Whether you’re traveling for business or pleasure, it can be difficult to figure out which of your expenses are tax deductible. The rules can be confusing and vary depending on what type of trip you take and how long you stay away from home. To help keep things simple — and to help you make sure you get the most bang for your buck when it comes time to file that next return — we’ve put together a list of questions and answers about tax deductions for travel expenses.
What are the rules around using a travel agent?
Using travel agents is commonplace, but are you really getting the best deal?
Travel agents can help you save money on travel. They know the best flights, hotels and car rentals to book through them. They also have access to exclusive discounts only available through a specific agency. If you don’t have time to do all of your own research and plan everything out yourself, then using a travel agent may make sense for you!
What’s the IRS’s policy on travel expenses?
The Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) policy on travel expenses is relatively simple. If you are away from home overnight for business reasons, you can deduct the cost of things like airfare and car rental fees. If you’re on vacation or for medical reasons, you can also deduct those costs.
If you’re self-employed, you can deduct any travel expenses that are “ordinary and necessary” for your business. This includes things like airfare, hotels, and transportation. However, it does not include personal expenses, like meals or entertainment.
If you’re an employee, you can only deduct travel expenses if they are “unreimbursed” and “necessary.” This means that your employer did not reimburse you for the expenses, and that the expenses were necessary for your job. For example, if you had to travel for work and your employer did not reimburse you for your airfare, you could deduct that expense.
What do I do if I have questions about travel expenses?
If you have questions about your travel expenses, the IRS website is a good place to start. It’s also a good idea to contact a tax professional if you want to make sure that something is or isn’t deductible. The IRS can help answer more specific questions about your situation as well.
Your travel expenses may be tax deductible, as long as you keep good records.
To deduct travel expenses, you must meet the IRS’s strict rules. These include:
- Keeping receipts and other records of your expenses. (See below for more on recordkeeping.)
- Traveling for a business purpose only, not just pleasure or visiting family and friends.
- Being away from home overnight unless you’re making what the IRS calls “substantial sleepaway-from-home” exceptions—which is to say, traveling at least 50 miles from home or staying overnight at least one night away from your primary residence (for example, if you do most of your work at home). Some people can stay with relatives or friends instead of renting hotel rooms when they go on vacation; this would count as a “substantial sleepaway-from-home” exception since it involves being away from their primary residence for two nights in a row.
- Using an automobile rather than public transportation to get around during their trip—or even driving themselves if they’re able to drive themselves instead of taking taxis or rideshares to save money! If so, keep track of how many miles you drove by writing down odometer readings before you left home and then again after returning home; add these together along with any fuel costs incurred during travel time periods (you’ll need separate records if using more than one vehicle).
If you’re planning a vacation or business trip this year, keep the rules for travel expenses in mind. It may be worth it to hire a professional to help organize your itinerary and keep track of receipts and estimates. If that sounds like too much work, remember that keeping good records will save you time later on when it comes time to file your taxes.