Outdoor Articles

Tax Deductible Trap Shooting

by Pursue The Outdoors on November 30th, 1999 in Competition Shooting

Most clay target shooters do not write off expenses. If they did, they would save more money and receive higher tax rebate checks. For some, the amount of the rebate could pay for the next year’s shooting expenses or close to it! First, you do not have to be “professional” to deduct trap shooting expenses. There is only one rule and test to qualify, “Do you intend to make a profit?” Whether you make a profit or not is irrelevant, it’s only the “intent” to make a profit. In other words, you are trap shooting with the intent to make a profit not just for fun. This does not mean you can’t have fun. You just have to prove that your activity is leading to the potential to make a profit. Many shooters meet this requirement! How?

If you are attending registered shoots you certainly do intend to make a profit! The handicap prizes is money and if you play the options too (you don’t have to, but should) you certainly “intend” to make a profit. So right there is two “intents.”

Your gun, shooting clothing, shells, practice and entrance fees, reloading components, fuel, motels, meals are all qualified as tax write off’s!

The IRS will not allow a full tax deduction for a “hobby.” Is trap shooting a hobby for you? That is a state of mind, and for shooters who do not attend registered shooting events and only practice at the local gun club as a social event then you are a hobby shooter. The key test is attending registered competition where prize money is awarded and if you do attend registered shoots it is time to begin thinking of tax deductions!


Is it complicated? No. It’s easy and it’s completely legal. You simply begin saving your receipts and enter the totals on tax form “C- Profit & Loss for Business” and you’ll have your deductions. Your family will appreciate trap shooting way better if income is being returned from your shooting even if you lose events!

This Is Your First Year Of Starting Your Business

  • You will need a computer to enter your tax information, so go out and buy one and you can write that off this year. You do not need to depreciate it…just write off the $3,000 you spend now. But you should be aware that the computer must be used for business. If the kids have games installed on it the deduction will not survive an audit. You may only be able to then write off 1/3 or ½; of it.
  • You need Quicken or Quickbooks accounting programs so you write that off too.
  • Need a new competition-grade shotgun? Go buy it and write it off!
  • Do you need a new shooting vest, ear phone protectors, shooting shoes, shirt, hat, pants? Write it off.
  • What else do you feel you need that is customary and required of most trapshooters? Deduct it.
  • Club dues, shells, components, practice fees, fuel and meals are all deductible.
  • Need to attend a competition shoot out of town? Write-off the trip’s expenses.

Now you know why I have included the expense form in my Trap Shooting Secrets book and on this web site so when you are traveling you can easily tally your motel, fuel, meals, practice and shooting fees.

Can you bring your wife and kids to a shoot and write off the expenses? No. Only the expenses directly related to your shooting activity. However, fuel or milage to get to the shoot, even though the family is with you is deductible. Motel room for you (and if you wife still agrees to sleep with you after all these years) the motel stay is deductible. Meals can only be deducted for the shooter in most cases. Same with air fare.

If you win an event you have to declare any money winnings as income and rightfully so. For most shooters, more money will be spent on expenses than will be earned in income, at least for a few years. A good year here and there will require you pay tax on your profits after your expenses are deducted, but you are still way ahead, financially. And, the more money you do make the more expenses you will likely acquire and be able to write off. Believe it or not, you can make more money doing it legally than trying to hide money from the IRS. And by not writing off your expenses and pocketing money and not declaring it to the IRS can get you a serious fraud rap! It’s better to start operating your shooting as a business and do it legally.

Hobby Or Business

Generally you can deduct expenses on a hobby but these deductions are limited to the amount of income the hobby produces. Not a good way to go. If you operate your shooting as a business your expenses can exceed your income! The IRS, if you are audited some day, will challenge your trap shooting as being a hobby and not a business and disallow your prior years deductions. But do not fear this. If your expenses show that you are writing-off to attend registered shoot competitions the IRS can’t make its case and will have to allow you the business deductions.

You can write off all your practice sessions and the mileage to attend each weekend too at your local club, but if you only shoot one registered shooter per year your shooting will be deemed a hobby. So, you have to attend a reasonable amount of registered shoots to prove you are shooting in a businesslike manner. How many shoots? Nobody knows, but I would say at least 6-per year, especially the major state and grand events should be included if you can attend. Small shoots are okay as long as they are “registered” shoots. Turkey and fun shoots don’t qualify.

The IRS is concerned with only one fact…”a business is an activity engaged in for profit.” However, there is no law that say’s, “You must actually make a profit.” The only “rule” is that you “intend” to make a profit. Now, if you can show a profit just once in three years or so, you should be okay in any audit situation. Again, even if you don’t make a profit for 5-years you will prevail if your intention is to make a profit and not just shooting for pure fun or enjoyment. Making money must be your motive, and you practice and attend shoots with the intent to earn money. That is why registered shooting can be a huge benefit to you for tax reasons.

