Tax Tips For Road Trips

Owners of small and mid-sized businesses may be tempted to cut back on attending conventions and trade shows until the economy improves. Keep in mind, however, that many expenses from such trips are tax deductible, even if you don’t land any new business at the show. Some examples:

- Transportation to your destination by airplane, train, bus, or other means; transportation from airport or station to your hotel; and from your hotel to the convention center.

- Meals and lodging if you’re away from home long enough to need sleep or rest. (Please, no jokes about boring convention speakers.) The business-meal deduction remains at 50 percent for 2002. If you’d rather take a standard deduction for meals and expenses, see IRS publication 463.

- If you’re showing your wares at a trade show, you can deduct shipping costs for sending samples and display materials between the home office and the meeting site.

- You don’t have to run a booth or give a speech to deduct trade show and convention expenses, but be prepared to show how attendance benefited your business. If you’re in the furniture business and try to write off attendance at a Star Trek convention, you may need a photo of Mr. Spock in a Barcalounger to satisfy the taxman.

- One other caveat: Mixing too much pleasure with business can draw the eyes of IRS auditors. If you take in a post-workday ballgame or a play, that’s a non-business expense (unless you take a client or potential client along). As always, keep good records for backup in case you’re challenged down the road.

For details on business tax deductions, see the FAQ file at