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J.K. Lasser's Your Income Tax 2013: For Preparing Your 2012 Tax Return by J.K. Lasser Institute

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20.33 Per Diem Travel Allowance Under Accountable Plans

Instead of providing a straight reimbursement for substantiated out-of-pocket travel expenses, an employer may use a per diem allowance to cover meals, lodging, and incidental (20.4) expenses of employees on business trips away from home. If you are not related to the employer, you do not have to give your employer proof of your actual expenses if you receive a per diem allowance or reimbursement that is equal to or less than the federal travel rate for the particular area. You do have to account for the time, place, and business purpose of your travel. If you do not provide such an accounting for some travel days, you must be required to return the per diem allowance received for such days in order for the employer’s plan to qualify. If these tests are met, the allowance satisfies the accountable plan (20.32) requirements and it does not have to be reported as income on your Form W-2.

Tables published by the government show the federal travel rate for areas within the continental U.S. (called CONUS locations) and for areas outside the continental U.S., including Hawaii and Alaska (called OCONUS locations). New CONUS tables are released every October, effective for the government’s October 1–September 30 fiscal year (20.4). The best way to obtain the CONUS per diem rates is from IRS Publication 1542, available online at www.irs.gov/formspubs. The rates are also available from the General Services Administration website at ...

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