Are your company's travel and entertainment expenses too high?

Don't Forget Taxes

   You can have a good time and still deduct part of the cost when you entertain business clients or customers. The tax law generally permits you to deduct 50 percent of the cost of entertainment and meals that are either "directly related to" your business or "associated with" your business. For example, if you conduct business in your conference room while you serve lunch, the meal qualifies as entertainment that is directly related to your business and 50 percent can be deducted.
   It's also common to deduct entertainment associated with your business. To meet this test, you must hold a substantial and bona fide business discussion before or after the entertainment. So, if you wrap up a business deal at 5 P.M. and then take the clients out, the cost is deductible within the allowable 50 percent limit.
    These are the general rules. There are exceptions to the 50 percent limit. One example: You are not subject to the limit if you provide meals or entertainment to the general public as a means of advertising or promoting goodwill in the community. Under this exception, you could deduct 100 percent of the cost of distributing free food and beverages to the public.


You can curry favor with your customers without breaking the bank. Some quick ideas:

  • A creative company picnic in the summer can be just as impressive as a bash at an opulent restaurant or concert hall.
  • How about a party at your offices -- or at your home? Spice it up with drawings for free rounds of tennis or golf.
  • When it comes to business travel, tighten the purse strings. For example, examine the different costs of allowing traveling employees to rent vehicles versus reimbursing them for mileage.
  • Trim conference costs by attending seminars close to home. Many outfits that sponsor seminars offer them in numerous cities throughout the year. For that matter, think about attending webinars or video conferences rather than sending employees out on the road.
  • For long-term savings, solicit bids from travel agencies for discount package rates. Offer the agency your continued business in return for better bargains down the road. This may work well for big conventions. Don't pay the conference hotel rate until you've shopped around. And of course, surf the Internet for bargain rates.

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