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I work in coffee shops every day as I develop. Coffee shops have an unwritten (sometimes written) rule that you cannot use their wifi, power, and bathrooms without buying something. Because of that I buy a small coffee or tea every day.

This adds up to about $1000 a year for me.

Can I claim a tax deduction for this? I have read on this blog that I can deduct 100% of internet cafe if it costs money, so to me this feels like the same concept. I must buy a coffee to use the free wifi so its kind of the same thing just with extra steps.

I can also deduct 50% of 'business meal expenses' which is more for lunch and dinner meetings, so I don't really think this applies. What do you all think?

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    Why do you work in coffee shops as opposed to a home, office, or library? – Hart CO Apr 11 at 21:15
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    @yoozer8 This is not a duplicate question, as tax laws vary from country to country. – Ben Miller Apr 11 at 21:36
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    @HartCO being in my apartment is bad for focus, no monetary reason, I just get more done when i'm out of the house – MingMan Apr 11 at 22:45
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    @BenMiller yes, but the original version did not specify a country (and I admit I did not follow the link to the blog) – yoozer8 Apr 11 at 23:00
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Can i write this off as a tax deduction?

No. You're buying coffee. The coffee costs the same whether you use WiFi or not, therefore the WiFi has no attributable business cost.

If you were buying internet access rather than coffee, then yes.

I agree that the 50% business meal expense does not apply since you aren't traveling or conducting meetings.

The above is just my interpretation of the rules, to claim the deduction the IRS would need to be convinced that the cost of coffee at a coffee shop is an ordinary and necessary expense for doing business.

  • Your view on this matter is very conservative. You definitely won't be audited for not expensing it. But you probably won't be audited for expensing it either, if you make the right arguments. – sofa general Apr 11 at 21:49
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    @sofageneral You definitely could be audited whether you expense it or not, the question is whether or not the deduction is appropriate and defensible. You might get away with a lot of things, the IRS can't audit everyone. – Hart CO Apr 11 at 22:07
  • @HartCO Im no expert so im just asking. Could the same logic not be applied to office snacks and coffee (which can be written off)? It doesn't appear to me to be n attributable business cost. – MingMan Apr 11 at 22:47
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    @MingMan That's a good question, it seems equivalent, but the IRS differentiates between office snacks provided for your team at the office and those you purchase for yourself. They also have different guidelines that make some meals in an office fully deductible that wouldn't apply to a meal in your home office. What is considered ordinary and necessary does change over time and is certainly debatable. – Hart CO Apr 11 at 23:09
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    Also don't forget the whole self employed thing and there being no office for said snacks. If he's taking the allotted self employment benefits (home office area) then he should be very careful about what he deducts. If the IRS audits you, they will look for every reason to justify the expense of auditing you. A claim of $1000 in coffee as a business expense, no matter how you try to explain it, would be a wonderful discovery for someone just looking to assess fines. If you are ever not alone, that's when you keep a record of what was bought, and who you were with if it's a business meeting – Kai Qing Apr 12 at 0:02
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I am not an accountant. But I have taken accounting courses, which stressed the importance of creativity in accounting.

Seems to me... Coffee could be counted as a business benefit your 1 man company provides to the employee. Google, facebook, and all those companies provide free food, dry cleaning, etc. etc. as benefits. Do you think they count that as a business expense?

The scenario here is even better than brewing coffee at home and consuming it in one's home office. He is using a coffee shop wifi, and buying coffee to stay there!! That's "rent" from a certain point of view...

The rules are very simple (the tax code is complicated but not nearly complicated enough to cover all scenarios). If you can convince the tax man, when they audit you, you are good to go. If you can't, you have a problem.

If the WWF can convince the IRS that the pro wrestlers are independent contractors... you should be able to do the same with buying coffee as rent (which is definitely a business expense)

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    I promise you Hart CO is not an accountant either. – sofa general Apr 11 at 21:45
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    I'm not your down-voter, and I'm certainly not OP's accountant/lawyer. Why is that relevant? – Hart CO Apr 11 at 22:17

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