Uncle Sam is helping to pick up the tab for certain business meals in 2021 and 2022. Under a provision in the Consolidated Appropriations Act (CAA), the usual deduction for 50% of the cost of business meals is doubled to 100% for food and beverages provided by restaurants for the 2021 and 2022 tax years. So, you can take a client out for a business meal or order take-out for your team and temporarily write off the entire cost — including the tip, sales tax and any delivery charges. The IRS issued guidance on this tax break early last year and just followed up with additional clarifications for per diem arrangements.
Despite a crackdown on deductions for business entertainment expenses in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), a business taxpayer could still deduct 50% of the cost of qualified business meals, including meals incurred while traveling away from home on business. (The TCJA generally eliminated the 50% deduction for business entertainment expenses incurred after 2017 on a permanent basis.)
Currently, the deduction for business meals is allowed if the following requirements are met:
In the event that food and beverages are provided during — or at — an entertainment activity, the food and beverages must be purchased separately from the entertainment. Alternatively, the cost can be stated separately from the cost of the entertainment on one or more bills.
So, if you treat a client to a meal and the expense is properly substantiated, you may qualify for a business meal deduction as long as there's a business purpose to the meal or a reasonable expectation that a benefit to the business will result.
IRS Notice 2021-25 explains the main rules for qualifying for the 100% deduction for food and beverages provided by a restaurant. Under this guidance, the deduction is available if the restaurant prepares and sell food or beverages to retail customers for immediate consumption on or off the premises. As a result, it applies to both on-site dining and take-out or delivery meals.
However, a "restaurant" does not include a business that mainly sells pre-packaged goods not intended for immediate consumption. So, food and beverage sales from the following businesses are specifically excluded:
The restriction also applies to an eating facility located on the employer's business premises and used to provide meals excluded from an employee's taxable income. Business meals purchased from such facilities are limited to a 50% deduction. It doesn't matter if a third party is operating the facility under a contract with the business.
As before, the meals can't be lavish or extravagant under the circumstances. But that doesn't mean you have to skimp. You can still go first-class as long as you don't go over the top.
IRS Notice 2021-63 provide additional clarification for meals paid under per diem arrangements. Notably, for these purposes only, a business taxpayer may treat the meal portion of a per diem rate or allowance paid or incurred after 2020 and before 2023 as being attributable to food or beverages provided by a restaurant.
For fiscal year 2022, which starts on October 1, 2021, the per diem rates for business travel under the "high-low" method are as follows:
The notice is effective for expenses incurred by an employer, self-employed individual or employees during 2021 and 2022.
It's important to keep track of expenses to maximize tax benefits for business meal expenses and to facilitate tax return preparation. Start by properly classifying expenses on your general ledger. In addition, ask restaurants to divvy up the tab between entertainment vs. food and beverages.
For meals, you should record the:
IRS Notice 2021-25 clarifies that the 100% deduction for business meals is also available in the following three situations:
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