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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."
Need A Lift?
Business travelers hit the slopes.
The sight of the snow-capped Rockies or Sierras beckoning from a distance is proving too much for corporate travelers to resist. After a long business trip, a growing number of entrepreneurs are heading for the hills for a snow-packed vacation to take advantage of cheaper airfares that mandate a Saturday-night stayover.
According to the National Ski Areas Association, Alpine resort visits during the 1997-98 season increased by about 3 percent to an estimated 54.1 million. Ski resorts such as Colorado's Breckenridge and Keystone--each just over an hour away from Denver--are courting corporate travelers with ski-free/stay-free packages and other off-season specials.
Even big-city hotels are getting in on the act. At the Broadmoor hotel, an upscale 700-room property in Colorado Springs, Colorado, "There are people who stay here for a few days on business and then go to the mountains for the weekend," says Broadmoor's Mark Klein. The hotel's concierge staff can help guests find transportation, ski equipment and even a good slope-side restaurant.
Day-trippers should expect to spend anywhere from $70 to $100 per day for transportation, meals, rentals and lift tickets, while business travelers who want to make a weekend of it should factor in lodging costs as well, which can run anywhere from $90 to more than $200 per night.
- CalendarDirect, a new feature from Biztravel.com that allows frequent travelers to download their travel itineraries onto their electronic calendars or personal information managers, is available at no cost to members who purchase a ticket from the company's site (http://www.biztravel.com).
- The Royal Sonesta Hotel Boston has installed what's believed to be the first speech-driven automated telephone attendant in the hospitality industry. Called Pure ReQuest, it allows callers to be transferred to any guest, staff member or hotel department simply by saying the name. It's expected to significantly cut the amount of time callers spend on hold.
- Starting December 5, Midwest Express Airlines is adding nonstop weekend service between Omaha, Nebraska, and Orlando, Florida. The new service is an addition to the carrier's daily connecting service to and from Orlando via Milwaukee.
The Broadmoor Hotel, 1 Lake Ave., Colorado Springs, CO 80906, (719) 577-5777
Investor.Com, 224 Mimosa Dr., Cherry Hill, NJ 08003-1344, (609) 424-5372
Midwest Express, http://www.midwestexpress.com
Royal Sonesta Hotel Boston, (617) 806-4082, email@example.com