Tax Tip of the Week: New Rules in 2023 Take a Bite out of Business Meal Deductions

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Tax Tip of the Week | September 20, 2023 | New Rules in 2023 Take a Bite out of Business Meal Deductions

This Week's Quote:

“One person can make a difference, and everyone should try.”
                                  -President John F. Kennedy

As an attempt to stimulate the restaurant industry, business meals prepared by a restaurant became 100% deductible to the employer for 2021 and 2022.  Prior to this change, meals were mostly 50% deductible.  Now, in 2023, we are back to where we were before the pandemic, so most meals are once again 50% deductible while entertainment expenses remain non-deductible.  However, meals provided by an employer for recreational events are still 100% deductible, so my thought is – we need more parties at work!  Reproduced below is a short article on what’s deductible, and how much, when it comes to meals and entertainment.  This article was published by Tonneson + Co. on February 20, 2023.

                                  - Norm Hicks
New Rules in 2023 Take a Bite out of Business Meal Deductions

If you’ve splurged on expensive meals for business associates or sprung for high-priced tickets to sporting events or concerts for clients in the past, take heed: the tax deductions aren’t what they used to be.

Prior to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) of 2018, businesses could deduct up to 50% of entertainment and meal expenses, provided they were associated with conducting or discussing business. The TCJA eliminated the deduction for most forms of entertainment but allowed taxpayers to continue deducting 50% of the cost of business meals.

In 2021, the Consolidated Appropriations Act (CAA) allowed businesses to deduct 100% of certain business meal expenses in 2021 and 2022. But the deduction was temporary, designed to boost the restaurant industry during COVID.

As of 2023, deductions are now back where they were prior to 2021.  The majority of business meals are now 50% deductible, and most entertainment expenses are not deductible at all.

What’s Deductible in 2023

Exactly what is deductible, and to what extent, depends on the circumstances. Following are some general guidelines:

100% Deductible

  • Food for recreational employee events, such as holiday parties, summer picnics, or team-building events
  • Food provided to the public to promote goodwill (e.g., snacks or coffee for customers)
  • Food for events in support of a charitable cause
  • Meals that are an essential part of your business function (for example, if you’re a food critic or food blogger)
  • Meals provided to the employees for the convenience of the employer (e.g., dinner for employees who work late at the office)
  • Meals included as taxable compensation to employees or independent contractors
  • Meals sold to a client or customer

50% Deductible

  • Business meals
  • Meals provided in-office for meetings of employees, stockholders, agents, or directors
  • Employee meals at a company cafeteria if the annual revenue of the facility is equal to or greater than the costs
  • Food items, such as soda, coffee, or snacks, for employees
  • Meals while traveling for work
  • Meals at a conference

Not Deductible

  • Entertainment

The Internal Revenue Code defines entertainment as “any activity which is of a type generally considered to constitute entertainment, amusement, or recreation, such as entertaining at night clubs, cocktail lounges, theaters, country clubs, golf, and athletic clubs, sporting events, and on hunting, fishing, vacation, and similar trips….”

Note that you also cannot deduct the costs of renting out an entertainment facility or the cost of membership dues.


Entertainment and meals that are part of your actual business may be deductible. For example, if you own a piano bar, the cost of the piano player would probably be deductible. Similarly, if you are a food blogger or a theater critic, you should be able to deduct the cost of meals or plays that you are actively reviewing.

You may be able to deduct meals at entertainment events if the costs can be separated. For example, while the cost of renting a room at a country club for a business function most likely isn’t deductible, the cost of catering for that function might be.

Criteria for Deductions

To deduct business meals, you must be self-employed or operating a business. As of 2018, employees with W2 jobs do not qualify for business meal deductions.

Business meals can be deducted only when the taxpayer or an employee is present at the meal along with a current or potential client, business contact, or consultant. Meals for guests, such as spouses, are not deductible. 

In most cases, meals must be provided by a restaurant or, in the case of larger events, a caterer, to be eligible. Food purchased at a grocery or convenience store is not deductible.

In all cases, the meal must not be “lavish or extravagant” relative to the business context.

Documenting Deductions

You should keep receipts for any business meal over $75, and you should keep a record of all business meals, regardless of cost. Records should include:

  • The date of the meal
  • Purpose of the meal as it relates to business
  • Names, titles, and affiliations of people who attended
  • Name of the venue
  • Total amount of the bill, including tax and tip.

How to Report Your Meal Deductions

How you report your deductions to the IRS depends on what kind of business you have. If you’re a sole proprietor or single-member LLC, you can report your expenses on Schedule C. Partnerships and multi-member LLCs should report them on Form 1065. C corporations should report them on Form 1120, and S corporations on Form 1120S.

Don’t Forget the Per Diem

Alternatively, taxpayers can choose to use a per diem, an annually updated tax deduction for meals and incidental expenses incurred while traveling away on business. The amount allowed varies depending on the location of travel. To be eligible, a business owner or employee must be traveling away from home for business.

In 2023, the meal per diem is $74 a day for high-cost areas in the continental United States and $64 a day for lower-cost areas.

Credit goes to Tonneson + Co. for their article published February 20, 2023.  The article can be found here:

Thank you for all of your questions, comments and suggestions for future topics. As always, they are much appreciated. We also welcome and appreciate anyone who wishes to write a Tax Tip of the Week for our consideration. We may be reached in our Dayton office at 937-436-3133 or in our Xenia office at 937-372-3504. Or, visit our website.
This Week’s Author, Norm Hicks

-until next week

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