Some initial observations from Tax Forum 2014 in Orlando
IRS Orlando tax forum day 2: Health care, humor and tunes

Be tax smart in combining business and personal travel

I'm on a business trip this week in Orlando, attending the Internal Revenue Service's final Nationwide Tax Forum of 2014.

Family at amusement park_485x340The hubby and I have been here many times on pleasure travel. You're right, we have no kids, but we're kids at heart. What can I say; I loved the Pirates of the Caribbean ride long before Johnny Depp created Capt. Jack Sparrow.

We talked about tacking on a few days to this Sunshine State visit to see how Mickey and Harry Potter have held up since we moved from the state in 2005.

But after much consideration, the hubby stayed home. He's already been on two business trips this month, so he's a bit tired of living out of a suitcase.

Plus, if we were going to combine business and personal travel, we would have done so when he went to Las Vegas last week.

Tax smart business/personal travel: We have in the past turned his or my work trips into mini vacations.

And despite my fixation with the Internal Revenue Code, tax breaks weren't the primary motivators in those cases. But that didn't stop us from taking advantage of the tax code's savings.

As this week's Weekly Tax Tip details, when you carefully combine business and personal travels, Uncle Sam will pick up the work part of the tab.

The key to claiming expenses in these dual purpose travels is to make sure that the main reason -- and bulk of the time spent away from your home -- if for work.

Business travel and associated expenses (lodging, conference fees, etc.) are deductible when they are ordinary and necessary costs to benefit and/or advance your business.

If the qualifying business destination also just happens to be a popular tourist destination that's also home to some of the world's top attractions for kids (of all ages), then by all means bring the family along.

Just make sure the spouse and kiddos know that you'll be spending more time at your conference than you'll be spending with them at the amusement parks. This will make it clear to the IRS that you did go to, say, Orlando primarily for business.

Sharing, and splitting, travel and lodging: Since you're going for work, then your travel costs to and from the destination, as well as your lodging costs on the days you conducted business, are legitimate expenses.

That means you'll be personally footing the bills only for your family's expenditures.

This is particularly nice when you can drive to an out-of-town business meeting. You can write off all the automotive costs to and from the conference. It's OK with the IRS that your family hitched a ride since you were driving there anyway to do work.

If you fly, your airplane tickets are deductible business expenses, but your family's travel is a personal cost. Still, writing off one ticket could save you enough to cover all the mementos you'll pick up during the personal part of your travel.

Document, document, document: As always with all things tax, keep thorough records of the business costs so you can properly claim them on your tax return.

The documentation also will come in handy in case the IRS has any questions about your time in the region that's home to the House of the Mouse.

And when your business is done, enjoy your extra free days!

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