Deduct 100 Percent of Your Business Meals under New Rules

Since 1986, lawmakers have limited business meal deductions: first to 80 percent, and then to 50 percent (unless an exception applies).

But on December 27, 2020, in an effort to help the restaurant industry due to the COVID-19 pandemic, lawmakers enacted a new, temporary 100 percent business meal deduction for calendar years 2021 and 2022.

To qualify for the 100 percent deduction, you need a restaurant to provide you with the food or beverages.

The law requires only that the restaurant provide the food and beverages. You don’t have to pay the money directly to the restaurant. For example, you qualify for the 100 percent deduction if you order a restaurant meal that’s delivered by Uber Eats or Grubhub.

Your deductible business meals must be tax code Section 162 ordinary and necessary business expenses, and they must not be subject to disallowance under tax code Section 274.

You must be present at the business meal, and you must provide the business meal to a person with whom you could reasonably expect to engage or deal with in the active conduct of your business, such as a customer, client, supplier, employee, agent, partner, or professional advisor, whether established or prospective.

Remember, to qualify for the 100 percent deduction, you need a restaurant. The IRS recently provided definitions and examples of what is and is not a restaurant.

A restaurant is “a business that prepares and sells food or beverages to retail customers for immediate consumption, regardless of whether the food or beverages are consumed on the business’s premises.” It is not any of the following:

  • Grocery stores
  • Specialty food stores
  • Beer, wine, or liquor stores
  • Drug stores
  • Convenience stores
  • Newsstands
  • Vending machines or kiosks

In general, the 50 percent limitation applies to business meals from the sources listed above.

The restaurant creates the 100 percent deduction.

To help you get ready, check the table below for what you can do in 2021 and 2022 as the law stands now:

Description (Deductible for Tax Years 2021-2022)100% Deductible50% DeductibleZero Deductible
Restaurant meals with clients and prospectsX  
Entertainment such as baseball and football games with clients and prospects  X
Employee meals for convenience of employer, served by in-house cafeteria X 
Employee meals for required business meeting, purchased from a restaurantX  
Meal served at chamber of commerce meeting held in a hotel meeting roomX  
Meal consumed in a fancy restaurant while in overnight business travel statusX  
Meals cooked by you in your hotel room kitchen while traveling away from home overnight X 
Year-end party for employees and spousesX  
Golf outing for employees and spousesX  
Year-end party for customers classified as entertainment  X
Meals made on premises for general public at marketing presentationX  
Team-building recreational event for all employeesX  
Golf, theater, or football game with your best customer  X
Meal with a prospective customer at the country club following your non-deductible round of golfX  

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