Meals continue to be deductible under new IRS guidance

The IRS issued guidance clarifying that taxpayers may generally continue to deduct 50% of the food and beverage expenses associated with operating their trade or business, despite changes to the meal and entertainment expense deduction under Sec. 274 made by the tax law known as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA). According to the IRS, the amendments specifically deny deductions for expenses for entertainment, amusement, or recreation, but do not address the deductibility of expenses for business meals. This omission has created a lot of confusion in the business community, which the IRS is addressing in this interim guidance. Taxpayers can rely on the guidance in the notice until the IRS issues proposed regulations.

Under the interim guidance, taxpayers may deduct 50% of an otherwise allowable business meal expense if:

1.    The expense is an ordinary and necessary business expense under Sec. 162(a) paid or incurred during the tax year when carrying on any trade or business;

2.    The expense is not lavish or extravagant under the circumstances;

3.    The taxpayer, or an employee of the taxpayer, is present when the food or beverages are furnished;

4.    The food and beverages are provided to a current or potential business customer, client, consultant, or similar business contact; and

5.    For food and beverages provided during or at an entertainment activity, they are purchased separately from the entertainment, or the cost of the food and beverages is stated separately from the cost of the entertainment on one or more bills, invoices, or receipts.

IRS confirm that business meals (1) that take place between a business owner or employee and a current or prospective client; (2) that are not lavish or extravagant under the circumstances; and (3) where the taxpayer has a reasonable expectation of deriving income or other specific trade or business benefit from the encounter are deductible.