Being a member of the Professional Golfers Association means you're a business owner. The business may consist of you and your golf ability, but you're as much a sole proprietor as anyone who sits behind an office desk. As a business owner, you're entitled to write off professional expenses from your business income.
Whenever you're on tour away from home, you can write off the costs. You can also take travel expenses if, say, you fly cross-country to talk about a product endorsement or setting up your own golf club. The IRS will let you deduct lodging, plane fares, car expenses and up to 50 percent of your meals, as long as your expenses aren't "lavish." Your tax home is usually either where your business is based or where you live when you take time off from touring.
Tools of the Trade
If you buy new golf clubs, golf balls or other equipment for yourself, you can deduct them as legitimate business expenses. You can also write off equipment you don't use on the green. If, say, you use a laptop to track your itinerary, reserve plane tickets or manage your pro golf shop, the computer is deductible. Clothes you wear to play golf are probably not deductible. The IRS frowns on deducting work clothes if they look like something you'd wear off the job.
Few golfers are lone wolves. Professional success often involves paying other people, whose bills then become added tax write-offs. If you pay a caddy, a trainer or an instructor, their bills are all deductible; even a sports psychologist is a legitimate deduction. If you take employees with you on tour, their travel expenses are as deductible as yours. Unfortunately this doesn't apply to family members unless they have a real job with you.
Ordinary and Necessary
When you go over possible deductions, keep the words "ordinary and necessary" in your mind. Those are touchstones the IRS uses to decide if a deduction is legit -- is it an ordinary expense in your line of work, and does it actually help you do your job? If, say, you're traveling to Hawaii for a PGA tournament, plane tickets are an ordinary expense. Buying your own yacht to sail there probably won't pass the smell test.
A Durham, NC resident, Fraser has written about law, starting a business, balancing your budget and fighting evictions, among other legal and financial topics.