Rules change on driver meal expenses

By Bob Pitcher, State Laws Newsletter

The federal tax reform package that passed Congress December 20 changes the rules for some truck drivers on the expenses they incur for meals and incidentals while they’re away from home on travel. Employee truck drivers whose carrier does not pay them a per diem allowance will no longer be able to take the costs of meals and incidentals as an itemized deduction, as they have in the past. This may not make a difference to many such drivers, since the new tax law also doubles the standard deduction for taxpayers, so that far fewer taxpayers will be itemizing at all. This change is effective now, for 2018 taxes.

Note that owner-operators will still be able to deduct their costs for meals and incidentals, just as they have in the past, since owner-operators are in business for themselves, and those costs are deductible business expenses. Finally, some carriers pay their employee drivers a separate per diem allowance to cover meals and incidentals. The rules for carriers and drivers in that situation do not change. We might caution, however, that the rules pertaining to per diem programs are complicated and somewhat tricky to implement.