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Meal allowance for self employed?

Meal allowance for self employed?

Can a self employed person claim a meal allowance as an allowable expense?

I understand than an employer can pay an employee a meal allowance under certain conditions, but what about a self employed person that travels around as part of their normal work, therefore having no kitchen facilities? Also can a subcontractor on site claim a meal allowance?


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06th Jan 2012 17:20

Only in limited circumstances

The costs of subsistence can be claimed in two circumstances:

If the conditions of S.57A ITTOIA 2005 are met.If the client happens to be participating in a theatrical production of the Mad Hatter's Tea Party at the time of the meal. See BIM37920.

BIM47705 is also worth a read.

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10th Jan 2012 11:24

So a self employed person who travels around maintaining trucks (changing tyres, filling up oil, repairing other external parts etc) at where ever the truck has had to stop, would be able to claim a subsistence allowance for meals?

Would this be a set amount per day? Or an actual amount (with limits)?

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10th Jan 2012 11:41

Actuals (or estimates)

You can't just use a set amount.  What you can do (as a record-keeping convenience) is use an estimate.  Any estimate will need to be supported by sample data covering a representative period.

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10th Jan 2012 11:49

Would one month qualify as a representative period?

I thought there would be an upper limit on this to stop people claiming £20 each day for a fillet steak for lunch.


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10th Jan 2012 12:09


S.57A permits deduction for reasonable subsistence expenses.  If the circumstances are such that a substantial meal is justified, I don't see any problem with your fillet steak example.  The man on the Clapham Omnibus might regard a three-course meal with a couple of bottles of wine as unreasonable and might also consider that only one (or two including breakfast) substantial meal per day is required that, reasonably, ought to be taken outside the working day.  It's all down to circumstances and the man on the Clapham Omnibus.  You're the closest thing you've got to the man on the Clapham Omnibus.  Do you think that  what you're claiming is reasonable? Do you think it would stand up to scrutiny?

Anyone that seeks to push boundaries can expect to be burnt.

If you have someone who follows exactly the same pattern every day, one day is a representative period.  The period just needs to be long enough to accommodate the pattern of behaviour.  You have to remember that HMRC may well challenge you.  You need to ensure that you have evidence that will stand up to scrutiny before a tribunal, then they can just challenge away!

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10th Jan 2012 12:23

Thank you!

I think that £9per day would be reasonable for a 10 hour working day. Which is backed up by the fact that the self employed person always buys the same meals from MacDonalds each day.

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10th Jan 2012 12:35

£9 per day at Macdonalds is excessive isnt it?

Surely he should cover the cost of his own breakfast and evening meal? So a £9 lunch at Macdonalds sounds like he is pushing it to me. Or can he claim a couple of coffee breaks as well?

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10th Jan 2012 12:51

Shocking diet!

I do hope your client never runs into Gillian McKeith!

@young ronaldo: I think I agree with accountslady that, with a 10 hour day, taking two of his three meals during his working day isn't unreasonable.

So £9 in that context doesn't seem extreme.  As noted above though, do keep some actual documentation to support the estimate you're using the rest of the time.

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10th Jan 2012 12:53

I wouldn't be able to work a 10 hour day with just eating lunch in those 10 hours.

HMRC allow employers to give their employees up to £10 for a 10 hour shift, so shouldn't the same benchmark be set for those who are self employed?



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12th Jan 2012 16:13

No round sum allowance is due

Sorry said this before but it was moderated out. The rules for self-employed very different to those for employees (different taxes acts in fact) so beware of HMRC's manuals they definitely do not tell the whole story on this topic.

Estimates: be careful although a tax tribunal may sometimes accept them (provided that they are backed up with other evidence) HMRC will invariably not and will expect you to keep receipts. 

In my humble opinon you are asking for trouble is you start lobbing in estimated round sums into your traders's accounts. 

Virtual Tax Support for accountants:

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By joma52
02nd Dec 2015 07:25

overnight Allowance


 I am a self employed LGV driver, I start work at 1630 pm and stay out all night in my truck and finish work at 0830 am the next day compleating a 16 hour shift Mon to Fri.What am I allowed to claim in overnight allowance and food allowance.

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