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Are Conference and Seminar Expenses Tax Deductible? Part 1

September 19, 2022

Heading to a conference for work? You may be able to deduct certain expenses. Here’s what you should know.

The Tax Code allows you to deduct the cost of attending work-related conventions, conferences and seminars but your attendance at these functions must be related to your business and they must benefit your business activities. We dive into the requirements here.

Make sure it’s work related

The most important limitation on deducting convention and seminar expenses is that your attendance at the meeting will advance your business. The IRS requires you to show an income-producing purpose for your attendance.

For example, Alecia, a self-employed attorney from Atlanta, attends a convention about international tax law in New York. Alecia does not practice international tax law, nor does she have any clients in that field. Even though the convention is law-related, Alecia cannot show any actual business benefit that results from her attending the convention. Her convention expenses are not proper deductions.

What are eligible expenses?

Convention expenses include:

  • Registration and attendance fees;
  • Air and rail fare;
  • Taxi and other local transport;
  • Toll telephone calls and computer rentals;
  • Accommodation; and
  • Fifty-percent of the cost of meals (100% for food and beverage expenses provided by a restaurant paid or incurred in 2021 and 2022).

Deductible travel expenses include those incurred attending a convention related to the taxpayer's business. Expenses for a convention or meeting in connection with investments, financial planning, or other income-producing property are not deductible.

Recordkeeping Reminder

Remember to keep detailed records and a daily log of convention expenses.

What about a spouse’s expenses? Are those deductible?

Convention and meeting expenses incurred on behalf of your spouse or dependent are deductible if your spouse or dependent is your employee and he or she has a legitimate business purpose for traveling with you. Your business associates are treated slightly differently. Expenses incurred by your business associates, such as your customers, clients, suppliers, agents, partners, or professional advisors, are deductible if they too have a legitimate business purpose for traveling with you.

What about combined business/pleasure meetings?

Combined business/pleasure meetings take special consideration. You may deduct only those costs associated with the business portion of the convention. If no significant business activities take place during the time allotted for the meeting, for example, videotaped presentations are given to you to watch at your convenience, the convention is personal travel and no deductions can be taken.

Stay tuned for part two, where we cover events held outside North America.

Questions? Contact us.

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