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What you need to know about travel expenses

Updated on April 14, 2011

What you need to know about travel expenses

Sometimes the magazine I edit pays a few expenses for freelance writers and photographers who are covering stories for us. We try to be specific; about what expenses are covered, such as telephone calls only, or meals and airline tickets. Occasionally a freelancer's idea of covered items varies from ours. One writer turned in a bill for lunch in his hometown airport on the afternoon he departed, as well as for gum and a few magazines to read on the plane. He explained that he was in a hurry and didn't have time to make lunch at home or pick up reading material to entertain him before he left. We didn't pay for those expenses.
A photographer, after a shoot in Paris, hoped we didn't understand French too well when he submitted a bill for four petit dêjeuners (breakfasts), four different entrees for lunch, and four entrees for dinner. He was denied payment for his meal companions.
Of course, most of us know better than to submit, such travel expenses for reimbursement. Inviting Uncle Fred and Aunt Ethel out for dinner on the company is not appropriate—even if they did drive all the way into the city just to see their darling niece. But sometimes the line between allowable business travel expenses may seem less clear to you. It's absolutely essential to understand clearly your company's guidelines for travel expenses. And if you're self-employed, turn to the IRS for your guidelines. You ought to know what the IRS considers business travel expenses so those can be deducted.

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