Travel and Entertainment: Maximizing The Tax Benefits

May 19, 2013 - 3 minutes read

In general, taxpayers may deduct ordinary and necessary business-related expenses for traveling away from home, and entertaining clients and customers. An ordinary expense is an expense that is common and accepted in the taxpayer’s trade or business. A necessary expense is one that is appropriate for the business.

Taxpayers who deduct these expenses must exclude personal expenses when computing their deductions and must have documentation for the expense, including statement of the business purpose, names of the persons being entertained, date and location. In addition, generally only 50 percent of business meal and entertainment expenses can be deducted.


Taxpayers who travel away from home on business may deduct related expenses, including the cost of reaching their destination, the cost of lodging and meals and other ordinary and necessary expenses. Taxpayers are considered “traveling away from home” if their duties require them to be away from home substantially longer than an ordinary day’s work and they need to sleep or rest to meet the demands of their work. The actual cost of meals and incidental expenses may be deducted or the taxpayer may use a standard meal allowance. Regardless of the method used, meal deductions are generally limited to 50 percent as stated earlier. Only actual costs for lodging may be claimed as an expense and receipts must be kept for documentation. Expenses must be reasonable and appropriate; deductions for extravagant expenses are not allowable.


Expenses for entertaining clients, customers or employees may be deducted if they are both ordinary and necessary and meet one of the following tests:

  • Directly-related test: The main purpose of the entertainment activity is the conduct of business, business was actually conducted during the activity and the taxpayer had more than a general expectation of getting income or some other specific business benefit at some future time.
  • Associated test: The entertainment was associated with the active conduct of the taxpayer’s trade or business and occurred directly before or after a substantial business discussion.

You cannot deduct amounts that you approximate or estimate.

You should keep adequate records to prove your expenses or have sufficient evidence that will support your own statement. You must generally prepare a written record for it to be considered adequate. This is because written evidence is more reliable than oral evidence alone. However, if you prepare a record on a computer, it is considered an adequate record.

More information is available in Internal Revenue Publication 463, Travel, Entertainment, Gift and Car Expenses.