Alcohol & Reimbursable Expenses: What’s Extravagant vs. Ordinary & Necessary?

What is alcohol’s role in the modern business world? Is alcohol able to be included in business expenses?

The relationship with alcohol, historically, is complicated. Alcohol as a beverage has been around for ages, with some of the earliest documentation dating back to 7000 BCE. That means that humans have been consuming alcohol for over 9,000 years! Now, the relationship between alcohol and societies has seen its ups and downs. Some could argue that a lot of greatness came from the convergence around alcohol, like the building of nations and the works of Ernest Hemingway and Edgar Allan Poe. While others could argue to the destruction it can cause, like the tens of thousands of deaths every year that are due to alcohol related incidents.

This article walks through the tricky relationship between alcohol and reimbursable business expenses. 

Alcohol and Business Expenses

Alcohol is in business. Now, by no means should alcohol consumption be pressured upon anyone, but it’s something that is very commonplace in society. A 9,000 year old habit won’t die easily.

Is Alcohol a Reimbursable Expense?

The short answer is yes, alcohol is a reimbursable business expense, per the IRS. According to Publication 463 by the IRS, a business-related meal expense “include(s) amounts spent for food, beverages, taxes, and related tips.”

The longer answer: The terminology used by the IRS on this topic is actually quite vague, and leaves a lot to the individual auditor’s opinion in terms of alcohol expenses that keep your business expenses compliant. Never in the publication does the IRS state a specific quantity or dollar amount as “the line.” So, it’s hard to say exactly what is ordinary and necessary versus lavish and extravagant when it comes to expensing alcoholic beverages.

When discussing this topic with Tallie’s CEO, Chris Farrell, we both agreed that taking Richard Branson for a business meal and expensing a $500 bottle of wine for the three of us would probably get the “OK” from the IRS. But, doing the same for an average client would likely not pass. This would suggest the qualification of “ordinary and necessary” is largely scenario-based.

Now consider taking a client to dinner and drinks, then expensing $100. The IRS probably won’t bat an eye. But, if you spend $500 on that same client, the expense might not pass. In this case, the qualification of “ordinary and necessary” is dollar based.

But, what if you buy multiple drinks for $50 or, in the same scenario, buy a single bottle of wine for $100. In this situation, the pass/fail will probably fall on the quantity of alcohol.

Confusing, right?

Now picture your own scenario. Are your alcoholic expenses judged on scenario, price, or quantity? Not only are the guidelines nondescript, but now there are three separate “options” for which your expense on alcohol can be deemed lavish or ordinary.

Expensing alcohol is an extremely tricky process and there’s no black and white cut-out for you to reference. So when drinking alcohol on a business work trip or client dinner, remember this: when in doubt, don’t expense it or speak with your finance team.

Have you experienced a situation that involved expensing alcohol? Leave your questions and stories in the comments below!

Tallie Expense Management – June Webinar Schedule

During the month of June, we will be hosting free webinars on a variety of subjects to help you get the most out of Tallie for your Expense Management needs.

These webinars provide completely free training for employees, managers, and accountants alike. Each webinar lasts between 15 and 30 minutes and is packed with information ranging from product guidance to live Q&A with Tallie Product Experts.

Register for a free June webinar below!

TALLIE USER TRAINING

  1. Run through the creation of Tallie expense reports.
  2. Share the tips and tricks for Expense Management.
  3. Live Q & A session for any questions you may have.

Register:

Tuesday June 6th 8:30 – 9:00 AM PDT

Tuesday June 13th 8:30 – 9:00 AM PDT 

Tuesday June 20th 8:30 – 9:00 AM PDT **SPECIAL: How To Use Tallie Android & iOS Apps**

Tuesday June 27th 8:30 – 9:00 AM PDT

ADMINISTRATOR TRAINING

  1. Walk through how to create custom policies and approval levels within Tallie.
  2. Show how Tallie streamlines your expense reporting workflow with multi-point data export and bi-directional accounting system integration.
  3. Live Q & A session for any questions you may have.

Register:

Thursday June 8th 8:30 – 9:00 AM PDT

Thursday June 22nd 8:30 – 9:00 AM PDT

APPROVER TRAINING

  1. Walk through the expense reports approval process within Tallie.
  2. Show the expense report edit feature for specified approvers.
  3. Live Q & A session for any questions you may have.

