A Business Expense – or Not?

Dear DW,
What expenses can I charge to my company on a business trip?
Signed, Watching My Wallet

Dear Watching,

If your company has an employee handbook, check it before you go. If it doesn’t answer your questions, here’s what you need to know.

According to the IRS, deductible business expenses—those your employer can legitimately claim and you can charge—include the following:
– Travel by airplane, train, bus, or car between your home and business destination
– Fares for taxis or other transportation to and from work destinations
– Use of your car
– Meals and lodging
– Tips for services related to these expenses
– Dry cleaning and laundry
– Business calls
– Other similar ordinary and necessary expenses related to business travel

So does that last category include separate WiFi fees at the hotel or airport? Or extra baggage charges, hotel fitness center fees, cell phone overage charges, or a movie on the plane? And how about one of those airport massages when you’re stuck at O’Hare?

“The rule of thumb is that if an expense would have been an expense when at home, then it probably will be when away on business,” says John Blecka, a CPA based in Larkspur, California.

That means WiFi, baggage, and cell charges are generally okay. The movie, fitness fees, and massage?
Alas, no.

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