Entertainment expense: deductible vs non-deductible

 

The basic idea is that an expense is business-related if you spend the money to help your business earn income. Most business-related expenses are fully deductible. If the expense doesn’t help your business earn gross income, it’s private and you can’t claim it as a tax deduction.

It becomes a little trickier when there’s an element of private enjoyment. You might think that the firm’s Christmas party for clients is a business related expense and should be fully deductible because it’s promoting your business, products or services. However:

  • if your clients or employees have a greater opportunity to enjoy the entertainment than the general public, you can only deduct 50% of the costs
  • if anyone associated with the business has a greater opportunity to enjoy the entertainment than the general public, you can only deduct 50% of the costs

Generally speaking, if there’s an element of private enjoyment, the expenses (in addition to the food and drink) associated with events where you entertain clients and/or staff will only be 50% deductible. For instance, this would include the hire of crockery, glasses, waiting staff and music.

There are exceptions. Entertainment supplied for charity is 100% deductible. For instance if you throw a Christmas party for the children’s ward at the local hospital, this is fully deductible. Entertainment enjoyed outside New Zealand is 100% deductible. If you take the team to the Gold Coast for Christmas (lucky them) it will be fully deductible. However, if they contribute towards the cost of their airfares (or anything else), you will need to reduce your expense claim by the amount of the contribution.

Functions and events

Some entertainment expenses are fully deductible but some are not. Use these examples as a guide.

50% deductible

Christmas drinks for team members or clients in the office
Christmas drinks for team members or clients in the pub
Hire of a launch to entertain clients
Restaurants providing food and drinks to team members at a social function in their restaurant
Staff Christmas party on or off the business premises
Function hosted in a marquee at the races (or in a corporate box at the rugby). Includes the cost of tickets and any food and drink provided
A weekend away for the team at holiday accommodation in New Zealand. Includes any food and drink provided

100% deductible

Donating food to a Christmas party in a children’s hospital
Providing morning and afternoon tea for your team
Providing entertainment, including food and drink at your promotional stand for the Cracker Christmas Festival
Holding the Christmas party in Fiji (woo-hoo!)

0% deductible

Taking your family (who don’t work with you in your business) out for dinner to thank them for being patient while you worked long hours and paying for this using the business credit card

GST

If that’s not enough to think about, you will need to make a GST adjustment for entertainment expenses which are 50% deductible. This adjustment will be required to be made at the time your income tax return is filed. Of course, we can help and advise you on this.

 

 

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