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A common question many independent contractors have is whether they can write off meal expenses on their 1099 taxes. Meals are definitely one of the most common expenses you have when you’re self-employed, whether it’s for yourself or for your clients. There are definitely rules to writing off this expense for freelancers and we’ll take you through it. Here is how to write off meal expenses for 1099 taxes:
What meals you can’t write off
For meal expenses, there is one hard and fast rule: you can’t write off personal meals. Personal meals include your day-to-day meals that don’t have anything to do with work or business. This rules applies to any employees you have as well.
What meals you can write off
There are three types of meals you can write off as a business expense. Let’s take a look at each.
Client meals in your normal area of work: Your normal area of work is where you do your business or normally work. You can write off 50% of the cost of meals you have in your normal area of work with clients or employees. The purpose of these meals should be to discuss business.
Client meals during travel: While you are travel, you can write off 50% of the cost of meals in which you are meeting with clients. Again, the purpose of these meals should be to discuss business.
Solo meals during travel: If you are traveling for business overnight, you can also write off 50% of the individual meals you have. If you have any personal days during your trips, you cannot write off these meals.
How much of your meals you can include
In all cases, you can write off only 50% of the entire cost of the meal. This is a rule set by the IRS. You should keep all your receipts to keep track of the costs of your meals. It also serves as a proof of expense should you ever need it.
If you don’t have receipts, you can also use the “per diem” amount method. This varies from state to state but on average equals to about $50 a day for meals. This is what the IRS consider a standard meal allowance. This amount is also subject to the 50% rule.
To learn more about meal expenses and taxes, you can read this publication by the IRS which goes into more detail and has some common examples.