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Can You Deduct the Cost of Tickets?

A business is permitted to deduct the ordinary and necessary expenses it incurs for carrying on the business.  Is it possible to write off the cost of tickets to a sporting event?  The short answer is yes, but certain conditions must be met. This is an area that is often challenged by the IRS.  Proper documentation and some planning ahead of time can make it much easier to prove the eligibility of the expense upon examination.

The first condition to make the tickets deductible is that the event be directly related to the conduct of business.  This means that you must actively engage in a business meeting, negotiation, discussion, or other bona fide business transaction during the event.  This is not the most difficult condition to meet, and the IRS realizes that so there are two other requirements to meet.  First, tickets cannot be provided to an existing or prospective client without a company representative being present.  Without a representative of the company, the tickets are considered a gift which is only deductible up to $25 per person per year.  Second, the environment must be suitable for conducting business. Substantial distractions can lead the IRS to determine that no business transactions could be conducted there.  It can be debated otherwise, but this generally means that general admission tickets do not qualify.  The noise and distraction of the crowd are not favorable to business being conducted.  It is recommended that you use a more secluded section, such as a suite.  No matter which tickets are purchased you need to document which business transactions occurred before, during, and/or after the event.

The cost of a luxury suite is limited to the face value of tickets for non-luxury seats.  You can use the highest priced non-luxury seats that are available to the general public in figuring the amount that is deductible.  Any amount above this price level is not deductible.  Most suite rentals have additional components, other than the cost of the ticket, including advertising, food and beverage, and other fees for use of the suite.  You can work with the venue to determine amounts for each.

The amount recognized for the tickets and food and beverage are subject to a 50% limit.  This is generally applied to all business meals and entertainment expenses.  Any amount determined to be advertising is fully deductible as a business expense.  Generally, any other costs are considered non-deductible.

Businesses regularly take clients to sporting events to develop new or existing relationships.  Start a conversation with your tax advisor to determine the possible tax deduction for sporting event tickets.

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