Ingersoll, where Rotarians gave out over $43K in scholarships towards recipient’s tuition and higher learning. The Rotary Club of Austin is not required to issue a 1099 to these recipients for the amount received- true or false?

True- the Rotary Club of Austin is not required to issue scholarship recipients a 1099 since these funds were not in connection with any services performed for teaching, research or other services as a condition for receiving the scholarship. It may not prevent the recipient from picking it up as income on their personal return, but nothing is required to be reported to the IRS by the Rotary Club of Austin.

  i. Sec 117(b) and Regulations section 1.6041-3(n), Tax Topic 421

  1. I have an hourly (non-exempt) employee therefore I am only required to pay them at least once a month in the state of Texas- True or False?

False- per Texas Pay Day Law hourly (non-exempt) employees must be paid at least twice a month.

  i. Texas Payday Law section 61.011

  1. I bought a used iPad mini for my business for $199. Since the cost is less than $250, I don’t need to report this property on the Personal Property Rendition for Travis County– true or false?

False- per Travis County Appraisal District, ALL business personal property that is used in business must be rendered on the form, regardless of the amount.

  1. I just started a new business and have chosen QuickBooks Online as the application to provide record keeping for my business because I have heard it’s the best in the market- True or False?

Trick question- You might receive a different answer depending on who you ask. There are several new applications on the market that compare to QuickBooks Online. However, QuickBooks still retains a large portion of the small business market.

  i. Contact us to find out what might be the right fit for your business.

You can leverage our services for more answers to these types of questions in addition to receiving accurate reporting and record keeping.  Contact us for more information on how we can help your business.

 

Combining business and vacation travel: What can you deduct?

If you go on a business trip within the United States and tack on some vacation days, you can deduct some of your expenses. But exactly what can you write off?

Transportation expenses

Transportation costs to and from the location of your business activity are 100% deductible as long as the primary reason for the trip is business rather than pleasure. On the other hand, if vacation is the primary reason for your travel, then generally none of your transportation expenses are deductible.

What costs can be included? Travel to and from your departure airport, airfare, baggage fees, tips, cabs, and so forth. Costs for rail travel or driving your personal car are also eligible.

Business days vs. pleasure days

The number of days spent on business vs. pleasure is the key factor in determining if the primary reason for domestic travel is business. Your travel days count as business days, as do weekends and holidays if they fall between days devoted to business, and it would be impractical to return home.

Standby days (days when your physical presence is required) also count as business days, even if you aren’t called upon to work those days. Any other day principally devoted to business activities during normal business hours also counts as a business day, and so are days when you intended to work, but couldn’t due to reasons beyond your control (such as local transportation difficulties).

You should be able to claim business was the primary reason for a domestic trip if business days exceed personal days. Be sure to accumulate proof and keep it with your tax records. For example, if your trip is made to attend client meetings, log everything on your daily planner and copy the pages for your tax file. If you attend a convention or training seminar, keep the program and take notes to show you attended the sessions.

Once at the destination, your out-of-pocket expenses for business days are fully deductible. These expenses include lodging, hotel tips, meals (subject to the 50% disallowance rule), seminar and convention fees, and cab fare. Expenses for personal days are nondeductible.

We can help

Questions? Contact us if you want more information about business travel deductions.

© 2016