Register:

Thursday June 15th 8:30 – 9:00 AM PDT

ACCOUNTANT TRAINING

  1. Run through a variety of expense reporting features that you may utilize in Tallie.
  2. Review customization and options of your account’s configuration.
  3. Show how Tallie streamlines your accounting workflow with 1-click multi-point export and bi-directional accounting system integration.
  4. Live Q & A session for any questions you may have.

Register:

Thursday June 1st 8:30 – 9:00 AM PDT

Thursday June 29th 8:30 – 9:00 AM PDT

If you have any questions about Tallie’s expense reporting software between now and your chosen training webinar, please don’t hesitate to contact our Product Expert Team directly at support@usetallie.com or 888-874-1118 Ext 2. We hope to see you there!

New Year, New Features and Better Usability: Tallie Expense Report Software 11.4 Release Notes

We’re starting the new year off right with a few expense report features that we think will jumpstart your productivity. Rather than having one unifying theme, we analyzed our feature backlog and picked the ones that deliver the most value for the broadest cross section of our clients. Take a look — we hope you enjoy!

New action menu featuring new Transfer Expense and Copy Expense functions

Tallie has always given users flexibility to perform all kinds of extra tasks on purchases prior to submission, but we are now providing centralized access to key tasks and functions in the new expense action menu. Included in this new menu are two new functions: Transfer Expense and Copy Expense.

Tallie Expense Report Software - New Action Menu

The new action menu holds all expense actions under one roof, including the new Copy and Transfer functions.

Transfer Expense

Perhaps you created a free trial by mistake and started importing expenses? Or you mistakenly created an expense in your own account instead of one you manage for another user? Transfer Expense functionality is now available for admins, Executive Assistants, and users with multiple Tallie accounts on the Purchases page, and in the mass edit action bar on Purchases and Expense Reports pages when more than one expense is selected. To transfer an expense, simply hover over the new action menu in the expense tile (also available in Purchases page Table view and Spreadsheet view), and then select an account to receive this expense. For more information, visit our support site and read our article on Transfer Expense.

Tallie Expense Report Software - Copy Expense

Copy Expense and Transfer Expense buttons are also available in the mass edit action bar on the Expense Reports page.

Copy Expense

Do you make purchases at the same store for the same reason? Does your company give you daily spending allowances? If so, the new Copy feature is going to save you a lot of time. Copy is available in the new action menu on the Purchases page, and in the mass edit action bar on Purchases and Expense Reports pages when only one expense is selected. Instead of entering all the details into a new expense, you’ll simply need to select a date to copy the expense to.

Bank Data Delivery now supports MasterCard

In the last release, we introduced our very own Credit Cards integration, Bank Data Delivery for Visa and American Express account holders. We’re excited to announce that this integration now supports MasterCard as well. For more information on Bank Data Delivery, please see Enhanced Corporate Card Control: Tallie Expense Reports Software 11.3 Release Notes.

[Beta] Auto-deduct standard commute from mileage expenses

The IRS has limits on businesses claiming mileage-based business expense deductions, specifically targeting deduction of the distance traveled during an employee’s daily commute. Many companies require employees to deduct their standard commute between home and work from most mileage trips in order to be in compliance with this IRS rule. Standard Commute Beta is here to help streamline the process for the clients who may need it as we gather feedback and continue to improve this feature.

Tallie Expense Report Software - Auto-deduct standard commute from mileage expenses

Tallie memorizes your previous standard commute distance so you’ll simply need to enter the start and end points.

Once Standard Commute has been enabled in your account, users will get an additional field, Standard Commute Distance, in the mileage edit view. The value entered here will be deducted from the Distance In Miles (calculated using the to and from addresses or manually adjusted) to get the Total Reimbursable Distance. Previously used Standard Commute Distance is memorized, so the next time the user creates a mileage, he/she will simply need to enter to and from addresses and the Reimbursable Distance will be calculated. Once the feature is enabled, any mileage expense without a standard commute deduction will be flagged as such.

Tallie Expense Reports Software - Standard Commute Badge

Once the feature has been enabled in your account, mileage expenses without standard commute deduction will be flagged.

This feature is currently in beta mode and will be released to our general user base after we receive feedback from our early evaluators and make further improvements. If you’re interested in being a part of the beta team, please contact our Product Experts and we will enable the feature for you.

