What You Need To Know About Vacation Tax Deductions

Going away for Spring break? Your travel plans might be starting for the year so make sure you know if you’re able to turn that trip into a tax deduction.

Perhaps the easiest way to claim a tax break on a vacation is by attending a seminar or conference related to your current profession.

Work activities you can write off for taxes can include:

  • seminars and conferences
  • meeting a potential client or business partner
  • or doing research in your field.

This is a win-win as you’re improving yourself while enjoying the destination of your dreams. It’s necessary to spend four or more hours a day in professional development and you’ll also need records of attendance.

But that leaves 20 hours for surfing, sailing, and fun! Before leaving on your trip you must have at least one work-related engagement planned and set. This allows you to fulfill the IRS “prior set business purpose” rule.

If the primary purpose of your trip is work, then you can write off your travel costs.  When looking at travel expenses, airfare and driving are both covered. Airfare is covered for you but not family or friends who accompany you.  

However, if the destination is close enough to drive, then $0.50 a mile is allowed. When driving you may bring other passengers with you and the mileage is still deductible.  Days spent traveling are counted as work days as well.

Lodging stays for the work days are also tax deductible.  As an added bonus, bookending the weekend between Friday and Monday work days allows for the lodging and food expenses accrued over the weekend to be covered.

Reimbursement is allowed for you only. If a second room or room with additional beds are required to house your family, you will only be reimbursed at the rate for a single room.  

Your personal meals are deductible at 50%, but if you bring the family on the trip their meals aren’t included. With the exception of lodging, receipts are not required for expenses less than $75.  

However, documentation, such as a travel diary, will be needed to claim the deduction. When in doubt, more is better to make sure you can claim your trip. The key is thorough documentation throughout the trip.  

Trips outside of the United States have some additional considerations, as do conventions. IRS Publication 463 contains additional details on deductible expenses on a work/play vacation.