*This article was written by expert accountant Angie DeLong.*
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), passed and signed into law in December 2017, significantly altered the tax deductions that businesses may claim for meals and entertainment expenses. Some tax deductions remain unchanged under the TCJA, but others have been reduced or entirely eliminated.
This chart summarizes the main changes effective for tax years beginning in 2018.
|Expense Category||Old Rules||2018 Rules|
|Meals and entertainment for current or potential clients, consultants, or other business contacts||· Meals: 50% deductible.
· Tickets to sporting events, concerts, etc. and costs of other types of entertainment: 50% deductible.
· Tickets to qualified charitable events: 100% deductible.
|· Food and beverages purchased separately: 50% deductible.
· Food and beverages itemized separately on entertainment bill, invoice, or receipts: 50% deductible.
· Food and beverages not separately charged: not deductible!
· Entertainment costs: not deductible!
|Meals provided to employees for the convenience of the employer||· 100% deductible if excluded from employee’s gross income as de minimis fringe benefits.
· 50% deductible otherwise.
|· 50% deductible during tax years 2018 – 2025.
· Nondeductible beginning in 2026!
|Qualifying de minimis employee food items, such as coffee, snacks, birthday cake, etc.||· 100% deductible.||· TCJA says 50% deductible, but it appears that this was not Congress’ intent. IRS technical corrections will likely change to 100% deductible.|
So what constitutes “entertainment”? The IRS definition includes any activity generally considered to provide entertainment, amusement, or recreation. For example, nightclubs, sporting events, concerts, outdoor recreation, and trips may all be considered entertainment. The cost of providing entertainment experiences for current or potential customers and business contacts is not tax deductible in 2018.
Many businesses are used to lumping meals and entertainment into one category, trusting the tax accountant to sort it all out and claim the proper deduction. That kind of record-keeping is no longer sufficient. Before closing the books on the 2018 tax year, it’s important to re-examine those meals and entertainment expenses. You may need to add some new expense categories, make necessary reclassifications, and add clarifying details. For example, if you can identify separately invoiced or purchased meals that were part of an overall entertainment expense, your client will have a tax deduction that would otherwise have been lost. You might want to create a QuickBooks expense category specifically for those meals. You’ll save tax dollars and your tax accountant will thank you!
The TCJA left some items untouched. Tax deductions by businesses for the following meal and entertainment expenses were not changed by the TCJA.
Still 50% deductible:
· Employee travel meals. The travel expenses must be an ordinary and necessary cost of traveling away from home for business. “Away from home” means that business duties require the worker to be away from the general area of his/her tax home for a period substantially longer than a day’s work, and he/she needs to get sleep or rest to meet the demands of work while away from home.
· Business meetings of employees, stockholders, agents, directors, etc.
· Expenses for attending a business meeting or convention of a 501(c)(6) organization, business league, chamber of commerce, real estate board, etc.
Still 100% deductible:
· Meals and entertainment expenses treated as employee compensation; i.e., the amount is included in the employee’s W-2 income.
· Meals, entertainment, prizes, and awards includible in the gross income of nonemployees and contractors.
· Office parties, picnics, summer outings, etc. provided primarily for the for employees.
· Promotional meals provided to the general public.
Top reasons to hire a bookkeeper
Is it worth it to hire a bookkeeper? I believe it is, for many reasons; mostly because it allows a business owner to focus on their business. Knowing I wouldn’t think of all the good reasons to hire a bookkeeper, I polled my co-workers in the ultimate question of their job “Why hire a bookkeeper?” Who better to ask than the people who do the work?
Here are their answers, in no particular order:
- Classic client answer: so we can “make it all go away”
- A second pair of eyes. Even the most meticulous people make mistakes sometimes.
- Because without knowing how much comes in you won’t know how much you can spend
- My husband says ‘P&L’s? Does that mean we’re having pie & lobster?’*
- My clients say “I didn’t get into this business to be a bookkeeper, I want to get back to doing MY job.”