If you feel uncomfortable about writing off all your expenses such as all of your practice fees and shell costs at the local club, you can just deduct all of the expensis to attend registered shoots. The IRS wouldn’t stand a chance to deny them.

If You Are Challenged

You will likely not be challenged by the IRS, but it can happen so here’s a few things you should know. You have to prove that you are not shooting as a hobby, so you:

  • Maintain books and records of expenses and winnings in a businesslike manner. Computer helps you do this very easily. Make sure you get a reciept for all practice fees, meals, etc., and enter it in the computer.
  • You have lost money last or years before but have changed something to correct the loss to help you from stop losing money. Like taking trap shooting lessons, buying books, magazines, videotapes, a new gun. Getting your gun professionally fitted, installing a recoil pad, etc. Doing just one of these things each year or all in one year. The point is…do something to help yourself shoot better so you can improve your odds to win and earn money. You may not win, but you did try to stop the losses.
  • Play the option money at registered shoots. The 25/50 option is a good place to begin as you will likely start earning money very quickly. It may not pay nowhere near your expenses, but it is proof that you did in fact “earn money and the registered shoot was a business activity.” You don’t want to be filing tax returns that show $15,000 in losses and $0 in income. $15,000 in losses and $400 income is better. You won’t owe money in taxes but you’ll get your deductions and a nice rebate check in the mail next year!
  • You act professionally. You consult with other top-gun shooters asking for tips and instruction on how to improve your shooting ability. This is where lessons come in handy to satisfy any audit in your favor. You consult with the Small Business Administration for advice on operating a business and maintaining records.
  • You make a serious effort to make a profit. This does not mean you have to spend 40-hours per week trying to make a profit. Not at all. Trap shooting may only be a sideline business for you, but when you do trapshoot you are serious about it. Again, playing the options reveals the serious intent to make money. You may think of this as gambling but all businesses are gambles.
  • You have profit potential. Even if your trap shooting business continues to lose money, you are an artist. Like a writer who has to write for years before s/he finishes that first book — and even then may never be able to sell it and make a profit. The fact of writing the book, putting in the effort with the “intent” to sell it to a publisher. Now, “My Life Story” won’t qualify just as, “I Love Trap Shooting” won’t get you any points with the IRS. However, if you have earned money from the options here and there and your scores are actually climbing too you’ll be okay.
  • A bad year or two. It is common to all artist to have a bad spell. Writer’s get, “Writer’s block” and trapshooter’s get “Slumps.” Same as with golf pros and boxers and…you get the idea. When you are in a slump increase your practice or start buying books, videotapes, take lessons. Do something to improve yourself and improve your chances of making a profit. It’s the attempt you make that counts here. If you simply do nothing then it shows you are not serious and you have no profit motive and just using shooting as a hobby.
  • Past success. If you have won shoots in the past, won money and prizes of any value and you are competing in a professional environment (registered shoots) with the intent and ability to earn money, you will be okay with your business deductions.
  • Keep a log of business contacts you have made each year. Names of shooters’ you have consulted with asking for advice is a good method. It’s also a good way to meet new friends.
  • All the “technical” books you buy and lessons you take can be deducted from taxes. A book that just talks about trap shooting isn’t going to pass the test. But technical books will be tax deductible! A shooter who is audited and simply hands into evidence, Trap Shooting Secrets and Precision Shooting books is going to demonstrate to the IRS you are a serious shooter and not just a casual hobby shooter…the books are very technical and only a serious shooter would buy them to improve the chances of earning a profit.
  • A trap shooting magazine, such as Shotgun Sports Magazine, will qualify as a deduction as the content is rich in technical instructions. So is the Trap & Field Magazine, Clay Shooting Magazine and Pull Magazine. A Guns & Ammo type mag may not qualify for a trap shooting business as it is not dedcated to clay target shooting.
  • You can, if you wish, setup a separate bank or checking account just for your business. It helps to establish with the IRS (if you are ever audited) that you are indeed running a legitimate business. But it is not necessary with the computer programs today that can filter out all the business expenses from personal expenses. What you don’t need is a bank’s business checking account. They will hit you will outrageous fees. Just open up a normal checking under your name or just use your current account as is.

You are not operating a typical business with a physical location so you don’t have to buy a copying machine, get a business card, business phone, business bank account or register for a typical business license. There are no customers to serve. You don’t even need a resale license as you are not selling anything. You don’t register your business period. There are no zoning rules. You simply file tax form “C” each year with your taxes. It’s that simple!

