Tax Deductions for Travel Book Author

This is the continuation of a previous post that looked at some of the basic rules for writer write-offs. One of the main issues the IRS looks at when it comes to business travel of any type is just how much of the trip was for business purposes. If the trip is defined as "entirely business related" you can deduct all of your travel expenses. If the trip was "primarily for business", you can deduct the business-related travel expenses, which includes the outlay for getting to the business destination. Based on the examples given in Publication 463, the deductions they allow in partial business circumstances seem both fair and logical.

On the other hand, if the trip was "primarily for personal reasons" you can't deduct any of the travel expenses, just the business specific expenses when you reach the location. I read this to mean if you go to your sister's wedding in Monaco and take a taxi to the casino so you can (maybe) use it in a scene for a novel you're thinking of writing, you might get away with deducting the cab fare. Keep in mind I'm not a tax professional and that isn't official advice. Your losses at the Baccarat table are your own.

The rules for business travel outside the U.S. are more detailed than the rules for travel inside the U.S., maybe because the IRS figures they aren't getting any benefit from the money you spend while you're gone. They list four exceptions for being able to declare a trip as "entirely for business" and deduct all of the expenses even if you don't spend all of your time doing business related stuff. The first exception is if you have no real control over the trip, which is pretty unlikely if you are an author writing a travel book to self publish. The second exception is if you spend less than a week outside the U.S. which is equally unlikely if you're writing a travel book. The third exception which allows you to deduct all of your travel expenses (and this is the biggee) is if you spend "less than 25% of your time on personal activities." The fourth exception is if (paraphrase) you can prove that it wasn't an excuse for a vacation, even if you were in control of the planning. I'd hate to get stuck in an argument with the IRS over the fourth exception - "I swear on a stack of Bibles I didn't have a good time!"

Further complicating the situation for third exception (I hope) and for travel that is "primarily for business" is that the IRS allows you to count weekends as business days, even if you spend them on non-business activities, providing you had to be there on both Friday and Monday for business. Does this mean that an author who goes to a foreign country and writes a travel book can deduct all of their business expenses as long as they work on the book every weekday? I really don't know, without weekends you'd fail the 25% rule. The IRS doesn't require you to sit and keep a running log of your activity, once a week is considered timely, but the closer to the expense you are deducting, the better. Of course, you need to save all receipts, cancelled checks, etc.

I'm going to try to contact an IRS specialist to talk about this, and I'm sure I'll be making another post on the subject.

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