Des Moines CPA Joe Kristan provides an important lesson on his Roth & Co. Tax Updates Blog in a post entitled, "It’s Your Company. Is it Your Deduction?"
Joe recounts the story of an entrepreneur who incorporated a business but then spent over $47,000 in business expense out of his own pocket, which he then deducted on his schedule C. When the IRS called him on it the tax court told him that only the corporation can deduct corporate expenses. If the shareholder pays them and isn’t reimbursed, the expenses are treated as a contribution to capital. That increases the shareholder’s basis, but that doesn’t help the shareholder’s tax picture until the company is sold. That’s true both for C corporations and S corporations.
Joe offers this lesson:
Mr. Meyer could have submitted his receipts to the company for reimbursement; the company would have been able to deduct the expenses. Or he could have had the corporation pay the expenses directly. But by paying the expenses out of his own checkbook and not turning them in for reimbursement, he lost his deductions altogether.
Another problem I see is the entrepreneur who wants to run all his business AND personal expenses through the business. For example, earlier this spring I witnessed a father buying his son’s baseball equipment at a local sporting goods store. I chuckled when he pulled out a company check to pay for the equipment. Sure, one expense might get buried and never noticed in an audit but experience tells me that "pigs get fat while hogs get slaughtered." Many business people don’t understand where to draw the line. Business expenses are fine to deduct. But running obvious personal expenses through the business just isn’t acceptable. It could even be a reason to "pierce the corporate veil" in litigation causing you to lose your limited liability protection.