Mixing Trap Shooting With A Vacation

Yes, you can deduct your trap shooting vacation expenses! The test is this; Was the purpose of your trip a vacation or business? How much time did you spend on business?

The best way to deduct a vacation is to see its true purpose. It has to be business related. This does not mean you can’t have fun and go sightseeing once you are there on location, but be aware that only the time you spend in the business portion is deductible. The transportation air or cruise ship fare is usually deductible in full, but there are percentage rules that often apply so only 50% may be deductible if you mix too much pleasure with business. Luca Scribani Rossi has a shooting school in Australia. If you attend this school you can write off the entire trip, even if the evenings after school were pure pleasure sightseeing the harbor, shopping, etc. You just don’t write off the sightseeing and shopping vacation portions. You can write off your evening meals (for the shooter).

Make sure you keep accurate records because the IRS treats vacation/business ventures as “all or nothing.” This means if you have a business trip and you have good records and a good purpose to be at the location related to business you deduct the entire trip’s expenses. If not, you can’t deduct any of it. What are good records? Just “receipts” for meals, taxi, bus fare, etc., and the “business purpose” for these expenses. Taking a taxi to a shopping mall or museum won’t fly.

Keep in mind this rule when you bring a spouse with you on a business trip/vacation. If the spouse does not increase the expense that expense can be deducted. So, air fare is not deductible, but a taxi or hotel room is. Meals can only be deducted for the shooter not the wife.

Tax Tip

If you are not turning a profit or are showing a high gross and a low net profit don’t take the standard deduction. Use the itemized deduction. Otherwise the IRS will suspect you have padded the accounts with personal expenses. Use a computer program or a tax preparer to do your taxes. Actually, the computer programs today are better! They have audit checking and will give you advice on how to save even more money on taxes.

The Final Blow

The IRS is not friendly. They are not nice people to deal with. But they are not going to put you in prison for negligence either. Everybody makes mistakes and that is a big difference between fraud. It is not fraud to be a trapshooter struggling to make shooting into a profitable business…not at all! So, for quite a few years you may show a loss and no profit on your tax forms. This could trigger an audit, but not always. The audit process is not as horrible as you may think it is. For trap shooting, they will simply ask for proof of expenses. So you just print out your expense sheet from the computer program and mail it in. They may want receipts for certain expenses, so you send them a copy. No big deal.

What if you get attacked by some belligerent IRS agent who hates trapshooters and wants to disallow everything? This is how it will go down, “You had other sources of income and you could afford to lose money so you did not have the intent and profit motive to make money…your shooting is a hobby.” What do you say? “I would have been better off by not trap shooting at all in the first place. I lost money, my money. My deductions are legal and I have operated my business in a serious and professional manner. I can’t help it if I lost money. It’s a tough world out there. I compete with professional trapshooters and I have earned money in shooting (option money) and as time progresses I will earn more and turn a profit.” That ends the matter.

In All Honesty

When I first considered writing-off trap shooting as a business I was a bit intimidated by the thought of it. Is it legal? Is it hard to do? What if I get audited by the IRS? How come nobody else at the club is doing it? After some investigation work I found there were a few doing it and then I decided to do the same. Yes, I did get an audit showing multi-year losses and it went very smoothly…no problems with trap shooting as a business! I know many shooters who have never been audited. Mine was due to a stock that was cashed and that triggered the audit, not the trap shooting. But in audits, everything gets looked at and trap shooting was no problem at all.

The basic tips are here in this article to get you started. This is an opportunity for you to save some money, get a bigger tax rebate check and most certainly elevate your mindset to professional status which will enhance your shooting so you can one day turn a profit!

Why are you attending registered shoots spending all that money and not writing off your expenses? Do you think it is illegal? It’s perfectly legal and it is foolish to not do so considering the costs of trap shooting today. For many shooters I see at the big state and grand shoots they are competing to win money and that is a business venture not a hobby! Shooting with the gang at the club on weekends may be a hobby, but registered competition shooting is not by any means…it’s all business. It may be fun, but it’s still all conducted in a strict business atmosphere with official rules, standards and regulations by the governing trap shooting bodies. You are competing against professionals for prize money, especially if you play the options. It’s tax deductible and it’s time you get with it! Yes, even your option fees are tax deductible!

The key is honesty. If you are looking for a way to cheat the government don’t bother using this article to do it because it won’t work. Why? You won’t put in the extra effort to maintain the records in the computer, save receipts, etc. But if you really want to give it a try to see if you can become a professional trapshooter then begin today and start writing-off all your expenses and shoot the best you can to win! Yes, you can win for losing!

One more thing. You may never become a professional trap shooter but you don’t have to be to take your deductions. And, the IRS will help you do it too! Simply ask for their bulletins on starting up a new business. Publication #583 — Starting a Business and Keeping Records.

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