IRS Publication 463, What Entertainment Expenses Are Deductible?

This section explains different types of entertainment expenses that you may be able to deduct.

Entertainment. Entertainment includes any activity generally considered to provide entertainment, amusement, or recreation. Examples include entertaining guests at nightclubs; at social, athletic, and sporting clubs; at theaters; at sporting events; on yachts; or on hunting, fishing, vacation, and similar trips.

Entertainment also may include meeting personal, living, or family needs of individuals, such as providing meals, a hotel suite, or a car to customers or their families.

A meal as a form of entertainment. Entertainment includes the cost of a meal you provide to a customer or client, whether the meal is a part of other entertainment or by itself. A meal expense includes the cost of food, beverages, taxes, and tips for the meal. To deduct an entertainment-related meal, you or your employee must be present when the food or beverages are provided.

Caution You cannot claim the cost of your meal both as an entertainment expense and as a travel expense.
Tax Tip Meals sold in the normal course of your business are not considered entertainment.

Deduction may depend on your type of business. Your kind of business may determine if a particular activity is considered entertainment. For example, if you are a dress designer and have a fashion show to introduce your new designs to store buyers, the show generally is not considered entertainment. This is because fashion shows are typical in your business. But, if you are an appliance distributor and hold a fashion show for the spouses of your retailers, the show generally is considered entertainment.

Separating costs. If you have one expense that includes the costs of entertainment, and other services (such as lodging or transportation), you must allocate that expense between the cost of entertainment and the cost of other services. You must have a reasonable basis for making this allocation. For example, you must allocate your expenses if a hotel includes entertainment in its lounge on the same bill with your room charge.

Taking turns paying for meals or entertainment. If a group of business acquaintances take turns picking up each others' meal or entertainment checks without regard to whether any business purposes are served, no member of the group can deduct any part of the expense.

Lavish or extravagant expenses. You cannot deduct expenses for entertainment that are lavish or extravagant. An expense is not considered lavish or extravagant if it is reasonable considering the facts and circumstances. Expenses will not be disallowed just because they are more than a fixed dollar amount or take place at deluxe restaurants, hotels, nightclubs, or resorts.

Allocating between business and nonbusiness. If you entertain business and nonbusiness individuals at the same event, you must divide your entertainment expenses between business and nonbusiness. You can deduct only the business part. If you cannot establish the part of the expense for each person participating, allocate the expense to each participant on a pro rata basis.

Example. You entertain a group of individuals that includes yourself, three business prospects, and seven social guests. Only 4/11 of the expense qualifies as a business entertainment expense. You cannot deduct the expenses for the seven social guests because those costs are nonbusiness expenses.

Trade association meetings. You can deduct entertainment expenses that are directly related to and necessary for attending business meetings or conventions of certain exempt organizations if the expenses of your attendance are related to your active trade or business. These organizations include business leagues, chambers of commerce, real estate boards, trade associations, and professional associations.

Entertainment tickets. Generally, you cannot deduct more than the face value of an entertainment ticket, even if you paid a higher price. For example, you cannot deduct service fees you pay to ticket agencies or brokers or any amount over the face value of the tickets you pay to scalpers.

Exception for events that benefit charitable organizations. Different rules apply when the cost of a ticket to a sports event benefits a charitable organization. You can take into account the full cost you pay for the ticket, even if it is more than the face value, if all of the following conditions apply.

  1. The event's main purpose is to benefit a qualified charitable organization.

  2. The entire net proceeds go to the charity.

  3. The event uses volunteers to perform substantially all the event's work.

Tax Tip The 50% limit on entertainment does not apply to any expense for a package deal that includes a ticket to such a charitable sports event.

Example 1. You purchase tickets to a golf tournament organized by the local volunteer fire company. All net proceeds will be used to buy new fire equipment. The volunteers will run the tournament. You can deduct the entire cost of the tickets as a business expense if they otherwise qualify as an entertainment expense.

Example 2. You purchase tickets to a college football game through a ticket broker. After having a business discussion, you take a client to the game. Net proceeds from the game go to colleges that qualify as charitable organizations. However, since the colleges also pay individuals to perform services, such as coaching and recruiting, you can only use the face value of the tickets in determining your business deduction.

Skyboxes and other private luxury boxes. If you rent a skybox or other private luxury box for more than one event at the same sports arena, you generally cannot deduct more than the price of a nonluxury box seat ticket.

To determine whether a skybox has been rented for more than one event, count each game or other performance as one event. For example, renting a skybox for a series of playoff games is considered renting it for more than one event. All skyboxes you rent in the same arena, along with any rentals by related parties, are considered in making this determination.

Related parties include:

  1. Family members (spouses, ancestors, and lineal descendants),

  2. Parties who have made a reciprocal arrangement involving the sharing of skyboxes,

  3. Related corporations,

  4. A partnership and its principal partners, and

  5. A corporation and a partnership with common ownership.

Example. You pay $3,000 to rent a 10-seat skybox at Team Stadium for three baseball games. The cost of regular nonluxury box seats at each event is $20 a seat. You can deduct (subject to the 50% limit) $600 ((10 seats × $20 each) × 3 events).

Food and beverages in skybox seats. If expenses for food and beverages are separately stated, you can deduct these expenses in addition to the amounts allowable for the skybox, subject to the requirements and limits that apply. The amounts separately stated for food and beverages must be reasonable. You cannot inflate the charges for food and beverages to avoid the limited deduction for skybox rentals.

 

Information courtesy of the Internal Revenue Service.