Product enhancements & fixes

  • List of monthly active users is now available: Billing admins can now see a list of monthly active users to date at the bottom of Usage & Pricing tab in Regular enterprise, or Reseller Management tab in Affiliate enterprise (click on the individual Resold account to view active users for it).
  • Fixed QBO export issue where users were unable to export expenses with Projects when Billable feature is disabled in QBO.
  • Fixed the issue where end users were unable to see credit card profiles that have errors.
  • Fixed mobile issue where adjusted mileage distance would revert back to Google calculation on save.

We look forward to hearing how these upgrades have made managing your expense reports even easier. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to reach out to our Product Expert team at support@usetallie.com or by calling 888-874-1118 Ext 2.

Use Tallie’s Expense Reports & Internal Controls to Stay IRS Compliant Year-Round

A 2014 study by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners estimates that organizations lose an average of 5% revenue to fraud each year. Without strong internal controls, a company is at risk for theft, misappropriation of funds, and a major audit. Here’s how to use Tallie’s automated expense reports to prevent fraud and stay IRS compliant year-round.

Create (and automatically enforce) thorough company policies.

You cannot prevent expense fraud without first establishing clear, specific company policies. For example, you may permit employees to expense WiFi fees at a conference, but only up to $20 a day. Of course, even the most thorough policy is useless unless it’s properly enforced. Miscommunication, a lack of awareness, and ineffective management can expose a company to fraud and a potential audit.

Historically, the reinforcement of these policies has been tedious and time-consuming. Accountants had to manually respond to violations, re-educate employees about the company policy, and then wait for a corrected expense report. Now, modern expense report software eliminates the need for these manual processes.

Companies that automate internal controls not only save time and cost, but also decrease the likelihood of expense fraud. Tallie’s policy engine lets you create custom expense policies based on category, dollar amount, project, class and more. Any expense that violates these policies is automatically detected, and the employee is notified immediately.

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If an employee doesn’t understand why their expense was in violation, they can simply click the “Out of Policy” alert to learn more. This not only prevents unnecessary errors, but helps ensure that employees remember the company policy while making future purchases.

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Keep expense reports IRS-compliant with timely and accurate records.

IRS Publication 463 requires that your records be not only accurate, but timely:

“You should record the elements of an expense or of a business use at or near the time of the expense or use and support it with sufficient documentary evidence.”

(Publication 463, Cat. No. 11081L, Page 26)

Submitting your expense reports with Tallie satisfies both of these requirements. In the event of an audit, the IRS will expect you to provide consistent and complete records of all purchases and reimbursements, complete with legible receipts. To ensure you’re recording “sufficient documentary evidence,” we recommend using Tallie’s policy engine to require a receipt for any expense over $75, as per IRS document 463, chapter 5.

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One of the major benefits of expense report software like Tallie is the ability to throw away your receipts after you’ve captured their image. But will the IRS really accept a picture of a receipt in lieu of the original?

Believe it or not, the IRS has actually accepted electronic documents, including scanned receipts, since 1997 (IRS Revenue Procedure 97-22). In order to be considered valid, the receipt (or receipt image) must include the merchant’s name and address, the transaction date, the amount paid, and the business reason for your purchase. All of this information can be stored within Tallie for easy access in the event of an audit. No more hunting through shoeboxes!

Tallie also allows you to store your receipts within your chosen accounting system. Exports to QuickBooks Online and Intacct include your receipt images as part of an attachment to the Bill (Intacct) or Bill/Check/Expense (QuickBooks Online.)

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Tallie-expense-reports-use-internal-controls-to-stay-irs-compliant-attach-receipt-Intacct

QuickBooks Desktop users can take advantage of our direct integration with SmartVault, where their electronic documents can be stored and retrieved on demand.

Tallie is the best expense management solution for strengthening your business’s internal controls. You create your custom policies within Tallie–we’ll automatically enforce them. Want to see how? Schedule a free, 1-on-1 product demo with one of our experts.

Tallie’s 2015 Tax Season Manual

Long hours, stress, and incredible deadlines–the 2015 tax season is well underway. Wish you had some straight-forward accounting advice? We’ve got you covered. Enjoy this selection of blogs about tax code, the IRS, and getting through the 2015 tax season in one piece!

Tips for Surviving (and Thriving) During the Busy Season

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Sometimes, when faced with a crushing deadline at work, our healthy habits are the first things to go. You don’t always have to sacrifice your sanity in order to make it through the busy season. We’ve catalogued ways of caring for your mind and body that will not only help you feel better, but are proven to boost the quality of your work.

