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Gimme A Break

Don't forget last-minute travel tax savings.

Sometimes the rewards of business travel seem few and far between. There's the ever-present benefit of accumulating frequent-flier miles, the occasional free trip, and maybe an upgraded hotel room from time to time. But one place most business owners who travel regularly don't look for a dividend is on their tax returns, according to Jeff Schnepper, author of How to Pay Zero Taxes (McGraw-Hill). "There are a lot of things that get overlooked," he notes.

Such as? Perhaps the single most glossed-over deduction, says Schnepper, is your car. Or, more precisely, your cars. Many entrepreneurs will deduct only one of the personal automobiles they use for business travel, even though they may use a second one for work as well. Schnepper says it may be more cost-effective to write off a percentage of one car and a percentage of another instead of basing your deduction on one car only. The government also allows you to deduct depreciation and numerous other expenses, such as maintenance costs or even the price of an audio entertainment system, in certain cases.

Other travel deductions include:

  • The cost of a working vacation, as long as the primary reason for the visit was business.
  • Meals and entertainment--not just for a client but for anyone who is a potential client or who's going to refer you to a client.
  • A home office. Don't forget temporary offices in vacation homes or condominiums--anywhere you may have worked.

Christopher Elliott is a writer in Los Angeles and a columnist for "ABC News Online."

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Christopher Elliott is an Orlando, Fla., writer and independent producer who specializes in technology, travel and mobile computing. His work has appeared in numerous newspapers, magazines and online. You can find out more about him on his website or sign up for his free weekly newsletter.

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This article was originally published in the December 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Gimme A Break.

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