Top 20 Common Advertising Expenses for Small Business Owners

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You’re probably spending a fair amount of money on advertising your small business to potential clients and customers. Did you know most of your marketing and advertising can be written off as a tax deduction to lower your tax bill?

Whether you’ve got a whole marketing team running the show or you just purchased your first  ad, most money spent on promoting your small business is tax deductible. 

According to the IRS, the criteria that your advertising expense must meet to qualify as a deduction is that it is ordinary (i.e. common and accepted in your industry) or necessary (i.e. helpful and appropriate for your business). Marketing and advertising are both essential to growing and promoting your business, which makes them ordinary and necessary.

Just because the IRS terms an advertising expense as “ordinary” doesn’t mean you can’t be creative when it comes to ways you advertise. As long as the purpose is to bring in new customers and keep existing ones, you should be covered. Just be sure you know and document the business purpose.

The few exceptions include expenses that are used primarily for personal use or gain, not business promotion. In addition, though donating products or money to a community event or charity are tax deductible, donating services or time are not. Again, be sure to know and be able to show how the expense benefits your business. When in doubt about a specific advertising expense and if it’s tax deductible, ask your accountant.

20 Common Tax-Deductible Advertising Expenses for Small Businesses

Here’s a list of the top 20 most common advertising expenses for small business owners to keep in mind come tax season. All of these are tax-deductible:

  1. Website set-up, design, and maintenance
  2. Pay-per-click ads and online advertisements (Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, etc.)
  3. Social media promotions
  4. Promotional materials with your logo such as t-shirts, mugs, pens, notepads and more
  5. Graphic design fees: logos, business cards, brochures, signs, printed or online advertisements, flyers, or other promotional materials designed professionally
  6. Printing of promotional materials: business cards, flyers, postcards, brochures, and coupons
  7. Storefront signs
  8. Vehicle signs or vinyl decals for windows
  9. Giveaways and promotions
  10. Radio advertisements
  11. Magazine or newspaper advertisements
  12. Television commercials
  13. Balloons, decorations, refreshments, and any other expenses incurred for parties or open houses promoting your business
  14. SEO services
  15. Packaging, design, and materials for your products

Tax-Deductible Goodwill Advertising Expenses

The following are considered goodwill advertising expenses and are tax deductible as well. Goodwill advertising is any type of promotion that keeps your small business in the public eye.

16. Sponsoring a youth sports team in your community such as little league baseball or soccer

17. Money donated to a school, charity, or local cause

18. Participating in a parade to promote your business, such as handing out flyers, candy, frisbees, pens, or shirts

19. Giving away products or samples

20. Advertisements encouraging people to donate to a certain charity, like the Red Cross

Ben Sutton

Ben Sutton

Ben Sutton is the founder of Mazuma USA, an accounting firm providing tax, bookkeeping and payroll services to small businesses. Since founding Mazuma, Ben has established himself as an expert in the small business world. He’s still driven by that same desire to provide accounting help to all small businesses – from photographers, bloggers and creatives to lawyers, doctors, and dentists, everyone needs affordable accounting help. Ben is a Certified Public Accountant, and a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. But Ben considers his greatest achievement and credential to be his happy wife and four children.

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