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
- 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.
Deduct 100 Percent of Your Employee Recreation and Parties
When you know the rules, you can party with your employees and deduct 100 percent of the cost.
The IRS says that the following types of entertainment qualify for the 100 percent employee entertainment tax deduction:
- Holiday parties, annual picnics, and summer outings
- Maintaining a swimming pool, baseball diamond, bowling alley, or golf course
The IRS makes it clear that the above are examples, and that other types of entertainment may also qualify for the 100 percent entertainment deduction. The tax code states that “expenses for recreational, social, or similar activities (including facilities therefor) primarily for the benefit of employees” qualify for the 100 percent deduction.
Who Are These Employees?
Technically, the law requires that the entertainment expenses be primarily for the benefit of employees other than a “tainted group.” The tainted group consists of
- highly compensated employees (employees who are paid more than $130,000 in 2021);
- anyone, including you, who owns at least a 10 percent interest in your business (this is called a “10 percent owner”); or
- any members of the families of 10 percent owners, i.e., brothers and sisters (including half-brothers and half-sisters); spouses; ancestors (parents, grandparents, etc.); and lineal descendants (children, grandchildren, etc., including adoptees).
As the business owner, you belong to the tainted group. That’s not a big deal. You just need to make sure that partying with the employees is primarily for the benefit of the employees.
“Primary” Means “More Than 50 Percent”
In tax law, the words “primary” and “primarily” mean “more than 50 percent.” For employee recreation, that means the untainted group of employees has to account for more than 50 percent of the use of the entertainment facility, or in the case of a party, a majority of the attendees must come from the untainted employee group.
Documentation tip. You can measure “primary” by days of use, time of use, number of employees, or any other reasonable method. Regardless of how you measure use, the keys to your deductions are the records that prove the uses.
Helicopter View of Meals and Entertainment (2021-2022)
Have you missed partying and having business meals with your prospects, customers, and employees?
Well, get ready to start again. Soon, COVID-19 will behind us. It could be just a few short months away.
To help you get ready, check the table below for what you can do in 2021 and 2022 as the law stands now:
|Amount Deductible for Tax Years 2021-2022|
|Restaurant meals with clients and prospects||X|
|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 restaurant||X|
|Meal served at chamber of commerce meeting held in a hotel meeting room||X|
|Meal consumed in a fancy restaurant while in overnight business travel status||X|
|Meals cooked by you in your hotel room kitchen while traveling away from home overnight||X|
|Year-end party for employees and spouses||X|
|Golf outing for employees and spouses||X|
|Year-end party for customers, classified as entertainment||X|
|Meals made on premises for general public at marketing presentation||X|
|Team-building recreational event for all employees||X|
|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 golf||X|