How to Play Tax-Deductible Golf

Save your receipts, my friends.

With them and the tips below, you'll be able to write off 50 percent (and, in some cases, 100 percent) of the golf you play at home and while traveling.

Unlike in Canada (sorry, guys), tax-deductible golf in America is feasible if certain conditions are met.

Basically, you have to play in connection with business activities, but that's pretty easy to pull off.

Here are some examples -- all perfectly legal -- and the details below to prove it:

Local Golf
Do you have "substantial business discussions" with prospects, clients, customers, or employees in person, over the phone, or by email that you could instead conduct at a golf course?

If so, you can deduct 50 percent of what you spend on golf and meals (plus the roundtrip mileage) as long as (1) you conduct your business discussion before or after you play and (2) you conduct it in a business setting, such as a quiet and preferably private space inside the clubhouse.

Oh, and get this: while it's the classier move, you're not even required to "treat." Even if you split the day's total bill, the portion you paid is deductible.

Golf Trips
This can get more complicated (with respect to domestic vs. foreign travel, weekends, etc.) but the basic idea is the same:

If you can demonstrate a trip (or a portion of a trip) was taken for the "pursuit of business" you can deduct your costs of getting to and from the destination and any business-related expenses you incur at the destination.

There's no rule that says all important business meetings must take place locally. Take advantage of this.

Golf Lessons
You may want to run this one by a few accountants, but I've heard of people successfully deducting their golf lessons.

It's actually not as crazy as it sounds.

If you're someone who regularly uses golf to entertain customers or to prospect for clients, you could argue that improving your game improves your business.

This may be by helping you get an audience with new or key prospects, or, if you're a hacker, helping to be taken seriously.

Just remember: since golf lessons benefit you personally, too, you'll need to allocate your lesson costs according to how much you play for business vs. pleasure.

Golf Outings
So far, I've told you about golf expenses that are subject to a 50 percent tax deduction (that is, you can deduct half the cost). But here's how to write off 100 percent:

Play in a charity event or outing.

If the net proceeds of a volunteer-run event go to a qualified charity, you can deduct the entire cost of attending: golf, meals, etc.

You can do the same at most tour events if you attend them in connection with a legitimate business meeting/discussion.

If the tournament's net proceeds go to charity (most PGA Tour events do), and most of the work is done by volunteers, that qualifies the event for the 100 percent deduction: tickets, meals, parking, etc.

Now, this goes without saying, but I'm going to say it:

I am not a tax expert and none of this should be considered tax advice.

There are a few other important (but not impossible) conditions that must be met in order for any travel and entertainment -- including golf -- to be tax-deductible.

Consult an accountant and/or IRS Publication 463 before you deduct anything.

With that said, do you have any experience deducting golf and/or travel? If not, are you now more likely to consider it? Any questions about it?

Please share your thoughts or read what others are saying below.

Craig Better is one of the founding editors of Golf Vacation Insider. In addition to traveling to 15 foreign countries, he has twice traveled across America to play golf courses in all 50 United States. Prior to joining Golf Vacation Insider, Craig was a freelance writer who contributed to GOLF Magazine, Travel + Leisure Golf, Maxim Magazine, USAToday.com, and co-authored Zagat Survey’s book, America’s Top Golf Courses.
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Commented on

I'm not sure about mulligan sales, but I do know that your meal is not tax-deductible. It's called a "Direct Benefit" and is broken out in the contribution statement that organizations send out for tax documentation.

Ticket sales (cost of attending) is tax-deductible though. I would recommend reaching out to the non-profit organization for a contribution statement as documentation in case of audit if you attend.

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Commented on

if your "comped" rounds cost you nothing, then your basis is zero, and that is exactly what you can deduct...zero.

it's amazing what people try to deduct on their returns. as we say in my office, "people deduct whatever they want on returns prepared by someone else and get away with it until they are caught.

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Commented on

Pine Valley in N.J. has a policy to not discuss business while on the course. They booted one of its corporate members for doing so.

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Commented on

I have just asked my accountant if the cost of establishing an LLC as legitimate Management Consultant Associates would be cost effective given the money we have pay for playing golf.

Thanks for the insight.

PZ

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Commented on

As an individual buying mulligans in a charitable golf tournament, are they 50% tax deductible, 100% tax deductible, or not at all? No business is involved.

Commented on

I've purchased many golf foursomes from charity events and auctions. They will only allow you to deduct any amount over the stated value to be deducted. If you end up not being able to use it, you can donate it to charity and take full deduction of the value regardless of what you paid for. When I could not use all my comped round (12 rounds) at Ocean course at Kiawah Island, I donated a 4 some to big brother, big sister of SC and received full deduction of the rounds at full face value. Only one that I'm curious to find out is when the certificate value says "Priceless". Would IRS count that as $0 value or infinite value?

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Commented on

Most of the time the entity that's putting on the event will tell you how much of the cost you can deduct. Like Chico said, it's typically the difference between the value of the goods. But if you designate additional funds to the charity above the entry fee, that's deductible. Like you point out in the post, it's best to check with your accountant or financial adviser.

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Commented on

Great point, Chico. My understanding is that BUSINESSES may deduct the full amount. INDIVIDUALS can only deduct a portion. Thanks for raising.

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Commented on

I'm not an accountant either but I am pretty sure that you must make allowances for the value you receive in conjunction with a charitable golf event. We ran one for a charity in Vermont with an entry fee of $1,000. The value of goods received by each player including the round of golf, dinner, gifts, etc was $500 so they could deduct the balance, $500, as a charitable deduction.

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How to Play Tax-Deductible Golf