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Understanding Incidental Expenses: Definition, Tax Implications, and Examples

Last updated 03/19/2024 by

Abi Bus

Edited by

Fact checked by

Incidental expenses, often overlooked in the world of business travel, play a crucial role in reimbursable and deductible costs. This article explores what incidental expenses are, their tax implications, and how they can impact both employees and businesses. Discover the ins and outs of these often underestimated costs and how to handle them. We’ll delve into the policies, procedures, and per diem rates associated with incidental expenses, shedding light on the changes brought about by tax reforms. Whether you’re a business traveler or a company owner, understanding incidental expenses is vital for your financial well-being.

What are incidental expenses (IE)?

Incidental expenses are often the unsung heroes of business travel costs. While major expenses like hotel fees and ticket prices tend to steal the spotlight, incidental expenses quietly play a crucial role. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve into the world of incidental expenses, exploring what they are, how they affect employees and businesses, and the tax implications surrounding them.

Understanding incidental expenses

Incidental expenses and the policies governing them are typically outlined in a company’s employee handbook. They encompass various costs and are categorized as either business or personal, each with its own rules and limitations. These expenses may involve tipping, minor purchases, and more, which can add up during business travel. A per diem rate is often established to govern these costs, varying by region.
Company procedures for handling incidental expenses can differ, with some requiring employees to pay out of pocket or use a company credit card, petty cash, or an imprest account. It’s crucial for employees to keep detailed records of their purchases and submit them in an expense report with accompanying receipts.

Taxes and deductions for incidental expenses

The tax treatment of incidental expenses varies depending on whether you’re an employee or a business. Companies that reimburse their employees for travel expenses can generally deduct these costs, including incidentals, up to a federal per diem rate. However, individuals and sole proprietors have more limitations on deductions, especially since the tax reform of 2018.
While individuals can’t typically deduct incidentals, they can still deduct some direct business expenses, such as travel, gifts, and car expenses, provided they meet certain criteria. Generally, only 50% of meal costs are deductible. However, incidental expenses, which are different from direct business expenses, have limited deductibility.

Incidental and ancillary

Incidental expenses often accompany other business activities, such as gift-giving. Companies that provide gifts to customers may incur expenses related to gift-wrapping, delivery, and more. However, these incidental expenses don’t count toward the deduction limit for business gifts, which is typically limited to $25 per recipient each tax year.
Incidental expenses can also arise in situations like business casualties or theft, where costs like medical treatment, moving, or temporary housing may be incurred. These costs are generally not deductible as casualty losses.

National guard and reserve travel

Members of the National Guard and Reserve can claim deductions for meals, lodging, and incidental expenses when traveling more than 100 miles for meetings. They are among the few individual taxpayers who can still use form 2106 for some incidental deductions.

Tax return forms and instructions for incidentals

IRS Publication 535 provides valuable information on business expenses and deduction eligibility. Depending on your business and expenses, you may need various forms, such as Schedule C Profit or Loss From Business. This form is often used by sole proprietors to record their business expenses and is attached to form 1040.

How much do hotels hold on a credit card for incidentals?

Aside from exploring the world of incidental expenses, it’s essential to know how hotels handle incidentals. Most hotels hold a certain amount on your credit card for incidentals, usually ranging from $50 to $200 per night. This hold is separate from the final charge for your room and should be released within 24 hours of checkout.

How much should I budget for incidentals on a vacation?

For travelers going on vacation, it’s wise to budget for incidentals. In 2023, the federal government sets a limit of $5 on incidental costs deducted by businesses that reimburse these costs to employees traveling on business. Vacation incidentals might include tips, small purchases, or unexpected expenses like replacing forgotten items or dealing with unforeseen situations.

What are incidental costs in construction?

Incidental costs are a common aspect of the construction industry. They typically encompass various expenses related to site purchases, site improvement, furnishings, equipment, machinery, professional fees, insurance, and general administrative costs. Understanding these incidental costs is essential for contractors and construction professionals.

The bottom line

Whether you’re an employee or a business owner, understanding incidental expenses is crucial for managing your finances. These often-overlooked costs can have an impact on your budget, taxes, and reimbursement policies. Make sure to check your company’s employee handbook for specific rules regarding incidental expenses, and keep detailed records to ensure accurate reporting. If you’re self-employed, be aware of the limitations on incidental expense deductions, and consult IRS resources for guidance on tax forms and deductions.
Here is a list of the benefits and drawbacks to consider.
  • Businesses can deduct incidental expenses, up to per diem rates, when reimbursing employees.
  • National Guard and Reserve members can claim deductions for incidental expenses.
  • Individuals can deduct some direct business expenses.
  • Most individuals can’t deduct incidental expenses.
  • Business gift deductions are limited to $25 per recipient per tax year.
  • Incidental expenses from casualties or theft may not be deductible.

Frequently asked questions

What are incidental expenses?

Incidental expenses are minor costs and gratuities incurred while conducting business, in addition to major expenses such as transportation, meals, and lodging. These expenses often include tips and small purchases.

Can employees be reimbursed for miscellaneous expenses?

Whether employees can be reimbursed for miscellaneous expenses is typically a matter of company policy. The details of reimbursement should be outlined in the company’s employee handbook.

What tax deductions are available for incidental expenses?

The tax deductions for incidental expenses differ for employees and businesses. Companies can generally deduct incidental expenses, up to per diem rates, when reimbursing employees. However, individuals may have limitations on deductions, and some expenses are no longer deductible for most individuals due to tax reforms.

What is the significance of a per diem rate in relation to incidental expenses?

A per diem rate is a predetermined daily allowance that employers use to reimburse employees for various expenses incurred during business travel, including incidental expenses. It simplifies the reimbursement process, as employees receive a fixed amount per day to cover expenses. These rates can vary by location and are often set by government agencies, such as the General Services Administration (GSA) in the U.S. The rate helps businesses budget for travel expenses and ensures that employees are adequately compensated. It’s essential to understand the per diem rates relevant to your travel destination.

Key takeaways

  • Incidental expenses play a crucial role in business travel costs, often overshadowed by major expenses like transportation and lodging.
  • Reimbursement and tax treatment of incidental expenses vary for employees and businesses, with different rules and limitations.
  • Understanding incidental expenses is vital for budgeting, tax planning, and effective financial management, both for individuals and companies.
  • A per diem rate simplifies reimbursement for employees and is often set by government agencies, such as the General Services Administration (GSA).
  • Most individuals can no longer deduct incidental expenses on their personal tax returns due to tax reforms, but some exceptions exist for specific professions.
  • Accurate record-keeping of incidental expenses is crucial for businesses to track costs, ensure compliance, and manage their financial resources efficiently.
  • Incidental expenses related to business gifts have specific deduction rules, including a limit of $25 per recipient per tax year for most businesses.
  • Incidental expenses resulting from business casualties or theft are generally not deductible as casualty losses and have stringent criteria for deductibility.

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