Equine Accounting: On the road again...deductible expenses from horse show travel

With show season behind us for most parts of the country, it's a good time to discuss which expenses which are incurred while you are showing "away from home" are deductible. This will help you when getting information together for your current year tax return as well as preparing for next season's expenses.
In general travel expenses are deductible if they are directly related to conducting your business. "Ordinary and necessary" (as defined by the IRS: an ordinary expense is an expense that is common or accepted in the taxpayer's trade or business; a necessary expense is one that is appropriate for the business) travel expenses such as transportation, lodging and incidental travel costs, such as laundry, tips etc. would be deductible if supported by documentation such as receipts. Be sure to document the business purpose of each expense.
The cost of meals consumed on a business trip are deductible, subject to a 50% limit. Again,only the ordinary and necessary costs of meals are deductible. Facts and circumstances dictate what is considered ordinary and necessary but keep in mind the ultimate determination is made by the IRS (if your are audited).
If you engage in both personal and business activities while on your trip, be sure to document in detail which costs are associated with your business. If you travel to a location for primarily personal purposes and while there, transact business, the costs of travelling to and from the location would NOT be deductible. But if you travel for primarily business purposes, then your costs of travelling to and from the location would be deductible. You would allocate the costs incurred while there between personal and business and only the business portion would be deductible. If your transportation costs for showing are significant, the tax savings of determining those costs to be deductible could b substantial.
If anyone else (including your spouse) accompanies you on your business trip, in order for those expenses to be deductible, the person accompanying you must work for your business, their presence must serve a bona fide business purpose and the costs would have been deductible had they been incurred by someone who was not accompanying you.
There MUST be a business purpose for showing, in order for the related expenses to be tax deductible. Don't rely on theory and generalities to prove your point to the IRS if you are audited. At every show, keep a record of who you coached, what potential clients you met, the sales horses you rode, etc. If you need to accumulate certain scores or ribbons in order to be certified as a judge/instructor/etc., document which shows and which classes you entered in order to fulfill your requirement. You can use this information not just in case of an audit but in planning for the same show next year, to send out marketing materials and to track fulfillment of any continuing education requirements.
Showing can be a great marketing tool and a legitimate tax deduction. Keep detailed records and follow IRS regulations. Best wishes at the show!