Smart mystery shoppers know how to use tax write-offs for business expenses in their favor while they are traveling. When you can write off a portion of your travel expenses for a trip you were planning to take anyway simply by completing a shop while you are there, why wouldn’t you? Of course there are limitations to this. You certainly can’t write off a $2,500 weekend in Daytona Beach simply because you did one shop there. However, there are definitely some money-saving advantages to doing a little work while you are away from home. Check with your accountant or tax advisor for more details on what exactly you can write off on your trip.
There is a little more planning involved in completing a shop far from home. Here’s what you need to know:
Plan Around the Deadline. You can pick up shops on the way to your destination, such as in an airport or in a city on the way to your destination. Shops typically require that you complete the required paperwork within 12 to 24 hours after you perform the shop. If you won’t have the ability to log on to your computer and file the shop within the required timeline, you should pass on that shop.
You should check that you won’t need to do a return visit to the location to complete the shop. Unless you will be returning through the same location fairly quickly and can do the return visit shop in the timeframe required, you would need to skip over that particular shop.
When you are making your personal plans for your vacation, make sure to schedule time for you to complete the shop and the paperwork. You don’t want to have a big sightseeing tour, fancy dinner, or a show planned at the time when you need to be completing your paperwork.
Check Your Equipment. Being a mystery shopper today requires quite a bit of technology. First, you need your laptop with internet access. So be sure to pack up your laptop before you leave the house, as well as the printed shop requirements. If you don’t have a wireless internet card that will allow you to connect to the internet using your cell phone, you will want to make sure your hotel or other accommodations will have internet access available for you. Or plan ahead and locate a nearby internet café where you can log on.
If you need to scan your receipt or fax your paperwork, make sure you will have access to a scanner or fax machine. Many higher-end hotels have full-service business centers that are able to accommodate these needs. If your accommodations won’t have the necessary equipment, don’t worry. You can always pick up a shop on the way back home, so you are still completing a shop on your trip but will have the conveniences of home to file the paperwork.
Don’t Limit Yourself. Keep in mind, this doesn’t just apply to the big once-a-year family vacation. You can use shops that are outside your normal shop area to your advantage for a small weekend getaway to a bed and breakfast a few cities away, or a holiday weekend with the relatives. Anytime you are planning on traveling out of town, see if you can pick up a shop either on the way or at your destination.
While it may sound like a bit of a pain to complete a shop on a trip, there are some significant tax advantages to being able to write off a portion of your trip. With a little planning and forethought, completing a mystery shop on your trip can pay off big for you.