Rules for Deducting a Spouse’s Travel Expenses on a Business Trip

Spouse's travel expenses image

A recent report shows that post-pandemic global business travel is going strong. The market reached $665.3 billion in 2022 and is estimated to hit $928.4 billion by 2030, according to a report from Research and Markets. If you own your own company and travel for business, you may wonder whether you can deduct the costs of having your spouse accompany you on trips.

The requirements for deducting a spouse’s travel expenses are quite strict. First and foremost, your spouse must be your employee in order to qualify. This means you can’t deduct a spouse’s travel expenses, even if his or her attendance is for a legitimate business reason, unless the spouse is an actual employee of your company. In most circumstances, this condition prohibits tax deductions.

Spouse’s travel expenses as an employee

If they work for you, you can deduct your spouse’s travel expenses as long as his or her participation on the trip is for a legitimate business reason. It’s not enough to only have your spouse perform incidental business functions, such as typing up meeting notes, to establish a business purpose. Your spouse’s presence must also be necessary, not just “helpful” to your business pursuits.

In most circumstances, a spouse’s involvement in social occasions, such as serving as a host or hostess, is also not enough to demonstrate a business purpose. If his or her goal is to build a positive reputation among consumers or associates, this is usually insufficient.

Furthermore, if the trip has a vacation component (for example, if your spouse spends time exploring), establishing a business objective for his or her attendance on the trip will be more challenging. A legitimate business objective, on the other hand, exists if your spouse’s presence is required to care for a critical medical condition you have.

If your spouse’s trip meets these criteria, you can claim the standard deductions for business travel away from home. Transportation, food, hotel fees, and incidental charges like dry cleaning and phone calls are included.

A spouse who is not employed

Even if your spouse’s travel does not meet the criteria, you may still be able to deduct a significant percentage of the trip’s expenses. This is because the rules don’t require you to allocate 50% of your travel costs to your spouse. You need only allocate any additional costs you incur for him or her.

In many hotels, for example, the cost of a single room isn’t that much less than the cost of a double room. If a single room costs $150 per night and a double room costs you and your spouse $200, your spouse is only responsible for $50 of the total cost. In other words, you can write off the amount you would have spent if you had traveled alone. To substantiate your deduction, request a room rate schedule from the hotel that shows single rates for the days you’ll be staying.

And, whether you drive your own car or rent one, the entire expense is totally deductible, even if your spouse is accompanying you. However, if you utilize public transit and eat at a restaurant, any additional expenses made by your spouse are not deductible.

Have questions?

You want to maximize all the tax breaks you can claim for your small business. Contact us if you have questions or need assistance with this or other tax-related issues.

© 2022. Updated March 2024.