Are you planning a business trip overseas and are wondering about tax deductions? As a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) firm, we’ve got you covered! Let’s dive into the tax rules for foreign business travel.
Tax Deductions for Overseas Business Trips
If your trip out of the country is entirely for business purposes, you can deduct:
- All travel costs
- Meals (at 50%)
- Some incidental costs (like laundry and dry cleaning)
One Week Tax Rule for Foreign Business Travel
If your business trip requires a passport and lasts for a week or less, then your travel expenses are 100% deductible, including transportation costs and daily out-of-pocket living expenses for business days (50% limitation on meals).
A week for this purpose means seven consecutive days, not counting the day of departure, but counting the day of return.
25% Rule: Mostly Business
If your business trip is longer than a week, you can deduct your travel expenses if the personal days make up less than 25% of the total days spent on the trip.
For this purpose, the total days of the trip include the day of departure and the day of return.
What tax rules count as business days:
- If business is conducted for a part of the day, it’s counted as a business day
- Days spent traveling to or from a business destination
- Weekend days or holidays falling between two business days.
Example: Tax Deductions for Foreign Business Travel
Let’s say you’re like Andrew and you fly to Paris on a Monday primarily for business reasons. You spend Tuesday and Wednesday vacationing. Then you spend Thursday, Friday, and the following Monday – Thursday on business before flying home Friday.
Counting the days of return and departure, it’s a 12 day trip. Only the first Tuesday and Wednesday are nonbusiness days. Thus, less than 25% of the trip is personal (two personal days of 12 total trip days).
All of the travel costs, meals (at 50%), and lodging for the business days are deductible, but the meals and lodging costs for the two vacation days are not.
If you don’t meet the one week or 25% rule, you may still be able to deduct all of the travel costs if you can show that the chance to take a vacation was not a major consideration for the trip. Of course, the larger the vacation portion, the more difficult it will be to make your case.
Example: Partial Business and Personal Travel Over a Week
Now, if your trip is primarily but not entirely for business, the rules get more complex.
If your trip doesn’t meet the one week rule or the 25% rule, the costs allocable to the personal (vacation) part of the trip cannot be deducted.
For example, if the trip covers 10 days—four personal and six business—meals, lodging, etc. are only deductible for the business days. Furthermore, only 60% of the travel costs (airfare, etc.) are deductible, reflecting the fact that only 60% of the days of the trip were business days.
Primarily Personal Business Trip
If the trip is primarily personal, none of the costs of travel to and from the destination are deductible, even if some time is spent on business. Lodging, meals, etc. would be deductible for the business days.
That’s it for the tax rules for foreign business travel. Always consult with a CPA to ensure you’re following the IRS guidelines and maximizing your tax deductions.
If you have questions, reach out to us at 314-961-1600 or contact us to discuss your situation.
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Alan Dierker is a Tax Manager with experience in tax, outsourced controller services, including fulfilling compilation and preparation agreements, payroll and compliance issues. He also has experience in the following industries: Wholesale Distribution, Private Foundations, Not-for-Profit and Real Estate.
About Smith Patrick CPAs
Smith Patrick CPAs is a boutique, St. Louis-based, CPA firm dedicated to providing personal guidance on taxes, investment advice and financial service to forward-thinking businesses and financially active individuals. For over 30 years, our firm has focused on providing excellent service to business owners and high-net worth families across the country. Investment Advisory Services are offered through Wealth Management, LLC, a Registered Investment Advisor.