We all need to eat to survive as human beings. However, when are business meals and lunches allowed as a business expense where you can claim tax relief?

I am looking here at a contractor who is eating on his own. Under this scenario, it will not include with colleagues as this is a completely separate issue.

Neither will it include meals that you consume as part of an entertaining type nature.     

What can you claim for   

Travelling on business   

In brief, you can claim the cost of your food and drink when you travel on business. In turn, this means when you travel to sites that you do not otherwise travel to under your usual work routine. 

Daily work meals   

If you are a contractor, claiming for your daily meals are not an allowable expense. The reason for this is because they are part of your daily work routine.   

Locations that are not part of your `usual’ work routine   

If you work at a remote site or one that is not part of your usual work routine, you are allowed to claim for a meal allowance or actual meal costs.   

You can also claim for your meals when you are staying away from home overnight for work reasons. This includes when you are working abroad if you have an overseas assignment.   

HM Revenue & Customs’ (HMRC) guidelines:   

As a self-employed person, you can claim for “reasonable” costs of food and drink when you’re travelling on business, if:   

  • Your business is by its nature, itinerant. For example, you are a commercial traveller, or   
  • You are making an “occasional business journey outside the normal pattern.” For example, you’re a home-based illustrator, and you travel to Manchester to meet a new publisher, or   
  • As part of your work, you stay overnight on a business trip and claim the cost of accommodation as well as meals. You can also claim for Personal Incidental Expenses (PIEs) when you are staying away from home overnight for work reasons. Claiming for these costs are also subject to the two year rule.   
  • HMRC has extended this to “traders who do not use hotels.” Specifically, long-distance lorry drivers who sleep in their cabs can also claim the cost of their meals, even though they do not claim for the cost of accommodation.   

“Reasonable” costs? What are these?   

In the case of food and drink for the self-employed, HMRC does not define what a “reasonable” expense is.

When looking at meals for employees, they give an example of “having an elaborate menu and fine wines” as “meals on an unreasonable scale.”

Therefore, you are well-advised not to claim for any meals at high-end establishments that charge an arm and a leg!   

Final thoughts 

As with all business expenses, if you incur allowable meals, you need to obtain receipts. What’s more, you should keep these safe as these are proof if the taxman ever asks to see these at a later date.   

Depending upon the type of work that you do, you may also be able to claim for your business clothing however, there are certain rules on what you can claim.

Link to Contractor Advice UK group on 


Published On: March 8th, 2021 / Categories: Expenses, First timer guide / Tags: /

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