How do I? Substantiate meal expenses using the per-diem rate method?

An employee or self-employed individual is allowed a deduction for the costs of meals and incidental expenses while traveling away from home for business purposes. The deduction of these costs usually requires the substantiation of the costs. However, there is an optional method provided for these taxpayers that avoids keeping receipts.


The IRS publishes per diem rates that apply to different regions of the United States (See Notice 2015–63 on irs.gov). Taxpayers can use these per diem rates for purposes of calculating the meals and incidental costs deduction and they will be presumed to be substantiated.

The election is made by claiming the amount of the per diem deduction on the taxpayer’s timely filed return. The amounts can only be claimed if the taxpayer is prepared to substantiate time, place and purpose of the business travel in accordance with IRS regulations. A separate statement, however, is not required to make this election.

Also note that deductions that an employee claims on his or her tax return due to the fact that his or her employer does not reimburse the employee are taken as itemized deductions and subject to the 2 percent floor for miscellaneous deductions before amounts may be deducted.

Written by

Steve Moss, CPA is a partner at Holden Moss CPAs and loves helping businesses and their owners grow to be the very best they can be. Our other offices include Raleigh, Oxford and Warrenton. We are a little different at Holden Moss CPAs. While we still provide traditional tax and accounting services, years ago we realized many clients wanted help in running their businesses and were hungry for ideas, solutions, strategy, and execution. In response, we expanded our skill set and joined Ran One, a global network of business consulting firms. Our membership with Ran One gives us access to proprietary resources and analytical software to help our clients grow, become more profitable and valuable, and have the lifestyle they desire. Now, blended into the fabric of our normal tax and accounting needs, we are focused on our clients’ businesses in a very different way. While our approach is not right for everyone, for those whom it is, incredible results may be obtained. Whether you have a new, or established, business, or for those in transition of selling or retiring, or for those who simply need to develop an exit strategy or succession plan, our unique approach to client service may be the edge you need.

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