Is Attending Conferences Tax-Deductible?

Business people at a conference.
Image Credit: David De Lossy/Photodisc/Getty Images

The Internal Revenue Service allows you to deduct ordinary and normal expenses when you're traveling for business. Conferences fall into that category if they serve a legitimate business purpose and are directly related to your profession. While the registration fees of such conferences are deductible, the deductibility of your plane flights, hotel room, car rental and meals depends on such things as how long you're staying and how extravagant they are.

Business or Pleasure?

To deduct the cost of traveling to a conference, the primary purpose of the trip has to be business rather than pleasure. There's no hard-and-fast rule that separates the two, but one factor is the amount of time the conference takes up in relation to the duration of your trip. If you spend 10 days in Hawaii with your spouse and attend a four-day conference during that period, your travel expenses would not be deductible. If you stayed just six days, however, the primary purpose of the trip would remain business even with the two personal days added. The IRS might also question the deduction if there was a similar conference closer to your home that you could have attended instead. Travel expenses for your family are not deductible. Half of your meal expenses are deductible as long as they are not lavish.

Claiming the Deductions

If you're self-employed, you can deduct the cost of a qualifying conference from your income when determining your tax burden. If you're an employee and your costs aren't reimbursed, your benefit may be more limited. You can deduct unreimbursed business expenses only to the extent that they exceed 2 percent of your adjusted gross income.

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