The festive season is upon us once again, which means it’s time to start sending out Christmas cards. For many small business owners and self-employed professionals, sending Christmas cards is a nice way to thank clients and business contacts for their patronage over the past year. But did you know that under certain circumstances, the costs associated with sending Christmas cards to clients could potentially be tax deductible?
The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) allows tax deductions for expenses incurred by small businesses and sole traders that are directly related to earning assessable income. This includes expenses associated with marketing and promoting your business. Sending Christmas cards to existing and potential clients could be considered a form of marketing, as long as it is done in a commercially reasonable manner.
Criteria for deductions
For Christmas card expenses to be deductible, the ATO requires you to meet certain criteria. Firstly, you must keep accurate records and receipts for all Christmas card expenses such as postage, printing, and cards/envelopes purchased. It is not sufficient to simply estimate costs – you need hard evidence in the form of invoices and receipts in case the ATO audits your tax return.
Focus on your client base only
Secondly, the distribution of Christmas cards must be focused on your existing client base and business contacts, rather than being a broad mailing to everyone on your mailing list or Christmas card list. Sending cards to friends and family who are not clients would not be considered a legitimate business expense. Distribution needs to be commercially reasonable and focused on maintaining and promoting your business.
Relate back to your business
Thirdly, any messages or branding on the Christmas cards must relate directly to your business. For example, including your business logo and contact details. Generic Christmas greetings without any reference to your business would not meet the ATO’s guidelines for a tax deductible expense.
As a general rule, the ATO expects Christmas card expenses to be modest and proportionate to the size of your business. Sending lavish, expensive cards or mass mailouts could raise eyebrows during an audit. Aim to keep costs reasonable and distribution focused on bona fide clients and business contacts.
To claim a tax deduction, Christmas card expenses must be included with your other work-related expenses on your tax return. Keep all receipts in a dedicated folder in case the ATO requests documentation to substantiate your claims.
With careful record keeping and by meeting the ATO’s guidelines around commercial reasonableness, sending Christmas cards could provide a nice way to thank clients over the festive season while also gaining a small tax deduction. Just be sure not to go overboard with costs or distribution if you want the ATO to view it as a legitimate business promotion expense. Following these simple tips will help ensure your Christmas cards stay tax deductible.
What about office Christmas cheer?
When you send your Christmas card out, it may be time to decorate your office as well. Putting up some festive decorations can help lift staff morale and get everyone in the holiday spirit. But can the costs associated with office Christmas decorations be claimed as a tax deduction? Let’s take a look at the Australian Taxation Office’s guidelines.
The ATO allows tax deductions for expenses incurred by small businesses that are directly related to deriving assessable income. This includes expenses associated with promoting your business, such as decorating your office space. However, there are some important criteria that must be met for Christmas decorations to qualify as a legitimate tax deduction.
Keep them modest
Firstly, any decorations used to decorate the office must be modest, temporary and have a clear business purpose. Lavish or extravagant decorations that are more suitable for private homes would not be considered reasonable business expenses by the ATO. Decorations should also be removed promptly after the festive season ends.
Keep them business-focused
Secondly, decorations must include some reference to your business. For example, incorporating your company logo or contact details into some of the decorations. Generic decorations without any branding would be seen more as private expenses rather than business promotion.
Keep them on-site
Thirdly, the office space being decorated must be a legitimate business premises where you conduct your business operations. Decorating a home office that is not the principal place of business would not qualify.
Keeping receipts is also important, as you’ll need to be able to substantiate any claims with invoices or receipts if audited. Estimates won’t cut it – you need hard evidence.
As a general guideline, the ATO expects office Christmas decoration expenses to be modest and proportionate to the size of your business. Lavish or over-the-top displays could raise eyebrows. Stick to simple, branded decorations that don’t break the bank.
To claim a deduction, record decoration expenses with your other work expenses on your tax return. Keep all receipts in a dedicated folder in case the ATO requests documentation.
By meeting the ATO’s criteria of being modest, temporary, branded and having a clear business purpose, office Christmas decorations could potentially provide a small tax deduction to brighten up your workplace this festive season. Just be prudent and don’t go overboard if you want the tax office to consider it a legitimate expense.