Business and Personal Travel and What Is Deductible

Traveling in the U.S. and Internationally

businessman in an hotel passageway with luggage
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Business travel expenses are deductible to a business, but if the trip combines both business and personal activities, that may affect your deduction. Your deduction is also affected by where the trip takes place, since the IRS has different rules for international business travel.

Key Takeaways

  • Business travel is defined as travel away from your regular place of business
  • You can deduct business expenses that occurred during a personal trip, but you cannot deduct personal expenses that occurred during a business trip
  • If you travel outside the U.S. for less than a week, your trip can be considered entirely for business, even if you combine business and personal activities

Defining Business Travel

Business travel is defined by the IRS as travel away from your tax home that is "substantially longer than an ordinary day's work" and that requires you to sleep or rest while away from home. You must also sleep away from home to be able to deduct these costs. The travel must also not be for an indefinite period of time and must last less than a year. Your tax home is the location of your regular place of business, not your family home. Your tax home is defined as the place you are traveling from, for business expense purposes.

Combining Personal and Business Travel

To deduct expenses for business travel in the United States, the trip must be entirely business-related. If you had some incidental personal travel within the trip - visiting family or taking a side trip, for example - the expenses relating to the personal activities (gas miles to someone's home or hotel at a personal location) are not deductible business expenses.

If the trip is primarily personal, like a vacation, you cannot deduct business expenses unless you can show that these expenses are directly related to your business. For example, if you take a vacation and spend a morning visiting a client, you can deduct the cost of the visit, but not the cost of getting from your tax home to the client's location.

Partly International Trips

If you take a trip for business and personal reasons that are partly within the U.S. and partly outside the U.S., follow the IRS guidelines for the location of the trip. For example, if you spend three days within the U.S., the in-country rules apply, and if you then spend three more days in Canada, out-of-country rules apply.

International Business Trips

If you travel outside the U.S. and you spend the entire time on business activities, you can deduct all of your travel expenses as business expenses. If you were outside the United States for a week or less, and you combined personal and business activities, your trip is considered entirely for business by the IRS. One week means 7 consecutive days.

International Travel Deduction Exceptions

Even if you don't spend all your time on business activities, your international business travel expenses may be deductible if they meet at least one of four exceptions:

  • If you had no "substantial control" over the arrangements for the trip. For example, if you are an employee that is not related to your employer, you are generally considered to have no substantial control over a business trip.
  • If you travel outside the U.S. for less than a week, your trip can be considered entirely for business, even if you combine business and personal activities.
  • If you spend less than 25% of your time on personal activities during the trip.
  • Your trip can be considered entirely for business if you can establish that vacation was not a major consideration, even if you had control over the trip arrangements.

To determine percentages, divide the total number of days on the trip by the number of personal days.


There may be business travel deduction details not covered in this article. For more details on deductions for business travel, See IRS Publication 463.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Business Travel Expenses Are Deductible?

You can deduct the cost of transportation from your home to your business destination, the cost of your hotel or lodging, the cost of your dry cleaning and laundry, any business calls, shipping your baggage, some meals, and more.

Are Meals While Traveling Deductible?

You can take a business travel deduction for the meals you eat. The IRS limits meal deductions to 50% of either the standard meal allowance or the actual cost of the meal. Remember to keep your receipts so that your expenses can be verified.

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  1. IRS. "Topic No. 511 Business Travel Expenses."

  2. IRS. "Publication 463."

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