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Incidental Expenses

What are incidental expenses for pilots and flight attendants?

Incidental expenses are the "I" in M&IE. When a pilot or flight attendant deducts employee business expenses from their taxes, typically the incidental expenses are lumped in with the meal expenses to give the crewmember the M&IE total. It is possible (even though it is very rare) that a taxpayer can calculate the incidental expenses separate from the meal expenses. In that case, the taxpayer could use the actual costs of the incidental expenses incurred during the tax year.

Which travel expenses are considered as incidental expenses?

The following travel expenses are considered to be incidental expenses.

  • Fees and tips given to porters, baggage carriers, bellhops, hotel maids, stewards or stewardesses and others on ships, and hotel servants in foreign countries,
  • Transportation between places of lodging or business and places where meals are taken, if suitable meals can be obtained at the temporary duty site, and
  • Mailing costs associated with filing travel vouchers and payment of employer-sponsored charge card billings.  

What is small travel expenses are not considered in the list of incidental expenses?

Incidental expenses do not include expenses for laundry, cleaning and pressing of clothing, lodging taxes, or the costs of telegrams or telephone calls.  Also, van driver tips between the airport and hotel are not listed as incidental expenses and therefore may be written off separate from M&IE.  Note that van tips between a hotel and restaurant ARE considered incidentals and should not be written off if using a per diem calculation.

If an item is NOT listed as an incidental expense AND it is determined to be a tax deductible employee business expense, then the item can be added to your itemized employee business expenses if done properly.

What do pilots and flight attendants need to be careful to avoid with regard to incidental expenses?

If an item IS listed as an incidental expense AND you use the normal M&IE calculation as most people do, DO NOT add that expense into the list of employee business expenses because you are essentially double-dipping. The reason it is considered to be double-dipping is that the expense is already automatically a component of the M&IE total.

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