With tax season officially underway, Cruise Planners – American Express Travel has rounded up a list of tips and common tax deductions for home-based travel agents and other self-employed individuals.
“The main thing to consider is reducing taxable income by claiming legitimate taxable deductions and business expenses,” said Cruise Planners CFO Tom Kruszewski. “When someone owns a franchise, they are their own boss, can work from home and gain financial independence and their tax benefits should reflect that.”
Here are the top areas agents should watch out for:
Franchise Business Investment: When investing in a franchise the initial franchise fee is placed on the books as a business asset and is then amortized over time for tax purposes.
Home Office: Any work space in the home that is the primary business location and one exclusively used for business can be deducted as a home office expense. Most Cruise Planners agents work from home and the expense is the percent of the home used exclusively for business multiplied by certain home expenses including mortgage/rent, electricity, etc.
Health Insurance Premiums: Nearly everyone who is self-employed, pays for their own health insurance premiums, and were not eligible to participate in a plan through their spouse’s employer, can deduct their health, dental and long-term care insurance premiums.
Meals and Entertainment: Meals and entertainment are 50 percent deductible and include tickets to a sporting event, the cost of a meal with a perspective new travel client (with beverages, tax and tip), or the cost of a game of golf. Be sure to keep meticulous records of the business activities conducted as well as when, with whom, and how it directly relates to the entertainment expense. Keep all business-related receipts.
Travel: For travel agents, all overnight travel for business purposes could be tax deductible as long as there is a specific business purpose planned. Examples include meeting with a resort’s sales team, attending a Seminar at Sea to learn about a new cruise ship, or attending Cruise Planners regional training’s to learn about selling to clients.
Travel Trade Publications and Organizations: The cost of specialized travel magazines and travel books as well as professional affiliations such as with Cruise Lines International Association, National Association of Career Travel Agents, etc. that are directly related to business matters are tax deductible.
Internet and Phone: Being a Cruise Planners franchisee requires a lot of relationship building, which may be over the phone or online. Regardless of whether the home office deduction is claimed, business owners can deduct a second telephone line, fax and internet expenses used exclusively for the business. It is also a good idea to work with an accountant to confirm what percent of each bill can be claimed for business and what percent is for personal use.
Interest on Business Credit Card: When it comes to making business purchases on a business credit card and incurring interest, this credit card interest is tax deductible. While it is not ideal to incur interest, this is a tax deduction.
Car and Mileage: When a personal car is used for local business trips such as meeting a client for lunch or a cup of coffee, the vehicle expenses for those trips are tax deductible. The easiest way is to keep excellent records and deduct the standard mileage rate which is currently $.56 per mile.
Regardless of individual deductions be sure to keep complete and accurate records, save receipts and seek professional help with tax returns from a tax professional or CPA, Amex said. This list serves simply as a guide to get people thinking about the tax benefits they may qualify for. Consulting a professional is always recommended.