As a business owner, you are entitled to deduct certain expenses on your tax return such as those relating to entertaining clients. Entertainment is considered any activity that provides entertainment, amusement, or recreation. It may also include meeting the personal, living, or family needs of individuals including providing meals, a hotel suite, or a car to customers or their families.
A meal that you provide to a customer or client may also be considered a form of entertainment. The meal may be part of other entertainment or stand alone. Meal expenses are defined as the cost of food, beverages, taxes, and tips for the meal. To deduct an entertainment-related meal, you or your employee must be present when the food or beverages are provided, and you cannot deduct a meal as both a travel and entertainment expense.
Limits and Restrictions
Entertainment expenses are generally deductible at 50 percent. Entertainment costs, taxes, tips, cover charges, room rentals, maids, and waiters are all subject to the 50 percent limit on entertainment deductions.
Entertainment expenses are also subject to certain limits and restrictions such as whether they qualify as "ordinary and necessary" and not "lavish or extravagant." They must also be directly related to or associated with, your business and you must keep detailed records substantiating your expenses (more on this below). Furthermore, the person you entertained must be a business associate; that is, someone who could reasonably be expected to be a customer or conduct business with you such as an employee, client, or professional advisor.
If it is customary to entertain a business associate with his or her spouse and your spouse also attends, entertainment expenses for both spouses are deductible, thanks to something called the "closely connected rule." For more information about this topic, please contact me.
Note: If you are an employee who is reimbursed in full by your employer different tax rules apply (e.g. you are not subject to the deduction limits).
Location must be Conducive to Business
Entertainment expenses are only deductible when they take place in a location conducive to business. A nightclub or theater is not considered a place conducive to business, but your home is. For example, if you hold a small (less than 12 people) party for clients and business associates at your home during the summer it may be deductible as long as you discussed business with your guests. The amount of time that business was discussed is not significant.
Year-end parties for employees, as well as sales seminars and presentations held at your home, are generally 100 percent deductible provided costs for food and refreshments are reasonable and not lavish.
Out-of-pocket expenses for food and beverages, catering, gas, and fishing bait provided at facilities you own or are a member of such as a yacht, hunting lodge, fishing camp, swimming pool, and tennis court are deductible subject to entertainment expense limitation of 50 percent. However, you may not deduct expenses related to the depreciation and upkeep of the facility or for rent and utilities.
Note: Dues paid to country clubs, social, or golf and athletic clubs are not deductible.
Expenses are directly related if you can show that there was more than a general expectation of gaining some business benefit, rather than simply goodwill. In addition, you must show that you conducted business during the entertainment and that the active conduct of business was your main purpose.
Even if you cannot show that the entertainment was "directly related" you may still be able to deduct the expenses as long as you can prove the entertainment was "associated with" your business. To meet this test, you must have had a clear business purpose when you took on the expense, and the entertainment must directly precede or come after a substantial business discussion.
Substantiating your Expenses
Tax law requires you to keep records that will prove the business purpose and amounts of your business entertainment as well as other business expenses. The most frequent reason that the IRS disallows entertainment expenses is the failure to show the place and business purpose of an item. Therefore it is paramount that you keep excellent records.
To substantiate entertainment expenses you must show the following:
The amount of each separate expense.
The date, time, place, and type of entertainment (e.g. dinner).
The business purpose and nature of any business discussion that took place.
The business relationship and the name, title, and occupation of the person or people you entertained.
Don't Miss Out
Tax law is complicated, and this article only touches on a few of the deductions for entertainment expenses you might be entitled to. If you have any questions about entertainment expenses or need assistance setting up a record keeping system to document your business-related activities, don't hesitate to call.
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Tax Breaks for Hiring New Employee
If you're thinking about hiring new employees this year, you won't want to miss out on these tax breaks.
