Hi, I’m Bette Hochberger, CPA, CGMA. For today’s Finance Friday, I will discuss what business expenses can and cannot be deducted.

Running a business involves a large amount of expenses, from office supplies to travel costs, and understanding which expenses can be deducted is important for optimizing your tax strategy.

So, let’s go ahead and jump into what expenses can and cannot be deducted, and how this will help you make informed decisions and maximize your deductions while staying compliant with tax regulations.

Understanding Business Expense Deductions

Ordinary and Necessary Rule

The foundation of deductible business expenses lies in the concept of being “ordinary and necessary.” An expense is considered ordinary if it is common and accepted in your industry. It’s necessary if it’s helpful and appropriate for your business operations. Expenses that meet these criteria are typically deductible.

Types of Deductible Expenses

Operating Expenses: These are the costs associated with the day-to-day running of your business. This category includes rent, utilities, office supplies, and employee salaries.

Travel Expenses: When you travel for business purposes, expenses such as airfare, lodging, meals, and transportation can be deductible. However, there are limitations and documentation requirements to consider.

Business Meals and Entertainment: You can generally deduct 50% of the cost of business-related meals and entertainment, as long as they are directly associated with the active conduct of your business and not extravagant.

Home Office Expenses: If you have a dedicated space in your home used exclusively and regularly for your business, you may be eligible for a home office deduction. This can cover a portion of your rent/mortgage, utilities, and more.

Depreciation: Business assets with a useful life of more than a year, such as equipment and vehicles, can be depreciated over time. This allows you to deduct a portion of the cost each year as the asset loses value.

Interest and Taxes: Interest on business loans, property taxes, and state and local taxes are often deductible.

Expenses That Cannot Be Deducted

Personal Expenses: It’s important to draw a clear line between business and personal expenses. Personal expenses like clothing, groceries, and personal vacations cannot be deducted.

Capital Expenses: Costs associated with improving your business’s assets beyond their original condition are considered capital expenses. While not immediately deductible, these expenses are typically recovered through depreciation or amortization over time.

Illegal Activities: Expenses related to illegal activities, such as fines and penalties for breaking the law, are not deductible.

Best Practices for Navigating Business Expenses

Keep Detailed Records: Maintain organized and accurate records of all your expenses. This includes receipts, invoices, and any other relevant documentation.

Consult a Professional: Tax laws and regulations can be complex and subject to change. Consulting with a CPA or tax professional ensures you’re making the most of your deductions while staying compliant.

Separate Business and Personal Finances: Maintain separate bank accounts and credit cards for your business to avoid commingling funds and making your record keeping easier.

Stay Informed: Stay up-to-date with the latest tax laws and regulations that pertain to your industry. Tax codes can change, and being aware of these changes will help you make informed decisions.

I hope you all learned something new today. As always, stay safe, and I will see you next time!