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Tax Newsletter

Entertainment and Meals: The 50% Rule and Exceptions

In most cases, you can deduct no more than 50% of certain unreimbursed business-related meals and entertainment expenses on your income tax return. This limit applies to employees or their employers, and to the self-employed.

Exceptions

However, you may be able to deduct more than 50% of an expense if it meets one of the following exceptions:

  • Your employer reimburses you for the expense under an accountable plan
  • Your business entails the sales of meals or a form of entertainment
  • The expense is for a charitable sporting event
  • The expense is for advertising
  • You are self-employed

Self-Employment

If you are self-employed, you may be exempt from the 50% limit if:

  • Your expenses are because you are an independent contractor
  • Your client reimburses you for your expenses
  • You provide adequate records of these expenses to your customer or client

You must meet all three of these requirements in order to be exempt from the 50% limit rule.

Entertainment Tickets

Usually, you cannot deduct more than the face value of a ticket that you claim as an entertainment expense. You cannot deduct service fees or any amount over the face value that you may have paid a scalper.

However, if the ticket is for a sports event that benefits a charitable organization, you may consider the full cost of the ticket, even if it is more than face value, if:

  • The event’s main purpose is to benefit a qualified charitable organization
  • Entire net proceeds go to the charity
  • The event uses volunteers to perform substantially all the event’s work
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