FAQ: To what extent are business meals deductible?

To what extent are business meals deductible?  A business can deduct only ordinary and necessary expenses. Further, the amount allowable as a deduction for business meal and entertainment expenses, whether incurred in-town or out-of-town is generally limited to 50 percent of the expenses. (A special exception that raises the level to 80 percent applies to workers who are away from home while working under Department of Transportation regulations.)

Related expenses, such as taxes, tips, and parking fees must be included in the total expenses before applying the 50-percent reduction. The 50-percent reduction is made only after determining the amount of the otherwise allowable deductions. However, allowable deductions for transportation costs to and from a business meal are not reduced.

The 50-percent deduction limitation also applies to meals and entertainment expenses that are reimbursed under an accountable plan to a taxpayer’s employees. In that case, it doesn’t matter if the taxpayer reimburses the employees for 100 percent of the expenses.

Employee-only meals.  If the value of any property or service provided to an employee is so minimal that accounting for the property or service would be unreasonable or administratively impracticable, it is a de minimis fringe benefit that is excluded for income and employment tax purposes.  Such benefits that are food-related may include occasional parties or picnics, occasional supper money due to overtime work, and employer-furnished coffee and doughnuts.

A subsidized eating facility can be a de minimis fringe if it is located on or near the business premises and the revenue derived from it normally equals or exceeds direct operating costs. Further, if more than one-half of the employees are furnished meals for the convenience of the employer, all meals provided on the premises are treated as furnished for the convenience of the employer. Therefore, the meals are fully deductible by the employer, instead of possibly being subject to the 50-percent limit on business meal deductions, and excludable by the employees.

Content provided by CCH. If and only to the extent that this publication contains contributions from tax professionals who are subject to the rules of professional conduct set forth in Circular 230, as promulgated by the United States Department of the Treasury, the publisher, on behalf of those contributors, hereby states that any U.S. federal tax advice that is contained in such contributions was not intended or written to be used by any taxpayer for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed on the taxpayer by the Internal Revenue Service, and it cannot be used by any taxpayer for such purpose.

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