What constitutes as a meal when you claim expenses?

By Samantha Dolphin

It’s been a few months since the changes in legislation, affecting the travel and subsistence expenses that can be reclaimed, were implemented on 6th April. So, what do we know…

If you’re not under Supervision, Direction, or Control, you can claim for your expenses; this includes commuting but there’s still some debate around the meal allowance, and just what is ok to claim.

HMRC currently states that the cost of a ‘meal’ is allowable – a meal being defined as food and drink but what constitutes as a meal may be different to each of us.

We all know someone who doesn’t participate in that standard sandwich, packet of crisps and a drink (‘meal deal’), instead maybe choosing to indulge in several doughnuts, a couple of chocolate bars and a can of fizzy pop – but can this be classed as a ‘meal’?

Let’s try and clear a few things up…

You have to incur a cost for the meal, which you can prove by way of a receipt; this can be any time from when you set off to work, to when you get home.  The receipt has to show the date of purchase, which coincides with your working day(s) or it won’t be accepted.

The costs also have to relate to your meal, for example, if your receipt show a sandwich, crisps, water and spray deodorant, only the value of food and drink can be offset against your tax and National Insurance.

So, can we class doughnuts, chocolate bars and a can of fizzy pop as a ‘meal’? Well, doughnuts and chocolate bars are technically food and fizzy pop is a drink, but HMRC would categorise this as a ‘snack’ rather than a ‘meal’.  A meal that HMRC would deem allowable is the generic ‘meal deal’ like a sandwich, a savoury or sweet snack (like a packet of crisps or a chocolate bar) and a drink.

How about if you’re staying away from home, is it allowable to purchase ready meals on one of your working days to last the rest of the week?

The answer is yes, it’s still classed as your commute to work however, we’d advise that it’d be safer for the meals to be purchased on separate transactions as it is less likely for HMRC to query your receipts, or your claim be denied.

Expenses that are to be reimbursed by your agency are defined as chargeable expenses; they can also be claimed through Danbro in order for you to receive the tax and National Insurance benefit.

If your end client has agreed to reimburse you with a meal that you have incurred a cost for – is this something you can claim for if you are under Supervision, Direction or Control?


Keep an eye out for our blog on chargeable expenses, coming soon.

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