A guide for travel content creators to learn more about travel expense deductions.

Being a travel content creator is one of the most enviable niches on social media. From capturing breathtaking landscapes to attending global events, the life of a travel creator is constantly evolving and changing, and with this exciting lifestyle comes the complex world of tax deductions. 

As a content creator, understanding how to effectively deduct travel expenses can be a game-changer. Maximizing deductions means you get to keep more of your hard-earned cash in your pocket. That extra money can go towards building your brand, investing in your future, or just living your life. 

This article provides a roadmap for navigating the intricacies of travel expense deductions, ensuring that your creative journey is as rewarding financially as it is creatively. 

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Understanding Deductible Travel Expenses

As a travel creator, many (if not all) of your travel expenses can be deducted, but it’s crucial to understand what qualifies. To understand that, it first makes sense to understand the big picture of deductions.

Every company sells a product or service. In order to sell that product or service, they need to spend money on supplies, materials, marketing, etc. Without spending that money, the company would not have anything to sell. Just think of the money Apple needs to spend to develop and build the iPhone. All of these costs are called the cost of goods sold.

You also have a product that you are selling. As a creator, your product includes your followers, engagement, and content. The more followers and engagement you have, the more brands will pay to sponsor a post. The more subscribers you have, the more Adsense revenue you’ll generate. Your brand growth ties directly to how much money you make.

So any money you spend that is directly related to building your brand, audience, and engagement, or your costs of goods sold, is an expense that is potentially deductible. 

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Business vs. Personal Expenses

Now that we understand deductions at a high level, let’s go one level deeper and talk about business vs. personal expenses.

Just because you’re having fun while traveling and working doesn’t mean that the trip is personal! Think if you worked at Apple and you “had” to go to a conference in Vegas. Of course you’re going to have fun while you’re at the conference, but that doesn’t mean the trip is personal.

If you’re producing significant content while you’re traveling and that travel is a key part of your brand, most (if not all) of the expenses related to that trip will be deductible.

If you’re posting multiple stories per day, adding comprehensive travel guides to your blog, and putting out reviews about local restaurants on your Reels, that will likely be significant. On the other hand, If you go to Bali and post only one picture, that probably isn’t significant. If you’re posting and blogging but not a significant amount, maybe 50% of the trip would be deductible. Ultimately, what constitutes “significant” is up to you.

The key is to make sure you have significant, quality content that is driving your brand forward to justify the expenses.

So What Are Deductible Travel Expenses?

Let’s assume that you’re traveling and posting significant content on your trip. Here are some typical travel expenses we feel comfortable deducting for our clients:

  • Airfare
  • Hotel / Airbnb
  • Taxi / Uber
  • All meals
  • Travel insurance
  • Parking and tolls
  • Wifi
  • Travel cell plan

If you’re traveling with a friend and splitting costs, make sure you’re only deducting your portion. That also stands if you’re traveling with a spouse or significant other. If they are not a significant part of your brand, you may want to only deduct your portion of the trip.

Other deductible expenses might include:

  • Luggage
  • Travel accessories
  • Travel clothing
  • Passport fees
  • Other travel products

The above is especially true if you do reviews on these products and have affiliate links associated with them.

Beyond these travel expenses, there are many other deductions that you can take as a content creator including your internet, cell phone bill, equipment, home office, and more.

What Travel Expenses Are Not Deductible?

Extravagant or lavish expenses might not be eligible, so it’s essential to maintain a balance. If you blow $1,000 at a nightclub, that is probably not going to be deductible. Also, personal items you purchase (like souvenirs) are not deductible. Make sure any deduction passes the sniff test and has a solid justification. 

Tracking and Documenting Your Expenses

Keeping a clean record of your deductions is absolutely essential if you want your expenses to be legitimate write-offs. 

We recommend you start by using a dedicated credit card and bank account for business expenses to simplify tracking. Things get really hairy when you mix your personal accounts with business. Unless you want to spend hours and hours at the end of the year combing through thousands of your personal account transactions, then you need to maintain a separate bank and credit card account.

Our clients have had a lot of success working with Chase (if you want a larger bank) or BlueVine (if you want an online-only bank). 

To actually track your expenses, you can probably get by using a simple Excel spreadsheet or Google Sheet. You don’t need anything too fancy or to spend money on a software. In fact, we created a free tracker in Google Sheets that you can use! Just be sure to document the date, description of the expenses, the amount, and the trip/content it was associated with. Having a spreadsheet will likely be enough for most creators.

If you want to go one step further and be super organized, you can use accounting software like QuickBooks or Wave. We will say that unless you’re familiar with accounting or work with an accounting firm (like us), even the most intuitive software can be difficult to keep up with.

Rigorous documentation will not only assist in maximizing your deductions but also provide clear records in case of an audit.

Conclusion

Navigating the complexities of travel expense deductions is crucial to minimizing your tax bill. The most important thing is to make sure there is significant, quality content to backup your expenses. If you have that, there are quite a few expenses you can deduct. Just remember to keep meticulous track of your expenses and document all related expenses. By taking this organized approach, you can maximize your deductions, minimize tax liabilities, and focus on what you do best—creating content!