Can I Deduct Airfare to a Conference on My Individual Tax Return?

by Wilhelm Schnotz

    As any traveling businessman can tell you, being on the road is rarely glamorous. While a professional conference may be little more than an opportunity for you to network with other members of your profession amid presentations and workshops, there’s a silver lining to the affair: it might net you a tax deduction for the airfare to and from the conference.

    The Internal Revenue Service allows you to claim airfare to a conference – or the cost of airline tickets anywhere you travel for business – as long as you’re travelling for business purposes to an area outside where you typically perform your job. Your trip to the conference must be ordinary and necessary to your line of work – a plumber can’t claim costs for a trip to a conference for veterinarians, for example. You must pay for the airfare yourself, and not be reimbursed by your employer.

    Don’t stop your deductions at the price of your plane ticket. Many other expenses you incur while at a conference may qualify as business travel deductions. You can also claim the cost of your lodging and meals, parking costs at the airport, the price of taxis or bus service, the cost of dry cleaning and laundry services, and any business communications such as telephone calls or faxes you make while traveling to a conference for business. Again, you must pay for these expenses using your own money, as the IRS doesn’t allow you to deduct expenses paid by your employer.

    In many cases, the cost of the conference itself may be claimed as a business expense. If your employer requires you to attend the conference or you’re required to attend because of regulatory oversight, the registration cost can be claimed as a deduction. You may also claim the cost of registration for the conference if it’s made to improve your skills in your current occupation; receiving training for a new occupation, though, doesn’t qualify for a deduction. The cost of materials, such as books, badges or other supplies necessary for the conference may also be claimed.

    While it’s easy to track the cost of airfare to and from the conference, you’ll need to keep careful track of other expenses while on the road if you wish to claim them. If possible, pay with a credit card, and then collect your receipts to organize and claim on your return. As with all other deductions, you’ll need to make more deductions than the standard deduction – $5,950 for individuals or $11,900 for married couples – to make itemizing a cost-effective decision.

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    About the Author

    Wilhelm Schnotz has worked as a freelance writer since 1998, covering arts and entertainment, culture and financial stories for a variety of consumer publications. His work has appeared in dozens of print titles, including "TV Guide" and "The Dallas Observer." Schnotz holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Colorado State University.

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