10 SNJ Business People WE TOLD YOU SO…WE TOLD YOU SO By Martin Abo, Abo and Company, LLC First, let’s see what the U.S. Tax Court just said no-no to the IRS in its June 26, 2017 decision. Under the facts of the case, the owners of the Boston Bruins, Jeremy and Margaret Jacobs, contracted with hotels to provide pregame meals to the players and team personnel while they were at hotels for games away from home. During the meals, which were provided in designated rooms of the hotel, the team discussed game strategy and reviewed game film, and the PR staff discussed anticipated media inquiries. The owners deducted 100% of the meals while the IRS substantially disallowed the meals, determining that the cost of the meals was subject to the 50% limitation for business meals and entertainment we all know about. Well, the Tax Court disagreed with the IRS, concluding that the costs qualified as de minimis fringe benefits because they met one of the permitted exceptions and were, therefore, fully deductible, rather than being subject to the 50% limitation. Now for the “We told You So” from our December 2015 Tip of The Month… Most of Abo and Company's business owner or independent contractor clients are aware of the tax rule that disallows 50% of their otherwise allowable deductions for business meals. This provision normally applies regardless of the reason for the expense -from taking clients out to dinner to paying for your meals while trip, are a favorite target of IRS traveling away from home. What is auditors and you'll have to prove not nearly as widely known is that that the spouse had a legitimate there are several exceptions to this business purpose to deduct many 50% disallowance rule. When one of the expenses. However, this of these exceptions applies, you would not be true with respect to generally get a 100% deduction for costs that would have been incurred the business meal regardless of expenses -which whether your might just make spouse came along even a good meal or not. Thus, the taste that much cost of a rental better. car would be How about if fully deductible. we were to say Similarly, the that 100% of the single person last employee occupancy holiday party your cost of a hotel business sprung room would be for is deductible? deductible. (Often Yep, employers can this is identical or deduct the full cost just slightly less of providing food that when two and beverages at people occupy Martin Abo, Abo and Company, LLC recreational, social, the room.) Also, or entertainment consider paying gatherings primarily for the benefit for and deducting the cost of a of rank and file employees (as single airline ticket for yourself, opposed to highly compensated and utilizing frequent flier miles to employees). Examples also include purchase a ticket for your spouse. company outings, banquets, or Finally, if business associates invite other gathering for employees and their spouses to meals, you should their guests (even if you forgot be eligible to deduct the cost for to invite your favorite accounting yourself and your spouse with firm...maybe next year). respect to those meals. Also, many of our clients just The virtually endless numbers returned from a Fourth of July of items that can be "business trip which, if merely a personal expenses" always make it difficult vacation, is clearly not deductible. to list each one for you as well as Still, it did remind us to alert you separate expenses that serve a bona that costs covering a spouse, who fide business purpose from those accompanies you on a business that do not. Expenditures like these are usually "fact sensitive" and, therefore, such generalized advice should obviously be accompanied by our favorite piece of advice. That is, you really need to confer with your tax advisor for applicability and competent professional advice (hopefully that's Abo and Company). Soooo...here's a quick rundown of other major exceptions to the 50% disallowance of business meals rules: The Office Coffee Bar. Employers can deduct 100% of the cost of providing employees with free coffee, soft drinks, donuts, or similar snacks or beverages to be consumed on the business premises. Meals Served on the Employer's Premises. In the right circumstances (which can be fairly difficult to meet), an employer may provide employees with meals at work and claim a full deduction (without the employees having to report the value of the meals in their income). The key is the meals have to be provided (a) for a valid business reason, (b) on or near your businesses premises, and (c) primarily for the convenience of the employer (rather than merely as an added fringe benefit for employees). Items Available to the Public. Expenses incurred for meals available to the general public are 100% deductible. Examples include free food at concerts hosted by a shopping mall, free dinners for potential restaurant customers, free hot dogs at a car dealership promotion, free wine and food at an exhibition sponsored by a liquor dealer, and free cookies furnished by a realtor at an open house. Amounts Billed to Clients. When services are provided as an independent contractor, the service provider can deduct 100% of job-related meal expenses by billing the client separately for these costs. (Obviously this isn't always practical.) The client is then stuck with the 50% disallowance rule. If separate billing doesn't occur, the 50% disallowance rule applies to the service provider. For example, many of our attorney clients adequately account for meal and entertainment expenses to a client who reimburses them for these expenses. They are not subject to the directly-related or associated test, nor are they subject to the 50% limit. If the client can deduct the expenses, that client is subject to the 50% limit. Employee's reimbursed expenses. If you are an employee, you are not subject to the 50% limit on expenses for which your employer reimburses you under an accountable plan. Similar to the above, the employer can deduct the expenses although it is subject to the 50% limit. Sale of meals or entertainment. You are not subject to the 50% limit if you actually sell meals, entertainment, goods and services, or use of facilities to the public. For example, if you run a nightclub, your expense for the entertainment you furnish to your customers, such as a floor show, is not subject to the 50% limit. Charity Sporting Event. The allowable deduction for the cost of a ticket to a qualifying charity sporting event isn't reduced by the 50% meal disallowance rule even when meals are included. The ticket package must include admission to the event, but it can also include meals and refreshments. To qualify, the charitable event must give 100% of its net proceeds to a charity and use volunteers to do almost all the work. The classic example is a charity golf tournament with a meal included in the deal. Hours of Service Limitations. In lieu of the regular 50% disallowance, individuals whose work is subject to the hours of service limitations of the Department of Transportation (e.g., interstate truck drivers, certain air transportation employees, certain railroad employees) can deduct 80% of their business food and beverage expenses. As you can see, there are enough exceptions to the 50% disallowance rule that most businesses can meet at least one, if not more of them. To the extent your business qualifies for any of them, it's important that the qualifying expenses be tracked separately (typically by charging them to a separate account in your accounting records) so that a full deduction can be claimed. This article is provided by Abo and Company, LLC, Certified Public Accountants, for their clients, advisors and other interested persons. Since technical information is presented in a generalized fashion, the communication is not meant to replace the need for competent professional advice and the reader should understand that the information contained in or made available through this communication is not intended to be a substitute for the services of trained professionals in any field. As such, the reader should evaluate and bear all risks associated with the use of any comments, including any reliance on the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of such content. Any tax advice that may be contained in this communication, (including attachments) is not intended or written to be used, nor can be used, by any recipient of this communication for the purpose of (i)avoiding penalties that might be imposed pursuant to the Internal Revenue Code or U.S. Treasury Regulations, or applicable state or local law or regulation or (ii) promoting, marketing or recommending to another party any tax-related matters addressed herein.