There is a little known change that was included in tax reform that will potentially have a big impact on business owners. The new tax laws that went into effect on January 1, 2018 placed stricter limits on the ability to deduct expenses associated with entertainment and business meals. Many of the entertainment expenses that businesses were able to deduct in 2017 will no longer we allowed in 2018 and beyond. A big ouch for business owners that spend a lot of money entertaining clients and prospects.
A Quick Breakdown Of The Changes
No Deduction in 2019
Prior to 2018, if the business spent money to take a client out to a baseball game, meet a client for 18 holes of golf, or to host a client event, the business would be able to take a deduction equal to 50% of the total cost associated with the entertainment expense. Starting in 2018, you get ZERO. There is no deduction for those expenses.
The new law specifically states that there is no deduction for:
- Any activity generally considered to be entertainment, amusement, or recreation
- Membership dues to any club organization for recreation or social purpose
- A facility, or portion thereof, used in connection with the above items
This will inevitably cause business owners to ask their accountant: “If I spend the same amount on entertainment expenses in 2018 as I did in 2017, how much are the new tax rules going to cost me tax wise?”
Impact On Sales Professionals
If you are in sales and big part of your job is entertaining prospects in hopes of winning their business, if your company can no longer deduct those expenses, are you going to find out at some point this year that the company is going to dramatic limit the resources available to entertain clients? If they end up limiting these resources, how are you supposed to hit your sales numbers and how does that change the landscape of how you solicit clients?
Impact On The Entertainment Industry
This has to be bad news for golf courses, casinos, theaters, and sports arena. As the business owner, if you were paying $15,000 per year for your membership to the local country club and you justified spending that amount because you knew that you could take a tax deduction for $7,500, now what? Now that you can’t deduct any of it, you may decide to cancel your membership or seek out a cheaper alternative.
Impact On Charitable Organizations
How do most charities raise money? Events. As you may have noticed in the chart, in 2017 tickets to a qualified charitable event were 100% deductible. In 2018, it goes from 100% deductible to Zero!! It’s bad enough that the regular entertainment expenses went from 50% to zero but going from 100% to zero hurts so much more. Also charitable events usually have high price tags because they have to cover the cost of event and raise money for the charity. In 2018, it will be interesting to see how charitable organizations get over this hurdle. It may have to disclose right on the registration form for the event that the ticket cost is $500 but $200 of that amount is the cost of the event (non-deductible) and $300 is the charitable contribution.
Exceptions To The New Rules
There are some unique exceptions to the new rules. Many business owners will not find any help within these exceptions but here they are:
- Entertainment, amusement, and recreation expenses you treat as compensation to your employees in their wages (In other words, the cost ends up in your employee’s W2)
- Expenses for recreation, social, or similar activities, including facilities, primarily for employees, and it can’t be highly compensation employees (“HCE”). In 2018 an HCE employee is an employee that makes more than $120,000 or is a 5%+ owners of the company.
- Expenses for entertainment goods, services, and facilities that you sell to customers
What’s The Deal With Meals?
Prior to 2018, employers could deduct 50% of expenses for business-related meals while traveling. Also meals provided to an employee for the convenience of the employer on the employer’s business premises were 100% deductible by the employer and tax-free to the recipient employee.
Starting in 2018, meal expenses incurred while traveling on business remain 50% deductible to the business. However, meals provided via an on-premises cafeteria or otherwise on the employers premise for the convenience of the employer will now be limited to a 50% deduction.
There is also a large debate going on between tax professional as to which meals or drinks may fall into the “entertainment” category and will lose their deduction entirely.
Impact On Business
This is just one of the many “small changes” that was made to the new tax laws that will have a big impact on many businesses. It may very well change the way that businesses spend money to attract new clients. This in turn will most likely lead to unintended negative consequences for organizations that operate in the entertainment, catering, and charitable sectors of the U.S. economy.
Disclosure: For education purposes only. Please seek tax advice from your tax professional
Hi, I’m Michael Ruger. I’m the managing partner of Greenbush Financial Group and the creator of the nationally recognized Money Smart Board blog . I created the blog because there are a lot of events in life that require important financial decisions. The goal is to help our readers avoid big financial missteps, discover financial solutions that they were not aware of, and to optimize their financial future.
This material is for informational purposes only. Neither APFS nor its Representatives provide tax, legal or accounting advice. Please consult your own tax, legal or accounting professional before making any decisions.