I emailed the client, a public school administrator, and asked for more specific information regarding the trips – i.e. purpose of the trip (i.e. convention or conference), the number of days away from home, and a break-down of the expenses (i.e. registration, hotel, airfare, taxis, meals, etc).
It turned out that one of the trips was to a conference for her college sorority, an education-related organization that also does charitable work. I told the client that whether or not she could deduct the expenses, and where they would be deducted on Schedule A, would depend on the “facts and circumstances”.
Here are the rules regarding attending conferences and conventions –
(1) Business Expense:
You can deduct the cost of travel to attend a business, professional or trade conference, convention or meeting only if it is an “ordinary and necessary” business expense. There must be a true relationship between the event and your trade or business and your attendance must benefit your business.
Employee business expenses, net any reimbursement from your employer, are deducted as a “miscellaneous expense” on Schedule A subject to the 2% of Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) exclusion. Only that amount of the total of all miscellaneous job, investment and tax preparation expenses that exceeds 2% of AGI can be deducted. If your total allowable expenses do not exceed 2% of AGI you get no tax deduction.
(2) Charitable Contribution:
According to IRS Publication 526 (Charitable Contributions) –
“Although you cannot deduct the value of your services given to a qualified organization, you may be able to deduct some amounts you pay in giving services to a qualified organization. The amounts must be:
· Directly connected with the services,
· Expenses you had only because of the services you gave, and
· Not personal, living, or family expenses.
If you are a chosen representative attending a convention of a qualified organization, you can deduct unreimbursed expenses for travel and transportation, including a reasonable amount for meals and lodging, while away from home overnight in connection with the convention.
You cannot deduct your expenses in attending a church convention if you go only as a member of your church rather than as a chosen representative. You can deduct unreimbursed expenses that are directly connected with giving services for your church during the convention.”
Allowable expenses connected with attending the conference of a charity as a “chosen representative” are deducted as a charitable contribution on Schedule A. There is no % of AGI exclusion.
In either case (business or charity) you cannot deduct personal expenses for sightseeing, fishing parties, theater tickets, or nightclubs. You also cannot deduct travel, meals and lodging, and other expenses for your spouse or children.
If the conference or convention is for political or social purposes that don’t relate to your business, the expenses are not deductible.