Four Things You Need to Know About Deducting Business Gift Expenses

Tallie Blog Business Gift Deduction Expense Reports

Just as you can expense business meals and entertainment, you may also deduct a portion of the amount you spend on gifts for colleagues, clients, and employees. But there are limitations as to who you can give to, what you can give them, and how much of a deduction you can receive in return. Here are four things you need to know about successfully deducting business gift expenses.

Let Us Entertain You: Tips for Deducting Your Business’s Meal and Entertainment Expenses

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Entertainment expenses, such as the cost of meals and shows, are subject to particular scrutiny from the IRS. The complicated, ambiguous rules surrounding these kinds of expenses can make it difficult for business owners to know which costs are deductible. We give you a better idea of what qualifies as an entertainment expense, and how it can be successfully deducted.

Tallie Q&A: Mileage Tracking, Expense Reports and the IRS

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Nothing attracts more scrutiny from the IRS than business mileage expenses. But are the records required for deductions the same as the ones for reimbursement? How do you know which records to keep? Here are answers to some common questions from Tallie users.

Looking for ways to save time this tax year? Tallie’s expense management software automates expense reports from start to finish.

Try Tallie’s powerful expense management software FREE for 14 days – no credit card or commitment required. Give it a try by signing up today. Care for a walkthrough by a trained expert first? Contact us to schedule your free Tallie product demo now.

Four Things You Need to Know About Deducting Business Gift Expenses

Everyone knows it’s better to give than it is to receive, right? Well, when it comes to your business, it turns out that you can do both at the same time. Just as you can expense business meals and entertainment, you may also deduct a portion of the amount you spend on gifts for colleagues, clients, and employees. There are, however, some limitations as to who you can give to, what you can give them, and how much of a deduction you can receive in return. So whether it’s a basket of holiday cookies or tickets to a Beyoncé concert, here are four things you need to know about successfully deducting business gift expenses.

Tallie Blog Business Gift Deduction Expense Reports

1. You can only deduct up to $25 per business gift.

We know you love your client almost as much as your client loves that gold-plated basket of pears. But as far as the IRS is concerned, you can deduct no more than $25 for each business gift per recipient for each tax year. It doesn’t matter whether you send that gift directly to your client, to their department, or to a member of their family. That $25 limit applies to everyone that may have benefited from your gift, even indirectly. However, if you send a set of gold watches to Mr. and Mrs. Smith, you will still be allowed to deduct $25 from each, provided that you have a separate (work-related) connection to each spouse.

2. You can’t deduct incidental costs.

Let’s say you’ve found that perfect gift for your IT department. While you always have the option of plopping it down in the middle of their desks unadorned, you’re probably going to want to wrap it first. Not to mention, giving gifts to partners at other companies means paying for shipping and handling. Know that in most cases, packing and mailing costs are considered “incidental,” and cannot be deducted. But if the packaging is considered to be part of the gift, like a hand-woven tote, its cost can be included in your deduction. Think the difference between wrapping paper and a decorative basket. Incidental costs may also refer to additional features that enhance the gift without substantially increasing its value–such as engraving.

3. Pens for everyone!

Certain kinds of items are considered to be exceptions to the $25 rule, and will not be counted towards your business gift expense limit. For example, you don’t need to include any widely distributed items that bear your name so long as they cost $4 or less. These small gifts most often manifest as pens, frisbees, and stickers with your company’s logo on them. Other strictly promotional items, such as signs or giant cardboard cutouts for display in your recipient’s storefront, are also not considered “gifts” for the purposes of the $25 deductible.

4. Are you not entertained?

According to the IRS, “any item that might be considered either a gift or entertainment generally will be considered entertainment.” (IRS Document 463 Ch. 3) So when in doubt, err on the side of an entertainment expense. But let’s say you give a client some tickets to an upcoming concert. If you attend the concert together, the cost of admission is automatically considered an entertainment expense. But if your client goes without you, you get to choose whether those tickets will be filed as entertainment or as a business gift expense. You are also free to change your mind about how to classify the expense, even after its been submitted to the IRS. If, after deducting the tickets as a gift, you determine that it would be more accurate (or more beneficial) to expense them as entertainment, you have three years to file an amended return.

You can keep track of all your business expenses, including business gifts, with Tallie’s award-winning expense report automation software. See how we can improve and simplify your accounting workflow FREE for 14 days – no credit card or commitment required. You can also schedule a product demo with one of our experts to help determine the best workflow for your business.