1. Work Opportunity Credit
The Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) is a federal tax credit for employers that hire employees from the following targeted groups of individuals:
A member of a family that is a Qualified Food Stamp Recipient
A member of a family that is a Qualified Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) Recipient
Qualified Ex-Felons, Pardoned, Paroled or Work Release Individuals
Vocational Rehabilitation Referrals
Qualified Summer Youths
Qualified Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Recipients
Qualified Individuals living within an Empowerment Zone or Rural Renewal Community
Long Term Family Assistance Recipient (TANF) (formerly known as Welfare to Work)
The tax credit (a maximum of $9,600) is taken as a general business credit on Form 3800 and is applied against tax liability on business income. It is limited to the amount of the business income tax liability or social security tax owed. Normal carry-back and carry-forward rules apply.
For qualified tax-exempt organizations, the credit is limited to the amount of employer social security tax owed on wages paid to all employees for the period the credit is claimed.
Also, an employer must obtain certification that an individual is a member of the targeted group before the employer may claim the credit.
Note: The Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act of 2015 (the PATH Act) retroactively allows eligible employers to claim the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) for all targeted group employee categories that were in effect prior to the enactment of the PATH Act, if the individual began or begins work for the employer after December 31, 2014 and before January 1, 2020.
For tax-exempt employers, the PATH Act retroactively allows them to claim the WOTC for qualified veterans who begin work for the employer after December 31, 2014, and before January 1, 2020.
2. Payroll Tax Deduction - R & D Tax Credit
Starting in 2016, startup businesses (C-corps and S-corps) with little to no revenue that qualify for the research and development tax credit can apply the credit against employer-paid Social Security taxes instead of income tax owed. Sole proprietorships, as well as Partnerships, C-corps and S-corps with gross receipts of less than $5 million for the current year and with no gross receipts for the previous year, can take advantage of the credit. Up to $250,000 in payroll costs can be offset by the credit.
3. Disabled Access Credit and the Barrier Removal Tax Deduction
Employers that hire disabled workers might also be able to take advantage of two additional tax credits in addition to the WOTC.
The Disabled Access Credit is a non-refundable credit for small businesses that incur expenditures for the purpose of providing access to persons with disabilities. An eligible small business is one that earned $1 million or less or had no more than 30 full-time employees in the previous year; they may take the credit each, and every year they incur access expenditures. Eligible expenditures include amounts paid or incurred to:
1. Remove barriers that prevent a business from being accessible to or usable by individuals with disabilities;
2. Provide qualified interpreters or other methods of making audio materials available to hearing-impaired individuals;
3. Provide qualified readers, taped texts, and other methods of making visual materials available to individuals with visual impairments; or
4. Acquire or modify equipment or devices for individuals with disabilities.
The Architectural Barrier Removal Tax Deduction encourages businesses of any size to remove architectural and transportation barriers to the mobility of persons with disabilities and the elderly. Businesses may claim a deduction of up to $15,000 a year for qualified expenses for items that normally must be capitalized. Businesses claim the deduction by listing it as a separate expense on their income tax return.
Businesses may use the Disabled Tax Credit and the Architectural/Transportation Tax Deduction together in the same tax year if the expenses meet the requirements of both sections. To use both, the deduction is equal to the difference between the total expenditures and the amount of the credit claimed.
4. Indian Employment Credit
The Indian Employment Credit provides businesses with an incentive to hire certain individuals (enrolled members of an Indian tribe or the spouse of an enrolled member) who live on or near an Indian reservation. The business does not have to be in an empowerment zone or enterprise community to qualify for the credit, which offsets the business's federal tax liability.
The credit is 20 percent of the excess of the current qualified wages and qualified employee health insurance costs (not to exceed $20,000) over the sum of the corresponding amounts that were paid or incurred during the calendar year of 1993 (not a typo).
5. State Tax Credits
Many states use tax credits and deductions as incentives for hiring and job growth. Employers are eligible for these credits and deductions when they create new jobs and hire employees that meet certain requirements. Examples include the New Employment Credit (NEC) in California, the Kentucky Small Business Tax Credit, and Empire Zone Tax Credits in New York.
Wondering what tax breaks your business qualifies for?
Hi! I'm Jaimie and I have a B.A. in Accounting, an MBA with an emphasis in Accounting and a CPA license. I worked for about 10 years in CPA firms doing audits and reviews and then for about 10 years in private companies managing accounting departments. I've learned a lot about accounting, finances and taxes over the last 20 years! And now I want to share my knowledge with you here!