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100% Vs. 50% Deductible Meal Expenses for Business Owners

As a business owner, it’s essential to understand the tax implications of meal expenses provided by IRS guidelines. There is often confusion about what is 100% deductible and what is 50% deductible. In this article, we will clarify the differences and provide examples of both types of deductions, as well as highlight non-deductible meals. By understanding these distinctions, you can take a bite out of your tax bill every time you go for a meal.

100 Percent Deductions

The following meal expenses can be 100% deductible:

1. Meals provided on the employer’s premises for the employer’s convenience, if more than 50 percent of the employees are furnished meals for the employer’s convenience.

2. Marketing activities that are made available to the general public, such as food samples or promotional events.

3. Employer-provided social/recreational expenses primarily for the benefit of employees who are not highly compensated, such as a summer picnic or holiday party.

4. Business gifts up to $25 to any one individual per tax year.

50 Percent Deductions

The following meal expenses can be 50% deductible:

1. Lunch with a customer, client, or employee associated with business discussions or activities.

2. Room rental for a dinner or cocktail party, assuming the event meets the business relation test – the reason for the business expense must be traced back to the dinner or cocktail party (doctrine of origin).

The Naughty List – Non-Deductible Meals

The following meal expenses are non-deductible:

1. Lunch with a customer, client, or employee without a business purpose or discussion.

2. Ticket price for a sporting event that you do not attend.

3. Club dues, such as country clubs, golf, and athletic clubs.

4. Lavish or extravagant entertainment expenses.

Key Planning Insight

It’s important to note that entertainment deductions are eliminated. When there are occurrences where both meal and entertainment expenses are present, you should separate these items so that you can properly deduct your meals.


Understanding the differences between 100% deductible, 50% deductible, and non-deductible meal expenses is crucial for maximizing your tax savings. By keeping accurate records and categorizing your meal expenses appropriately, you can reduce your tax bill and make the most of your business deductions. As always, consult with a qualified tax professional to ensure you are accurately claiming eligible deductions and staying compliant with tax regulations.

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