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Claiming tax relief on your business expenses is an important part of being self-employed, but the rules around what you can claim for food and drink can be confusing. In this article we explain what food expenses you might be able to claim for.

How does claiming business expenses work?

Businesses pay tax on the profits they make, rather than the full amount of income they receive. Your profits are what’s left over after you deduct any costs and expenses from all of your income, so keeping track of your spending is crucial because claiming everything you’re entitled to means you’ll pay less tax.

You might also hear the process called ‘claiming expenses‘ or claiming tax relief.

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What are the rules on claiming food and drink expenses?

The general rule of claiming expenses is that they’re “wholly and exclusively” for the purpose of doing business. This can mean your food and drink expenses are in a bit of a grey area because everyone needs to eat and drink, whether they run a business or not.

So, you can only claim a meal if it takes place outside of your normal working pattern, and only then if the reason is because of work.

The most common example is if you need to make “a business journey outside the normal pattern”. For instance, someone who normally works from home as a writer could probably claim the cost of a meal during a business trip to meet with their agent.

Your meal might also be eligible if you’re travelling for business, and the nature of your work means you must travel on a regular basis – such as a delivery driver.

If you’re staying somewhere overnight on a business trip then you can usually claim the cost of your meal alongside any travel or accommodation expenses.

A temporary place of work

It gets a bit more complicated if you’re travelling to a ‘temporary place of work’, but on a regular basis – such as visiting your client’s workplace every day.

If you spend more than 40% of your time there, then you can only claim expenses for up to 24 months. So, if you take on a contract to work from your clients’ office for 30 months, it won’t be classed as temporary, and you won’t be able to claim.

How much can I claim?

HMRC say that you can claim “reasonable” expenses for food and drink, although there isn’t actually a definition as to what might be considered reasonable except to say that “elaborate meals with fine wines” don’t count. Double-check with your accountant on this one!

Learn more about our online accounting services for businesses. Call 020 3355 4047 to chat to the team, and get an instant online quote.

About The Author

Rachael Anderson

A creative content writer specialising across business, finance and software topics. I have a love for all things writing, and creating engaging, easy to understand content that helps everyday people! Learn more about Rachael.

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