Can I Deduct Meals As An Independent Contractor?

A lot of people believe that in order for a meal to be classified as a “business” meal for your independent contractor taxes, it needs to be white tablecloth with a french waiter serving you the le plat du jour. That’s false. We’ve listed three common types of meals that can be written off, below.

Meals with clients, or potential clients

This one’s obvious. If you go out for lunch with a client, work will come up in the discussion. You don’t need to be signing contracts at the table for it to be a tax write off. You don’t even need to be paying for the other person’s meal. The fact that you are eating out, instead of bringing lunch from home, means that the expense is out of the ordinary, and tax deductible.

  • You’re a real estate agent. You get breakfast with a homebuyer. You talk about your properties.
  • You’re a graphic designer. You grab a breakfast with a small business owner acquaintance. You ask them about their design needs.
  • You’re an Airbnb host. You grab a meal with your house guest. You ask them how their stay was.

Meals with potential referrals

Many contracting platforms offer rewards for getting other people to sign up as contractors. Uber pays up to $500, for example. That’s serious money! When you grab a meal with a friend who might be interested in becoming a driver, and you talk about your work, that’s a tax write off.

  • You deliver for Doordash, which offers $300 driver referral bonuses. You grab dinner with friends, and talk about how the job pays fairly well and you like the flexibility.
  • You work as a content writer on Upwork, which offers $100 referral bonuses. You grab breakfast with a friend who’s thinking about doing some contracting on the weekend. You mention Upwork.
  • You’re an independent contractor for Walmart. They offer a referral bonus. You talk about work with a former classmate.

Meals while discussing your industry

Don’t miss this one! It’s very important to stay on top of the latest news and trends in your industry. Even if you’re meeting with someone who isn’t an actual client or potential referral, if you’re learning new things about your space that are helping you do a better job at work, that’s a tax write off.

  • You drive for Uber. You grab dinner with another driver and discuss strategies for maximizing airport pickup earnings.
  • You charge scooters for Lime. Juicing is a cutthroat business. You talk about hoarding strategies with another charger over lunch.
  • You’re an independent dog walker. You meet with a friend who’s knowledgeable about dogs and ask for feedback on how to best approach a scared puppy. This helps you do a better job at work.

Bottom line

Be reasonable with the types of meals you are writing off so they do not fall under the lavish or extravagant categories and be sure a fair amount of work was discussed as mentioned above. Use our 1099 expense tracker to discover tax deductions effortlessly.

Note: The 2018 Tax Cuts and Jobs act has invalidated business entertainment deductions. Some members of the accounting community believe that this may also spillover into business meals. Our stance at Keeper is that as long as the meal is not overly extravagant, it is in a separate category from business entertainment and continues to be a tax write off.

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Paul Koullick

Paul Koullick


Paul is the co-founder and CEO of Keeper. He has been in the tax and financial industry for more than half a decade. In his free time, he loves to go jogging, playing chess, and helping people find tax write offs.

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Note: at Keeper Tax, we're on a mission to help freelancers overcome the complexity of their taxes. That sometimes leads us to generalize tax advice. Please reach out via email if you have questions.