Summer’s Coming, Planning a Company Outing?

Now is the time to plan for a company party, office party or event, follow these 3 simple rules and deduct 100% of your next company gathering

Whether it’s an office party or office event here are some basic tips to impact your bottom line with smart planning:

    • It’s important to understand the tax implications of an office party expense in order to reap the full benefit to your bottom line.
    • Event expenses for employees and spouses are 100% deductible – but expenses are only 50% deductible for customers and contractors, and 0% for other family members.
    • Record your party expense in a separate category from other “meals and entertainment” and keep clear records to substantiate your claim.

With summer fast approaching, your company may be considering taking advantage of the warm weather by hosting an office morale event or holiday party to foster camaraderie and boost employees’ spirits.  Before you do, however, it’s important to understand the tax implications associated with this kind of expense and what you can and cannot deduct.

In general, the IRS code only allows for 50% deductibility of “meals and entertainment” expenses incurred by a business.  However, there is a special category within meals and entertainment for which the IRS allows 100% deductibility, and your holiday parties and morale events can meet those requirements if you follow a simple set of guidelines.

The first rule:

Many party expenses are only 100% deductible for employees and their spouses.  Unfortunately, other family members do not count – so if you’re inviting kids to the company’s summer BBQ, you won’t be able to deduct anything for the cost of those kiddie meals.  On the bright side, any customers, prospective customers, or independent contractors you invite are eligible for the standard 50% “meals and entertainment” deduction.

Second rule:

If you’re extending the guest list beyond just employees and spouses, it can get a little complicated keeping track of which portion of the bill is eligible for 0%, 50%, or 100% deduction.  In order to provide substantiation of your claim in the event of an audit, be sure that you have receipts and a complete guest list on hand.

Third rule:

Finally, to limit the chance of misinterpretation, be sure to record the expense as “holiday party” or “office expense”.  Many businesses mistakenly record morale events as “meals and entertainment”, which raises questions when tax time rolls around and they are hoping to deduct 100% of those expenses.  After all, the meals and entertainment category is only eligible for 50% deduction.  So it’s generally best to keep your holiday party expenses separate from other meals and entertainment for clarity’s sake.

With smart planning and a little extra effort put into recording the expenses for your next office party, you’ll be able to capitalize not only on increased goodwill and improved morale, but also on a 100% tax deduction that will directly impact your bottom line.


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The purpose of this article is to provide general best practice guidelines. This article is not written as legal or tax advice directed at the particular facts and circumstances of any specific person or business. We recommend you consult your local CPA or attorney to ensure your unique and specific needs are fully addressed.