Updated: Sep 20, 2023
Many bloggers and influencers assume that if they’re doing something for work, they can write it off on their taxes. The truth is a bit murkier than that.
Food, lifestyle, and travel blogs are red hot. Consumers hunger for talented, passionate bloggers to dish out on the best destinations, can’t-miss restaurants, and most important lifestyle hacks.
That makes the decision to jump into travel and lifestyle blogging something of a no-brainer. It can be an incredible decision that offers financial rewards, plenty of growth potential, and the opportunity to control your own destiny.
However, if you don’t have a good grasp on finances, it can also be a major issue. Specifically, we’re talking about taxes and what you can and cannot write off as a travel or lifestyle blogger.
Many bloggers and influencers assume that if they’re doing something for work, they can write it off on their taxes. The truth is a bit murkier than that. Does this mean you can’t write off that trip to Bali or that meal at the Michelin-starred restaurant downtown? It might.
One of the most important dividing lines here is the one between work trips and personal trips. If you’re a travel influencer, most of your trips will be work trips. The important thing is to treat the trip as work. That means lots of posts, content, and videos documenting the entire trip. You might also want to include affiliate links as well if possible.
If you decide you want to go to Barcelona and only post one or two pictures, then you probably cannot write that cost off on your taxes.
When you combine business and personal travel, you need to determine which costs are deductible and which are not. This is where things get tricky because you must be very clear about what costs were business-related and which were not. If you treat the trip like a work trip, then you can likely write off the cost of airfare, hotels, food, and taxis. Personal items like souvenirs cannot be written off.
Travel and lifestyle bloggers must pay for airline flights, rental cars, hotels, Airbnb accommodations, and more. But can you write those off on your taxes? It depends.
You can only write off these costs if they’re directly related to your business. So, if you travel to Germany specifically to review a particular destination on your blog and you don’t do much there in terms of personal interests, you’re probably okay to write off the costs of your flight, hotel, and transportation.
On the other hand, let’s say that you take a trip to Cancun, Mexico. Ostensibly, it’s for work and you stay in an Airbnb property and blog about it. However, you’re only in the property for three of the seven days of your stay. The rest of the trip is spent in a hotel on the beach while you enjoy your time in the sun without doing any substantial posting or content creation. In this case, you could write off the costs of the Airbnb, but not the costs of the hotel.
Really, it comes down to whether or not the cost was incurred primarily for business reasons. Exercise caution when writing off accommodation and travel-related costs so you don’t raise red flags with the IRS.
During your travels, you’ll take part in a wide range of experiences. That might include things like guided tours of natural areas or historic sites, dining experiences, or even attractions like amusement parks, museums, and the like.
Can you deduct these costs? Again, it depends. You must be able to draw a direct link between the experience and content generation. The cost must be related to your business. So, if you blogged about your trip to the Guggenheim, that would be a tax write-off. However, if you went to a nice restaurant afterward but did not review it or use it to create content, then your meal would not be eligible as a write-off.
Content creators need a wide range of equipment for their businesses. That can include computers, lighting, cameras, website hosting, and so much more. Drones, microphones, and even software fall under this heading, too.
Can you write off the costs of these purchases? In many cases, yes. The ability to write off a purchase like this comes down to a couple of things.
Did you purchase it to help run your business daily? If so, you can write it off in most cases. For instance, you might need a new laptop for your business. That’s usually a legitimate write-off. The same thing applies to cameras, drones, and other business essentials.
Did you purchase it solely to review? If so, you can usually write it off if.your review is tied to an affiliate link.
Did you purchase it for use as a giveaway or prize for your business? Again, you can usually write these off.
Anyone who’s worked as a travel or lifestyle blogger for any amount of time can give you a list of expenses no one ever told them about. We’re talking about essential-yet-easily-forgotten things like travel insurance, cell phone data plans, and translation services.
The good news is that they’re all tax deductible if you have proper documentation tying them to your business.
If you want to be successful as a travel blogger, you’ll need to balance both sides of your business (blogging and financial management). Documenting travel expenses falls into the latter category.
Keep detailed records. You must be able to tie every expense to your business if you want to deduct it from your taxes. No record? No deduction. Limited details that connect the expense to your business? You might think twice before trying to deduct it.
You should also skip doing all this manually. Use software and digital tools to make managing all those documents simple, even when you’re on the go.
Every trip you take should be documented. Write down why you’re going, where you’re going, how it ties in with your business, and more.
The Dos and Don’ts of Claiming Tax Write-Offs
Not necessarily. The primary purpose of the trip must be business-related. Simply posting about a personal vacation doesn’t automatically make it deductible.
Sponsored trips are typically compensated by brands or agencies, either through direct payment or by covering expenses. Documentation and agreements can help establish the nature of the trip.
It’s essential to clearly differentiate and document business-related expenses from personal ones. Only the business portion may be deductible.
Typically, you should keep tax-related documents for at least three years but always consult with your accountant for specific guidance.
Travel and lifestyle blogging is an incredibly popular industry with plenty of potential for success. Tax deductions can help boost your income from your content creation efforts, too. However, you must be informed about what can be written off and what cannot, that you keep your documents organized, and that you’re compliant with IRS rules and regulations.
Be diligent when it comes to your financial practices. If you’re even a little concerned that you’re not 100% compliant, consult with an industry-specific expert for guidance.