IRS Clarifies Deduction Limits For Meals/Entertainment Reimbursement To Employees/Contractors

Posted on Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The IRS has issued proposed reliance regulations to clarify the exception to the 50 percent meal and entertainment expenses deduction limit under Code Sec 274(n) where amounts are paid or incurred under reimbursement or other expense allowance arrangements. While the IRS generally takes a strict approach under these new regulations, they do provide a helpful roadmap both to businesses and to contractors, as well as employees, for setting up and following through on reimbursement arrangements. As “proposed reliance regulations,” taxpayers are allowed to use them immediately to their advantage.


In 1993, Congress passed the Omnibus Reconciliation Act (OBRA). OBRA amended Code Sec. 274 by limiting the deductible portion of meal and entertainment expenses to 50 percent.

Code Sec. 274(e)(3) provides an exception from the limitation for expenses that a taxpayer pays or incurs in performing services for another person under a reimbursement or other expense allowance arrangement with the other person. This exception applies if the taxpayer is an employee performing services for an employer and the employer does not treat the reimbursement for the expenses as compensation and wages to the taxpayer. Additionally, the exception applies if the taxpayer performs services for a person other than an employer and the taxpayer accounts (substantiates, as required by Code Sec. 274(d)) to that person.

Court case

In 2006, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals handed down its decision in Transport Labor Contract/Leasing, Inc.. In that case, a corporation was in the business of leasing drivers to trucking companies. The Tax Court had applied the Code Sec. 274(n) limitation to the taxpayer as the drivers' common law employer subject to Code Sec. 274(e)(3)(A). Reversing the Tax Court, the Eighth Circuit held that the taxpayer's reimbursement and expense allowance arrangement it had with its clients enabled it to claim a reimbursement arrangement exception under Code Sec. 274(e)(3). The IRS acquiesced in the decision (in part) in Rev. Rul. 2008-23.

New regulations

Under the new regulations, a reimbursement or other expense allowance arrangement involving persons who are not employees is an arrangement under which an independent contractor receives an advance, allowance, or reimbursement from a client or customer for expenses the independent contractor pays or incurs in performing services if either:

The regulations also clarify that the rules for applying the exceptions to the Code Sections 274(a) and (n) deduction limitations apply to reimbursement arrangements with employees, whether or not a payor is an employer. Additionally, the new regulations apply to multiple-party reimbursement arrangements. Multiple-party reimbursement arrangements are separately analyzed as a series of two-party reimbursement arrangements.

NPRM REG-101812-07

Posted in Tax And Accounting Topics For Business

Disclaimer: The information contained in Dulin, Ward & DeWald’s blog is provided for general educational purposes only and should not be construed as financial or legal advice on any subject matter. Before taking any action based on this information, we strongly encourage you to consult competent legal, accounting or other professional advice about your specific situation. Questions on blog posts may be submitted to your DWD representative.

"Bruner Dental has been with DWD for well over 15 years. The entire team at DWD has been helpful in many ways. From simple questions day to day, to audits, payroll needs, and much more; they…"

Rondell Nelson

Bruner Dental