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July 26, 2016

Written by Bob Meyer, Editor of BarterNews

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From the desk of Bob Meyer... 07/26/2016

All back issues of "From the Desk..." can be accessed by clicking here.

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The Monday Motivator!

35th edition of The Monday Management. Topic is about Goals. Click here to open pdf document.


Tax-Deductible Travel Ideas

If you're planning a late summer vacation there are ways you may be able to use the tax code to help subsidize that summer trip to some popular tourist haven. Here are some possibilities:
 
→ Mixing vacation with business.
One ticket to tax-deductible travel is to tack some vacation onto a business trip you're scheduled to take this year.
 
If the primary purpose of your trip is business, you can deduct the cost of getting to and from your destination. For example, say you have a five-day professional convention in Honolulu this summer and you plan to stay an extra few days to lie on the beach and sample the sea breezes.

You could deduct 100% of your round-trip airfare to Hawaii. There is no need to prorate the costs based on the proportion of time you spent vacationing.
 
In contrast, food and lodging costs usually must be prorated — only those attributable to your five-day business convention would be deductible. There are, however, a couple of situations where you can deduct living expenses for your vacation days. If you have business to conduct on a Friday and Monday, you can deduct food and lodging for the Saturday and Sunday in between, even if you spend the entire weekend sightseeing.
 
→ Family travel.
Taking your family on a deductible trip won't diminish your write-offs. The IRS allows you to deduct whatever it would have cost you to travel alone. So when figuring your deduction for lodging, you can deduct the single-occupancy rate for your room, which will usually be just slightly less than the double-occupancy rate you actually pay for you and your family.
 
If you drive to your destination, you can deduct the full cost of your round-trip transportation, because you would incur the same cost traveling alone in the car. Of course, if you're traveling by plane or train, only your fare is deductible.
 
→ Summer school.
Professional seminars offer another chance for deductible travel. Continuing-education courses and seminars for doctors, lawyers and other professionals are often held in popular tourist areas. Travel costs are deductible if the education is needed to maintain or upgrade skills in your job, and if education is the main purpose of your trip.
 
→ Charitable trips.
Volunteer charity work can also lead to deductible travel opportunities. Travel to an out-of-town convention of a charitable or religious organization can be deductible — but only if you're an official delegate to the convention. If you're performing charitable work away from home, you may be able to deduct the travel costs. For example, scoutmasters who take Boy Scout troops on summer camping trips can deduct travel expenses as a charitable contribution.
 
→ Investment trips.
If you own an out-of-town rental property, you can deduct trips to look after your investment. But be prepared to prove that the primary purpose of your trip was to manage or work on the property — not to just vacation there.



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Getting The Best Deal On Your Airline Tickets

Airfare tends to be the most cost-prohibitive (expensive) part of planning a vacation or trip. Plus during the course of a day, prices fluctuate depending on availability. And with delayed flights, over-crowded cabins, excess fees and no free food, it's surprising that airlines are able to charge such high ticket prices.
 
Despite the abundance of meta-search engines like Kayak, Google Flights, or Fly.com and online travel agencies (OTAs), finding the lowest priced airfare is still a tedious process. That’s because prices change minute-by-minute, and it takes time to find the cheapest price.
 
Doing research is only one way to get a cheap ticket; another way is to shop in the "magic window." Prior to 28 days before your trip, ticket prices are pretty much the same. But during the period of 18 to 28 days prior to your trip, prices are at the lowest. This time-slot is your magic window for booking. Domestic fares bottom-out exactly 21 days before departure.
 
The last 18 days prior to your trip, prices start ticking up. The average fare increases 5% two weeks before departure, with fares increasing 30% from their lows the last seven days before departure. International fares don't have as much fluctuation; 34 days before departure, fares are only about 4% lower than the average at six months before departure.
 
Be sure to reserve your hotel suite when you book airfare. As a general rule of thumb, the more you can tack-on to your vacation package upfront — even including things like meals and tours — the better the savings over separate do-it-yourself pricing.
 
When booking a package deal, OTA's are better able to package these deals than airlines. You can save an average of $525 on a vacation, with an average of $1,000 saved for weeklong vacations to very popular destinations through an OTA.
 
Airlines announce their sales on Tuesdays, competing with each other and unveiling their latest fares for the next few months. Mid-day Tuesday to late-day Tuesday or early Wednesday is a good 24-hour sweet spot when you can find the latest sales. The airlines also release their last-minute weekend deals on Tuesdays, so flexibility is your best friend for booking airfare along with a willingness to go where the bargains are.
 
Departure time and day matters. Wednesday is the best day to depart, followed by Tuesday and Saturday. Experts cite savings of up to 10% when traveling midweek to midweek. For a weekend trip, you'll find that airfare is cheapest when you depart on Saturday and return on Monday.
 
Flying during certain times can also reduce your airfare bill. The very early morning flights, particularly if you're going on a leisure vacation, tend to be less expensive than midday departures. Plus these flights usually have the lowest risk for delay or cancellation, since the plane and crew are already at the airport. Overnight flights can usually be good bargains, as well as late afternoon or dinner flights.
 
Special tip:  When you're doing your search, don't initially specify departure times. This way, you'll be able to see the time of day that really is the cheapest to fly.
 
Flights from smaller airports can be cheaper. Experts also suggest looking at fares for airports within a reasonable radius of your destination. The larger players sometimes monopolize large airports. Savings for flying into a smaller airport may justify more time in the car spent driving to your destination.
 
Consider one-stop as opposed to non-stop flights. When the stop is in the airline's hub city, it can generate some dramatic savings and thus lower fares. When traveling with small children, time during a layover may be a welcome break from the plane.
 
One-way tickets can be a bargain. Buying two one-way tickets from different airlines may be cheaper than a round-trip ticket. Many meta-search engines will do this for you, such as Kayak's "Hacker Fares."
 
Continue to check fares after you book. If fares drop within 24-hours after you've obtained your ticket, you can cancel your flight without paying a fee or penalty, according to Department of Transportation regulations. However, the flight must depart more than a week from the time the ticked was procured. If fares drop outside this 24-hour window most airlines have a credit or refund policy, but they may charge a fee.



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