Business

Yes, The Business Meal Is Still Deductible

– As I sit writing and viewing a thunder and lightning surprise, my thoughts use Ben Franklin naturally. Ben told us that the only things in life that are certain are death and taxes. Years later, humor writer Dave Barry clarified that the difference is that death doesn’t get worse every time Congress meets. Old movies and TV shows reflected a custom of nattily outfitted business people eating meals at extravagant places as they talked about some big business deal. They might remind their visitor that this meal was taxes deductible often.

So the motion started by President Carter later converted into a limit of 80 percent of the cost of otherwise deductible business foods, an outcome tax advisers called the 2 2.4-martini lunch time. This was later converted into a limit of only 50 percent of the price of the meal. Not just that, but the regulation was changed to say (1) no deduction in any way without specific substantiation and (2) no deduction, with or without substantiation, for “goodwill” type foods.

So we then had rules we’re able to understand. Meals were deductible if these were either “directly connected” with business or “associated with” the business. The law rejected “entertainment” deductions but carved out an exemption for both categories, I simply mentioned. Like death, we’d something that was certain. Ben, looking down at us with several of his French friends, puffed with satisfaction at the veracity of his famous words (the “penny saved” thing had lost its meaning credited to inflation in the Carter period). The 2017 taxes act dropped upon us Then.

And this dropping seemed literal for a few of the procedures. One example of a crushing change was removing the mention of the exceptions for directly connected or associated with business entertainment. We were then left with only a prohibition against deducting business entertainment. But what did this mean? Tickets to a soccer game – that’s entertainment.

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Absent the specific exclusion that was collateral damage in the 2017 legislation, taxes experts debated the position of business foods in 2018. In Notice 2018-76 the IRS informed everyone to stay relaxed. The old business food rules survived the 2017 legislation. First, understand that an IRS notice is just that – they may be symbolically posting a notice on the tree.

It carries no more weight in a courtroom adjudicating a taxes dispute than the 95 theses Martin Luther submitted on the Wittenberg chapel. But the IRS double dog swears they shall not concern a taxpayer who relies on their notice. Plus they also tell us that regulations are coming that will set these rules in stone.