- So tax-time is not full of surprises!
And this list is just a few of our thoughts. We have company full of employees who LOVE their jobs and LOVE bookkeeping. I have heard from several of my co-workers that this is their dream job (mine, too). We love what we do and we would love to be part of your team. As we at Backyard Bookkeeper say, “Let us do your dirty work.”
*P&L stands for Profit and Loss, a report that is vitally important if you own a business and will tell you nothing if your bookkeeping is not accurate. Go Bookeepers!
If you had taken a glimpse into Backyard Bookkeeper’s most recent in person company meeting, there are a few things you’ll notice that are different than most meetings I’ve been a part of.
- People were smiling and laughing
- Everyone was engaged in what is going on, note taking, listening intently, participating.
- Things got done.
- We all walked away feeling better about our jobs than when we walked in.
I have to admit at this juncture that we have boring meetings just like everyone else, so what made the difference this time? In order to have an effective meeting, it should be purposeful and present relevant information, solve problems, and most importantly boost morale. A happy employee is a productive employee.
At our most recent company meeting, we started by listening to a great presentation from Ryan Beck from Mountain West Advisors. He talked to us about personal finance and steps to getting ourselves in a great financial position. Given our background as bookkeepers, this was helpful on a professional and personal level. We were able to get some great advice on personal finances and also have some valuable tools and contacts to share with our clients.
After Ryan’s presentation, the majority of our time was spent with Angie DeLong, an Enrolled Agent with more than 25 years of experience with tax law. Our bookkeepers better understood their part of the financial process as they heard from her. Identifying where their job fit in with everything else helped give them insight and more confidence in their place. Even though we keep our bookkeepers from advising on tax issues, it was valuable for them to know about tax law so they can better categorize items. Many of our bookkeepers let us know how helpful it was to better understand their place as bookkeepers within the bigger financial picture of their client’s companies.
Then we ended with a lot of morale boosting talk from Alex and Julie (the owners), reminding us to work as a team and prioritize our lives. They made us feel appreciated and important. We celebrated Backyard Bookkeeper’s 10th anniversary and walked away with personalized gifts.
I use this example of our company meeting as a great structure for any meeting:
- Start with an agenda that is good for your employees on a personal and professional level.
- Show them how their job fits into the big picture and give them the tools they need to fit well as that piece of the puzzle.
- Celebrate your employees, the company, and teamwork. Boost Morale, so when they leave they feel they are supported.
Let your job sponsor your life: a change in perspective
There’s a moment in everyone’s life where you wake up and think, “Ugh! I have to go to work today.” Even people who love their jobs have this moment every once in a while.
For me a solution that allows me change my perspective on those days is to remind myself that this job is sponsoring my life. It requires some of my time, just like any sponsor does, but I can see physical evidence of the great things my job does for me all around. I live in a house, I have transportation, I have clothing and get to spend time with my family doing the things I love, all because I have a job.
Real life example of what I’m talking about in kid terms: My son really wants to buy some ice cream from the ice cream truck, but I just can’t justify the expense. The other day, he found some money in his room and got really excited, “Mom! If I save my money, I can buy ice cream from the ice cream truck all by myself!”
“You’re right. Go for it.”
When something is important to us, we work for it. What is important to you in your life? What could you have a goal for that would make going to work exciting? For my son, it’s the ice cream truck. If I only focus on the bare minimum, on the things I need to survive, then work becomes about survival. It becomes drudgery, fight or flight. When I think to myself-I’m gonna let my job sponsor my life, I really want __________________________ (fill in the blank with something that would make your life better); suddenly my job is exciting because of the thing I am working for. That thing could be as simple as ice cream, or as big as a vacation, or tool to do thing you’ve always wanted to try.
After writing this, I am going to re-approach my budget and my goals list. I am going to let my job sponsor my life. I have a list of “cool thing I want” that I add to on a regular basis. It’s time to prioritize that list and let my sponsor provide the life I love.