Many authors are confused by this category. According to the CRA, you can attend (and list expenses for) two conventions a year. But what if you attend three, or four? Which to use?
Depending on your involvement, you may be able to claim expenses from all the conventions you attend. The difference is simple: Are you there to learn (i.e. you attend panels, talk to friends and have a good time) or are you presenting on panels, selling books in the dealer’s room, meeting with your publisher or agent? The second turns your attendance into an extension of your business. You are there to make money.
As usual, keep all of your receipts!!
Travel. Either airline fare or by vehicle are the most common. If you carpool, only one person can claim or split the gas costs if you’re travelling a long distance. For in-town events, add the kilometres to your logbook. If you fly, include the fees, luggage cost, method of getting to (and from) the airports to the venue, parking and so on. The hotel room costs also go here.
Meals. During your travel, plus eating at the convention itself. This would include the banquet if you attended it. The downside is that only 50% of these costs actually count as an expense. If you are hosting a party, a book launch or other ‘event’ there, then the entire amount is deductible.
The cost of attending (the gate fee, ticket, and so on). If there are extra charges for workshops or special events within the main convention, these will count. Anything you put on a ‘freebie’ table or hand out such as business cards, bookmarks and so on will be covered as office expenses or advertising.
If you are selling books on a merchant table, that is a good expense. I tend to put that under rent- since you have rented the space for the duration. Anything you have to make your table more attractive, or to hold your books, can be held in a CCA account (to depreciate over time) or directly applied to expenses (candy to attract potential customers is ‘party’ meals so deducted at 100%). The price of the books for sale is determined by you. You can discount the cover price or offer deals: Buy the three books in the series for less, for example. Just keep track of what sold for what price. Your profit on self-sold books is higher, so you may wish to encourage more new readers this way. List sales in your spreadsheet. Use a Square and your phone to take credit cards.
Vacation or Convention?
Many people wonder if taking a vacation in addition to attending the convention will change these calculations. If the extra time is truly a vacation, then the ratio of work days to vacation days will apply to the travel section. The extra days in the hotel and any food do not count. If you are spending extra time in an area to do research or to promote your books at local bookstores, then that time is business related and is deductible. If family members come with you to a convention, their portion of the expenses are not deductible unless they are your support staff or are writers as well. By support staff, I mean they take pictures of you at various panels, your event, as gofers, help at your merchant table or provide aid for those who require it.
As always, consult a professional tax preparer if you have questions.
Fitzpatrick Financial Services
(personal, business taxes, insurance and investment broker)