20.4 IRS Meal Allowance
If you find it difficult to keep records of meal costs while away from home (20.3) on business trips, you may prefer to claim an IRS meal allowance. In government tables, the allowance is referred to as the “M&IE” rate (meals and incidental expenses). In addition to meals and tips for food servers, the allowance (M&IE rate) includes a limited number of “incidental” expenses such as fees and tips for porters, baggage carriers, hotel maids, or room stewards. Self-employed individuals may claim the M&IE allowance as well as employees who have expenses that are not reimbursed under an “accountable” plan (20.32).
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The IRS standard meal allowance (M&IE rate) does not include laundry, cleaning, and pressing of clothing. If you have receipts to substantiate laundry and cleaning costs, you may deduct them separately from the M&IE allowance, which includes as incidental expenses fees and tips for porters, baggage carriers, hotel maids, and room stewards.
If you do not pay or incur any meal expenses for a particular day on a trip away from home but you do have qualifying incidental expenses on that day, you have the option of deducting the actual costs or an allowance of $5 per day for the incidental expenses. The $5-per-day allowance must be prorated for the first and last days of the trip.
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