With the National Restaurant Association show getting ready to kick off, many food truck industry members will be making their way to Chicago for the event. Unfortunately, this isn’t as easy as it seems, there are a lot of trade show expenses that need to be taken care of and monitored to stay on budget.

Industry trade shows are an awesome way for attendees to gain industry know-how and fuel their professional ambitions. Food service and food truck trade shows are the perfect place to find new suppliers, promote their business, capture marketplace intelligence, generate leads, and networking with other industry professional. Knowing what can and cannot be written off your taxes is a key to allowing this trip to help your food truck business without crushing your bottom line.

What Trade Show Expenses Can You  Deduct?

Attending a trade show expenses can be costly, but which ones can you deduct at tax time? Here’s a list of the most common trade show expenses:

  • Air, rail, bus or carfares
  • Baggage charges
  • Taxi, commuter bus, airport limousine fares
  • Expenses of operating your vehicle while traveling away from home
  • Meals
  • Lodging
  • Tolls and parking
  • Cleaning and laundry
  • Business telephone calls
  • Tips and other incidental expenses
  • Admission and seminar fees

You can reduce a trade show’s impact on your budget by deducting all appropriate travel costs as business expenses on your income taxes. Take care, though; you must take only those tax deductions allowed by law.

Qualified Shows

Before you can deduct any trade show expenses you must first determine if the event qualifies for tax deductibility. If a trade show serves a legitimate business purpose, then the related travel expenses are tax deductible.

Meal Expenses

You have to eat, but when you travel, eating usually generates costly restaurant bills. Special rules apply to these expenses. You can deduct meals when you are traveling overnight away from home or if the meal is business related. However, only 50 percent of the meal cost is deductible.

Traveling Spouses

How about spouses or other individuals who are traveling to the trade show but who do not normally have a working relationship with your business? Generally, you cannot deduct travel expenses of a spouse who does not play a substantial business role, this is a common area of abuse and one at which the IRS looks closely.

Now that you know what trade show expenses you can write off, we’ll share some tips to help stay on budget and reduce the potential for reimbursement errors.

Before the Show

  • Take an opportunity to set expectations with every one of your staff members that will be attending the event. It’s important to understand ahead of time what qualifies for expensing; and what doesn’t.
  • Know what meals are covered, how many prospects can be treated to dinner, or whether or not alcoholic drinks are included in their per-diem.
  • Determine who’s paying for what (senior-level employee handles dining charges) to make sure to avoid duplicate expenses.
  • Learn how to create an expense report (or get one started for the trip).

During the Show

  • Between the sessions, product demos and dinners, food service trade shows can be a whirlwind of activity and it’s easy to miss details.
  • Keep all receipts in one place such as an envelope or briefcase pocket. For those of you that are a bit techier, take a picture of each receipt after payment so it can be easily inserted into an expense report.
  • Streamline payment methods by using a company credit card for most transactions and avoid cash that can be hard to keep track of.
  • Review expenses daily to stay on budget and catch any errors that can come as a result of being so busy during the show.

After the Show

  • Saying good-bye, packing up, and heading home. It’s finally time for you to head back to the office. But don’t forget you still have a few things left to do.
  • Review receipts from entry fees, travel and hotel charges and address questions in person, while issues are still fresh.
  • Sort out all expense-related paperwork and put it in your carry-on baggage.
  • Have downtime at the airport while waiting for your flight home? Grab your receipts and knock you’re your expense report. Who knows you might be able to submit your expenses to your accountant at the moment you land.

RELATED: Attending A Trade Show With Purpose

Are you planning on attending a trade show in the near future? Do you have any additional tips for trade show expenses? Share your thoughts in the comment section below or on social media. Facebook | Twitter