Meals continue to be deductible under IRS guidance: Advance guidance clarifies that the TCJA's disallowance of deductions for entertainment, amusement, or recreation does not address business meals.

Author:Schreiber, Sally P.
Position:Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017

The IRS issued guidance 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 made by the law known as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), P.L. 115-97.

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 confusion in the business community, which the IRS addressed 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 the 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 the 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. Prior to amendment, Sec. 274(n)(1) also allowed as a deduction up to 50% of the expense of any item with respect to an activity of a type considered to constitute entertainment, amusement, or recreation, or with respect to a facility used in connection with such activity.

Under the interim guidance, taxpayers may deduct 50% of an otherwise allowable business meal expense if:

* 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;

* The expense is not lavish or extravagant under the circumstances;

* The taxpayer, or an employee of the taxpayer, is present when the food or beverages are furnished;

* The food and beverages are provided to a current or potential business customer, client, consultant, or similar business contact; and

* 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...

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