We all can easily associate winter with the celebration of holidays. For some people, it is the memory of airports and other adventuresome traveling that comes to mind. For many business owners and other professionals, work obligations are as crucial and demanding as ever. Business, as usual, must go on.
Whether you are a business owner or business traveler, here are 10 survival tips that will help you be prepared for whatever winter might bring.
Winterizing your vehicle- If you live in the northern part of the country, you probably already know it's important to get your vehicle winter-ready. If you use your vehicle for business, remember that your vehicle expenses are tax deductible on next year's income tax return (Schedule C). You can elect to take the standard mileage rate deduction, or you may choose to itemize your expense deductions (repairs, maintenance, fuel, etc.). Choose the one that provides the higher deduction.
Checking your closet for tax savings- Unreimbursed employee expenses are allowed as deductions on the personal income tax return (carried over from tax form Schedule A). One unreimbursed expense - that many people miss - allows for work clothing, which must be purchased and worn only for work.
Embroidered blazers, sweaters or jackets with your company logo are great investments for the winter traveler; you can promote your business wherever you go and create additional tax savings for your business. Don't forget- dry cleaning and laundry expenses are tax deductible, as well.
Utilizing your business phone and other communications- Your monthly cell phone bill is a tax expense (if used for business). Whether you are an entrepreneur or an employee, you may be able to deduct the monthly expense on your tax return. If your cell phone is also for personal use, it's still possible to count the percentage of business use as an expense. Keep in mind that business calls, business communications by fax or other communication devices are considered a tax deductible expense.
Keep Free Miles Personal- If you travel by airplane, train, or bus and you are provided with a ticket or you are riding free as a result of a frequent traveler or similar program, you cannot deduct a business expense on your tax return. Save your frequent flier miles and other promotional savings for personal trips or vacations. It is more beneficial to deduct the cost of traveling expenses as a business expense.
Planning your meals- For the business owner, meal expenses are deductible. For traveling employees, you may deduct your unreimbursed meal expenses up to a certain amount, usually 50%. Your expenses are accounted for on tax form 2106 or form 2106-EZ.
Having a back-up plan for your family- Whether you are a business owner or an employee required to travel for work, your family situation can be just as varying as your professional obligations. If you're business travel requires a longer stay than was intended, it's essential to have a contingency plan in place prior to traveling. Additionally, parents who pay daycare expenses are eligible for a tax credit. This deductions also includes adult care for those individuals who require home care services. Keep a record of your monthly expenses and ask your tax preparer for assistance in figuring out the credit amount.
Having a back-up plan for employees/business operations- In the event of an unexpected winter's jam, entrepreneurs may also have the added task of planning for the temporary sustainment of their business's operations in their absence. It's essential that your key employees are aware of the possibility of extended tasks and work hours. Those extra expenses might weigh heavy on your winter budget, but keep in mind payroll expenses are tax deductible.
Saving for winter- Entrepreneurs must have a budget that includes potential expenses related to winter weather. Whether it is a designated business expense credit card, or an actual cash account, make sure it is readily accessible when traveling in winter months. If you're accustomed to using a business credit card when traveling, remember that itemizing expenses on your credit card as an expense is an incorrect accounting method. Rather, expense your credit card purchases from the account that you use to pay your monthly credit card bill. Otherwise, you will be creating a double entry for your actual expenses, and this will cause you to have an inaccurate dollar amount for your business expenses.
Connecting the dots- Traveling means getting from point A to point B. Don't lose track of the expenses you incur in between these two points. Fares for taxis or other types of transportation between the airport or train station and your hotel are tax deductible. Additionally, costs associated with traveling between the hotel and the work location, and from one customer to another, or from one place of business to another are also deductible. You can also include transportation to and from a business meal.
Tipping and taxes- Tips you pay for services during travel are deductible as a travel expense. A great way to keep track of tip expenses is to designate a set amount of cash used for tips. This way, you can deduct any remaining amount after your trip from the original starting amount (and then record your total tip expense).
Saving money always makes for a happier trip. Enjoy the journey!