Those $133,000 NBA Finals Tickets Were Probably A Tax Write-Off

There were a number of pricey ticket resales leading up to the Game 5 NBA finals game in Oakland. But the priciest of them all was a new NBA record: a buyer paid and astounding $133K for two courtside tickets to Game 5. Those were for two floor seats, and the deep pocket surely wanted to see the Golden State Warriors win their second title in three years. That came true, and it was a great game, but those are still some expensive tickets. We don’t know who paid for the stratospheric tickets. But since sports tickets are sometimes used for business entertainment, these might have been too.

It’s worth asking whether American taxpayers should foot part of the bill for this kind of business entertainment. As early as 1961, President Kennedy said that, ‘‘The slogan—‘It’s deductible’—should pass from our scene.’’ But it hasn’t happened. If anything, the focus on tax deductions has gotten worse. Generally, the tax law says you can deduct reasonable business expenses, but not lavish or extravagant ones. So how can expensive sports tickets be deductible? First, only 50% of the cost is usually deductible, even if you are doing business. To claim a deduction for tickets, a sporting event must be directly related to the conduct of business. This generally requires a business meeting, negotiation, discussion, or other bona fide business transaction during the event. Is that realistic at a noisy sporting event? It may not be.

OAKLAND, CA – JUNE 12: Kevin Durant #35 of the Golden State Warriors is interviewed after defeating the Cleveland Cavaliers 129-120 in Game 5 to win the 2017 NBA Finals at ORACLE Arena on June 12, 2017 in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

However, entertainment can be tax deductible even if actual business isn’t conducted, provided that the entertainment either precedes or follows a business meeting. If you want to read about IRS line-drawing for these expenses, check out IRS Publication 463, Travel, Entertainment, Gift, and Car Expenses. The IRS says that even if your expenses do not meet the directly-related test, they may meet the ‘associated test.’ To meet this associated test for entertainment expenses (including entertainment-related meals), you must show that the entertainment is: associated with the active conduct of your trade or business, and directly before or after a substantial business discussion. Generally, an expense is associated with the active conduct of your trade or business if you can show that you had a clear business purpose for having the expense. The purpose may be to get new business or to encourage the continuation of an existing business relationship.

Whether a business discussion is substantial depends on your facts. A business discussion will not be considered substantial unless you can show that you actively engaged in the discussion, meeting, negotiation, or other business transaction to get income or some other specific business benefit. The meeting does not have to be for any specified length of time, but you must show that the business discussion was substantial in relation to the meal or entertainment. It is not necessary that you devote more time to business than to entertainment. You do not have to discuss business during the meal or entertainment.

If you qualify, the amount identified for the ticket price, along with any food and beverage expense, is deductible subject to the 50% limit generally applicable to meals and entertainment expenses. And since we’re talking about high ticket prices, how high is too high?Even if a business expense is legit, you can’t deduct it if it is lavish or extravagant. Exactly what is lavish or extravagant isn’t clear. It is sometimes defined as a business expense that is significantly higher than what is considered reasonable. Say a company pays triple the market rate for something. That amount may be a lavish or extravagant expense. That makes them–or at least the portion deemed lavish by the IRS–not tax deductible.

The mere fact that you might conduct business entertainment at a high-end restaurants or hotels doesn’t mean that your expenses are lavish. And sometimes even outrageously expensive meals and entertainment are considered deductible. And if you do deduct something, how much does a tax deduction reduce the cost? If your combined state and federal tax rate is 50%, a costly item is actually half price, which isn’t bad. In some cases, you can even deduct items when you don’t have receipts. A rule the IRS does not advertise is that receipts are sometimes optional.

via The Tax Lawyer

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