Truck drivers may qualify for tax deductions for meals under the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) rules governing travel away from home. To be eligible, it must be necessary for the driver to stop for “substantial sleep or rest” while traveling away from home. The meals also cannot be deducted if they are overly expensive or extravagant or if the meal costs have been reimbursed by the company. There are two basic methods for taking tax deductions: actual cost and standard meal allowance. Truck drivers qualify for special consideration within these deductions.
Fifty Percent Limit
The first method for claiming a tax deduction is by calculating the actual cost of meals. Typically, people may only deduct up to 50 percent of their unreimbursed cost for meals. If a company does not reimburse for meals at all, that would be 50 percent of the total cost. Otherwise, an employee can only claim a deduction for half of the amount paid personally. Any meals that are covered by a company are not eligible for tax deductions.
Standard Meal Allowance Rules
The second method for taking a tax deduction is through the use of the Standard Meal Allowance. Under this method, a driver has an average set amount for daily meals and incidental expenses. Instead of charting actual costs, a driver keeps a record of dates, places, and times of travel and can deduct a set amount based on the length and destination of the business trip. However, a driver can only take a meal allowance for unreimbursed meals. If a company pays for the meals, a driver is not allowed to take the standard meal allowance deduction on her taxes.
Standard Meal Allowance Rates
Truck drivers and other transportation employees have their own rates for reimbursement under the IRS code, and they are higher than those for other employees. In 2009, drivers are able to claim a standard meal allowance of $52 for each day of travel within the continental United States ($58 outside) from January 1 through September 30. The rate rises to $59 a day ($65 outside of the continental United States) from October 1 through December 31. These rates are re-evaluated yearly. To claim the deduction, a truck driver subtracts eligible allowances from his taxable income at the end of the year.
Beginning and End of Trip
For the first and last day of a trip, a truck driver must pro-rate her allowance using one of two methods. The first method allows an employee to claim 75 percent of the standard meal allowance. The second is to use any method that is consistent and reasonable under standard business rules. A driver cannot claim beginning and end-of-trip meal costs as a tax deduction if they are reimbursed by her company.