Truck driver spending most of his time on the road may not earn tax deductions for business meals. The Internal Revenue Service, or IRS, places strict filing requirements on a traditional employee seeking a business meals deduction. An independent contractor or self-employed driver has the most leeway in earning a business meals deduction but must still meet filing standards to qualify. There are two basic methods for taking tax deductions: actual cost and standard meal allowance. Truck drivers qualify for special consideration within these deductions.
Fifty Percent Limit
The first method for claiming a tax deduction is by calculating the actual cost of meals. Typically, people may only deduct up to 50 percent of their unreimbursed cost for meals. If a company does not reimburse for meals at all, that would be 50 percent of the total cost. Otherwise, an employee can only claim a deduction for half of the amount paid personally. Any meals that are covered by a company are not eligible for tax deductions.
Standard Meal Allowance Rules
The second method for taking a tax deduction is through the use of the Standard Meal Allowance. Under this method, a driver has an average set amount for daily meals and incidental expenses. Instead of charting actual costs, a driver keeps a record of dates, places, and times of travel and can deduct a set amount based on the length and destination of the business trip. However, a driver can only take a meal allowance for unreimbursed meals. If a company pays for the meals, a driver is not allowed to take the standard meal allowance deduction on her taxes.
Entertainment Meal Deductions
Deductions for entertainment, including business-related meals, are permissible provided the truck driver is an independent contractor who itemizes his tax deductions. Business must be the main focus of the meal to qualify as a deduction. For example, an independent truck driver has a meal with a trucking company owner while in the course of negotiating a contract to pick up a delivery route. This is an eligible deduction in the eyes of the IRS.
Beginning and End of Trip
For the first and last day of a trip, a truck driver must pro-rate her allowance using one of two methods. The first method allows an employee to claim 75 percent of the standard meal allowance. The second is to use any method that is consistent and reasonable under standard business rules. A driver cannot claim beginning and end-of-trip meal costs as a tax deduction if they are reimbursed by her company.
Another thing to avoid when taking meal deductions is the extravagant meal. This is a very subjective limitation because there aren’t any hard-and-fast numbers. Instead, the IRS just limits the cost of meals to those reasonable for the time and circumstances. If you have a specific meal you think may be considered lavish under the circumstances, just leave it out when you deduct your meal expenses.
If your total meal deduction for your work as a truck driver is less than $75, you don’t need any documentation to deduct it. Everything above that amount requires a receipt to document the deduction. In the best-case scenario, the receipts will be itemized to show what you ate and how much you paid for it. Most receipts also show the location of the purchase so you can prove where you were when you had it.