As with many relationships, business relationships are fostered best when sharing a meal, the occasional drink, or just a coffee.
Meals and entertainment are essential for your business growth as they offer you an opportunity to accomplish multiple goals within a few hours.
A self-employed individual or an employee is allowed a deduction for the cost of incidental expenses and costs of meals while traveling away from home for business purposes.
Business meals are numerous and are a recurrent expense. Writing off these expenses is a smart move, but how do you go about it?
The good news is that business meals are 50 percent deductible. This means that every time you take out a client for dinner and drinks, you get to write off half of the bill.
However, you can not go around deducting meals indiscriminately. The IRS has guidelines and tests that help you correctly deduct your meals. These include:
Business meal expenses should be separated from entertainment expenses as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) eliminated all deductions for amusement, entertainment, or recreation.
If you are looking for an easy way to track your business meal tax deductions, try Bonsai Tax's expense tracker for 1099 contractors. Sign up for a free trial and watch our software discover all your write-offs and help you maximize your deductions.
You will need to provide proof of your meal’s expense. This is in the form of a receipt which should indicate:
Checks and credit card statements are clear proof of the expense so it is advisable to charge a business meal to your credit card.
However, if you don't have complete records to prove a meal expense, you will need to give a written or oral statement giving specific information in addition to other supporting evidence.
Note that if you are traveling for business outside of normal office hours and out of town, the meals that you have for yourself are also deductible.
Prior to December 29, 2020, all meal expenses were deducted at 50%. But the COVID relief came up with a temporary 100% deduction where business travel meals are included. Simply put, there’s no better time to eat while you travel than now.
Note that a business trip is one where you travel away from your tax home, overnight for business. Sleeping in a hotel near your home does not qualify as business travel. For your travel to be considered as such, you must travel outside the general location of where your business is located, outside city limits. We recommend you use an app to track tax receipts so you can easily organize and export your business meal deductions.
Some entertainment and meals do not have to be limited to 50%, and the expenses may be fully deductible. These include activities such as:
According to the IRS, all business meals must be ordinary and necessary expenses and not lavish or extravagant. These are expenses that are normal and accepted in your business and are helpful to your trade.
Let’s take a close look at these meals. We have:
All meals must have receipts and notes on the receipts about the purpose of the meal. Remember that your regular meals cannot be deducted unless you are away from home on business.
The answer is no. As of 2018, employees with W2 jobs do not qualify for business meals deductions.
To deduct business meals, you should be self-employed or operating a business. Basically, you must be in business to deduct business meals. For example, if you run a manufacturing company or area rental property owner, you are entitled to a business meal deduction.
The hotel and hospitality industry was probably hit the hardest by the outbreak of the Coronavirus. This pandemic saw millions of restaurant and hotel employees get laid off across the world.
In the United States alone, the industry lost--within the first one year of the pandemic-- more than $280 billion in sales according to the National Restaurant Association.
With sales still below the pre-pandemic levels in restaurants, the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 determined to impose a temporary 100 % deduction for business meals that a restaurant provides. Congress amended the tax code section 274 to remove the 50 percent cap on meals provide by restaurants.
Signed into law on December 29, 2020, the law changed the deduction for business meals provided by restaurants from 50% to 100%. This was a move by Congress to encourage people to patronize restaurants more.
The recent COVID relief bill brought a temporary exception to the 50% deduction limitation for business meals for the year 2021-2022. Here’s is a simple breakdown:
Try our free self-employment tax estimator to calculate your tax liability ay the end of the year. Our calculator will estimate your tax bill and help you prepare for the tax season.
To make it clear for all taxpayers, the IRS provides guidance to explain when the temporary 100 percent deduction will apply and when the 50% limitation will continue to apply.
The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, P.L. 116-260, enacted the temporary exception to the limitation for amounts paid or incurred after December 31, 2020, and before Jan. 1, 2023, for food and beverages provided by a restaurant. Under Section 274 n(1), a deduction for any expense for food or beverages is generally limited to 50% of the amount that would otherwise be deductible.
A restaurant in this context is defined as an establishment that prepares food and the beverages are provided for immediate consumption, regardless of whether the consumption of the meal is done on the premises. The meals are the ones that qualify for the 100% temporary expense deduction.
Establishments that provide pre-packed foods and drinks that are not for immediate consumption are not entitled to this deduction. These establishments include grocery stores, convenience stores, drug stores, liquor stores e.t.c.
The IRS regularly publishes per diem rates that apply to different regions of the United States. These per diem rates are useful for calculating the meals and incidental costs deduction which will be presumed to be substantiated, by the taxpayer.
The per diem rates are great for figuring out travel expenses within the U.S. The per diem rates are updated every year by the General Services Administration (GSA).
For the 100% deduction, you must have proof in the form of receipts to show your expenses were from restaurants and not convenience or grocery stores. However, if you go by the per diem amount, your meals will be 50% deductible.
To maximize on your deductions, consider taking the per diem on a day-to-day basis.
The meal expense deduction process is not complicated at all. The meal expense deductions is a three-step process:
While the cost of a business meal is not restricted to a specific amount, the IRS still insists on it not being “lavish or extravagant”. This sentiment is subject to facts and circumstances surrounding the business meal. You should look at the cost of the meal and determine whether it is reasonable based on the circumstances and facts.
