I’ve had the privilege of attending some amazing weddings in my life: a beautiful, fun evening in New Orleans, right after Hurricane Katrina; a magnificent wedding at the elegant Ambassador Hotel; and an expensive affair that took over the bar and all the rooms on an entire floor of the historic and luxurious Biltmore Hotel. Costs for these weddings ran into the tens of thousands of dollars.
Were they worth it? I don’t know. But each of those couples is still married—some more than 40 years later.
When running up such high costs, it’s tempting to try to get Uncle Sam to foot the bill in the form of tax deductions. After all, among the guests are people you had to invite, such as key business clients or customers, your most important vendors, your accountant, your staff, and other business-related people. If roughly one-third of the people at your wedding are business-related invitees, can’t you at least write off the costs of their share of the expenses?
In fact, when you do write off these costs as meals and entertainment, the IRS usually finds the wedding hidden in the costs and disallows them. You may end up with some rather unpleasant penalties as well.
How can you write off some (or all) of your wedding? Here are a few ideas.
1) Donate the flower arrangements and certain decorations to a charity, such as a hospital, orphanage, senior care facility, or VA hospital. Get a receipt from the charity for about half the original cost because you used the flowers and decor at the wedding first.
2) Donate the leftover food to a charity like a homeless shelter or a food bank. Don’t donate items that are too dry or ruined to eat, and get a receipt for the full cost of the various edible foods.
3) Turn the wedding into a business event. This strategy can work if you normally hold seminars, conventions, or large business meetings in hotels or resort venues. Just make the wedding a part of the main dinner meeting of the event. Not only do you get to write off the costs but your attendees will also pick some of the costs with their registration fees.
However, if this dinner event is significantly more costly than your usual dinners, the difference between them is considered a personal cost. Also personal is the cost of the wedding itself—the cleric, the musicians, the canopy, or other specific wedding-related add-ons.
4) Turn the whole wedding into a charity or fundraising event, and market it that way. Have people pay to attend as they would a charity event, with all the profits going to the designated charity. You must do this under the charity’s non-profit ID number and under its guidance. The receipts provided to the contributors must show the value of their meal as non-deductible.
Of course, you can always get involved in one of those Bachelor or Bachelorette programs on TV and let the producers pay all your costs. But then you’d have to pay taxes on the 1099-MISC they would issue you for the retail cost of the event—and that would turn the happy day into a downer.
Eva Rosenberg, EA is the publisher of TaxMama.com, where your tax questions are answered. She is the author of several books and ebooks, including Small Business Taxes Made Easy. Eva teaches a tax pro course at IRSExams.com and tax courses you might enjoy at http://www.cpelink.com/teamtaxmama.