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Tax Deductible Meals Related to Work

Tax Deductible Meals

There are two situations where the IRS will allow employees to write off tax deductible meals. The first is when your boss sends you on a business trip that warrants an overnight stay in a hotel or when it’s “business-related entertainment.” The first situation is more common for the average employee. Essentially, you can write off all meals you purchase while you are away from home, regardless of whether you eat in restaurants, order room service or at the local deli, provided the cost is reasonable. The business-related entertainment meal deduction applies in situations where your employer asks you to take a client or prospective client out to lunch. However, just taking a client to lunch is not sufficient for writing off tax deductible meals. You must spend time during the lunch discussing the business of your employer.

Calculating Your Tax Deduction for Meal Expenses

Writing off tax deductible meals requires some work on your part. At a minimum, you must keep a log of the time, place and business purpose for each meal you claim a deduction for on your federal income tax return. There are two ways you can calculate your meals tax deduction. You can either retain all receipts for the actual cost of each meal during the year or use the IRS per diem rate that applies to the geographic area you purchase the meal in. Using the IRS per diem rate to calculate the meals deduction reduces your recordkkeeping burden since the amount to use in the calculation is fixed, regardless of whether you spend more or less than the amount.

Reducing Tax Deductible Meals by 50 Percent

Now comes the bad news! Once you calculate your total meal costs for the year with either method, you must then chop it in half. The IRS will only allow you to claim a tax deduction on your 1040 for 50 percent of the meal costs. Additionally, you must elect to itemize your deductions on a Schedule A attachment to your Form 1040 to take advantage of tax deductible meals. Moreover, you include your meal costs with all other miscellaneous expenses that are subject to the 2 percent adjusted gross income limitation, which depending on your AGI, ultimately reduces your meals deduction even further below 50 percent of the true costs. And depending on the other types of job-related tax deductions you claim, you may need to fill out either Form 2106 or Form 2106EZ. However, if you are self-employed while incurring meal expenses, your deduction goes right on the Schedule C and is not subject to the 2 percent AGI limitation.

Reference: IRS Publication 463-Travel, Entertainment, Gift and Car Expenses