Meals Continue to be Deductible Under New IRS Guidance
Jacquelyn Himes, CPA
Focused on You. Dedicated to Your Success.
October 8, 2018

As reported today in the Journal of Accountancy ( article by Sally P. Schreiber, J.D. ) , the IRS issued guidance on October 2 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 in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), P.L. 115-97  ( Notice 2018-76 ).

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.

Sec. 274(k), which was not amended by TCJA, does not allow a deduction for the expense of any food or beverages unless (1) the expense is not lavish or extravagant under the circumstances, and (2) the taxpayer (or an employee of the taxpayer) is present when the food or beverages are furnished. Sec. 274(n)(1), which was amended by TCJA, generally provides that the amount allowable as a deduction for any expense for food or beverages cannot exceed 50% of the amount of the expense that otherwise would be allowable.
 
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.
 
The IRS will not allow the entertainment disallowance rule to be circumvented through inflating the amount charged for food and beverages.
 
Feel free to call any member of our team at 610-828-1900 with questions. You can also contact Jackie Himes, CPA, director – tax services at Jacquelyn.Himes@MCC-CPAs.com or me at Marty.McCarthy@MCC-CPAs.com . We are always happy to help.
Martin C. McCarthy, CPA, CCIFP
Managing Partner
McCarthy & Company, PC

Disclaimer This alert is for informational purposes only and does not constitute professional advice. Information contained in this communication is not intended or written to be used as tax advice, and cannot be used by the recipient to avoid penalties that may be imposed under the Internal Revenue Code. We strongly advise you to seek professional assistance with respect to your specific issue(s).