A verbal contract (formally called an oral contract) refers to an agreement between two parties that's made —you guessed it— verbally.
Formal contracts, like those between an employee and an employer, are typically written down. However, some professional transactions take place based on verbally agreed terms.
Freelancers are a good example of this. Often, freelancers will take on projects having agreed on the terms and payment via the phone, or an email. Unfortunately, sometimes clients don't pull through on their agreements, and hardworking freelancers can find themselves out of pocket and wondering whether a legal battle is worth all the hassle.
The main differences between written and oral contracts are that the former is signed and documented, whereas the latter is solely attributed to verbal communication.
Verbal contracts are a bit of a gray area for most people unfamiliar with contract law —which is most of us, right?— due to the fact that there's no physical evidence to support the claims made by the implemented parties.
For any contract (written or verbal) to be binding, there are four major elements which need to be in place. The crucial elements of a contract are as follows:
Therefore, an oral agreement has legal validity if all of these elements are present. However, verbal contracts can be difficult to enforce in a court of law. In the next section, we take a look at how oral agreements hold up in court.
Most business professionals are wary of entering into contracts orally because they can difficult to enforce in the face of the law.
If an oral contract is brought in front of a court of law, there is increased risk of one party (or both!) lying about the initial terms of the agreement. This is problematic for the court, as there's no unbiased way to conclude the case; often, this will result in the case being disregarded. Moreover, it can be difficult to outline contract defects if it's not in writing.
That being said, there are plenty of situations where enforceable contracts do not need to be written or spoken, they're simply implied. For instance, when you buy milk from a store, you give something in exchange for something else and enter into an implied contract, in this case - money is exchanged for goods.
There are some types of contracts which must be in writing.
The Statute of Frauds is a legal statute which states that certain kinds of contracts must be executed in writing and signed by the parties involved. The Statute of Frauds has been adopted in almost all U.S states, and requires a written contract for the following purposes:
Typically, a court of law won't enforce an oral agreement in any of these circumstances under the statute. Instead, a written document is required to make the contract enforceable.
Contract law is generally doesn't favor contracts agreed upon verbally. A verbal agreement is difficult to prove, and can be used by those intent on committing fraud. For that reason, it's always best to put any agreements in writing and ensure all parties have fully understood and consented to signing.
Verbal agreements can be proven with actions in the absence of physical documentation. Any oral promise to provide the sale of goods or perform a service that you agreed to counts as a valid contract. So, when facing a court of law, what evidence can you provide to enforce a verbal agreement?
Unfortunately, without solid proof, it may be difficult to convince a court of the legality of an oral contract. Without witnesses to testify to the oral agreement taking place or other forms of evidence, oral contracts won't stand up in court. Instead, it becomes a matter of "he-said-she-said" - which legal professionals definitely don't have time for!
If you were to enter into a verbal contract, it's recommended to follow up with an email or a letter confirming the offer, the terms of the agreement , and payment conditions. The more you can document the elements of a contract, the better your chances of legally enforcing a oral contract.
Another option is to make a recording of the conversation where the agreement is verbalized. This can be used to support your claims in the absence of a written agreement. However, it's always best to gain the permission of the other involved parties before hitting record.
Fundamentally, most verbal agreements are legally valid as long as they meet all the requirements for a contract. However, if you were to go to court over one party not fulfilling the terms of the contract, proving that the interaction took place can be extremely taxing.
So, ultimately, the question is: written or verbal agreements?
Any good lawyer, contract law firm, or legal professional would advise you to make sure you formalize any professional agreement with a written agreement. Written contracts provide a secure testament to the conditions that were agreed and signed by the two parties involved. If it comes to it, a physical contract is much easier to eviden in legal circumstances.
Freelancers, in particular, should be aware of the extra security that digital contracts may provide. Many people choose to stick to executing contracts verbally because they're not sure how to write a contract, or they think writing out the contract terms is too complicated or requires expensive legal advice. However, this is no longer the case.
Today, we have a world of resources available at our fingertips. The internet is a treasure trove of invaluable information, platforms, and software that simplifies our lives. Creating, signing, and sending contracts has never been easier. What's more, you don't have to rely on a hiring a lawyer to explain all that legal jargon anymore.
There are plenty of tools available online for freelancers to use for guidance when drafting digital contracts. Tools like Bonsai provide a range of customizable, vetted contract templates for all kinds of freelance professionals. No matter what industry you're operating in, Bonsai has a professional template to offer.
A written contract makes the agreement much easier to prove the terms of the agreement in case something were to go awry. The two parties involved can rest assured that they're legal rights are protected, and the terms of the contract are sufficiently documented. Plus, it provides both parties with peace of mind to focus on the tasks at hand.
Bonsai's product suite for freelancers allows users to make contracts from scratch, or using professional templates, and sign them using an online signature maker.
With Bonsai, you can streamline and automate all of the boring back-office tasks that come with being a freelancer. From creating proposals that clients can't say no to, to sealing the deal with a professional contract - Bonsai will revolutionize the way you do business as a freelancer.
Why not secure your business today and sign up for a free trial?