Can Uber Drivers Deduct Meals?

by
Sarah York, EA
Updated 
September 21, 2022
January 28, 2022
Icon chek
Reviewed by

There are some things you need to know about taxes for Uber drivers, and the rules for meal write-offs are a big one. Can you write off the meals you eat in between passengers?

In general, Uber drivers can't deduct the food they eat on the go. This article will explain why — and dive into the meals they can write off.

Contents

Why Uber drivers can't deduct meals on the go

If a rideshare driver buys a granola bar during a long shift, they can't write it off on their tax return. They also can't deduct the coffee they drink to stay awake while working late. Sounds super unfair, right?

Here’s the thought process: the driver's contract doesn’t specify that they need to eat, so it’s not technically a requirement for their employment. That's right: Uber would have to require that you eat on the job for it to be a business expense. 

Requirements like this do come up for some self-employed people. For instance, a security guard on a 1099 contract might be unable to leave their post all day, enabling them to deduct the meals they eat on the job.

An Uber driver, though, can theoretically turn the app off, grab a bite, and then start working again. So the meal wouldn't be deductible.

Understanding meal write-offs

Rule of thumb: If eating on the job is not a requirement for employment, then it's not a legitimate business expense.

That's why most meals aren't deductible for Uber drivers. But to get a sense of why this rule exists in place, we first need to establish how Uber drivers compare to traditional contractors, on the one hand, and employees on the other hand.

How Uber drivers are classified as workers

As a general rule, rideshare drivers are considered independent contractors, not employees. If you drive for Uber, you'll be issued a 1099 on your earnings, which will be subject to self-employment taxes.

But even though Uber drivers are technically independent contractors, your day-to-day work might look more similar to that of an employee. That's because you don't have to acquire clients, and you don't control all the terms of your own work. 

Take a look at this chart, which compares rideshare drivers to more traditional contractors and W-2 employees.

Can Uber Drivers Deduct Meals? | Uber drivers are classified as independent contractors, but they're similar to employees in that they don't work to acquire clients or control the terms of their own work.

How meal write-offs for contractors work

Why is this whole issue of contractor vs. employee relevant here?

Because the nature of traditional contract work makes it pretty easy for most traditional contractors to claim write-offs for meals. The autonomy of their work means they can cast a wider net for business expenses.

W-2 employees, on the other hand, can't claim meal write-offs. Driving for Uber looks, in practice, pretty similar to W-2 employment, so meal write-offs are mostly off-limits for them as well.

Let's dig into the details by examining the last two criteria from our chart above.

🤝 Working to acquire clients

As an Uber driver, you get customers through the Uber app depending on your proximity to passengers looking for the ride. You can get good reviews, which might increase your odds of landing more business. But ultimately, Uber brings your customers to you — meaning you do relatively minimal work when it comes to sourcing them.

In contrast, a more traditional contractor is responsible for scouting out their own clients. Take a hairstylist who owns a hair salon. They might benefit from occasional random walk-ins, but their business primarily comes from their salon's reputation and their ability to build a client base over time.

The hairstylist can write off any business meals they might eat with potential customers (to woo them) and current customers (to keep them coming back). But an Uber driver can't.

👔 Controlling the terms of work

Rideshare companies like Uber typically have pre-established contracts with compensation for every driver. In addition, drivers must agree to background checks, submit information about their vehicles, and agree to abide by the conditions of the company.

All in all, drivers have limited say in the terms of their employment. Put simply, drivers are very similar to W-2 employees in everything except their working hours (and taxes). This lack of autonomy means relatively few opportunities for meal write-offs.

But don’t despair! Keeper Tax has a whole page of tax deductions specifically for rideshare drivers, from your cell phone to your car. If you download the app, it'll be able to track all these write-offs for you automatically, so you can save the most money possible on your tax bill.

{upsell_block}

And there's more good news — under some circumstances, your meals actually are tax-deductible.

When Uber drivers can deduct their meals

The meals and snacks you eat on the job as an Uber driver normally can't be written off. And you won't have a lot of chances to wine and dine potential customers. But there are some cases when you can deduct your meal expenses.

In general, you have to be either eating with a business contact or driving far from your home base. Here are the situations when you would be able to take a meal deduction.

🚗 When you're eating with a fellow driver

Lunches with clients aren't the only possible business meals. If you grab food with a fellow rideshare driver and talk about work, your meal counts as a tax-deductible expense.

Say you get together with a more experienced Uber driver over burgers, and they give you some pointers on surge pricing strategy or tracking your car expenses. (Or maybe you're the one doling out advice to someone who just joined the platform.)

Your fellow drivers count as your coworkers, so the IRS will treat lunches with them as legitimate business meals. You don't even have to pay for the other person's entree.

For recordkeeping purposes, though, it's a good idea to leave some digital breadcrumbs so you can prove you were talking about work — say, a calendar event or an email followup summarizing your discussion. That way, you're covered in the event of an IRS audit.

Here’s another tidbit that’s good to know: In 2021 and 2022, business meals you eat in restaurants are temporarily 100% tax-deductible.

{write_off_block}

👥 When you're eating with a potential referral

Referring new drivers to Uber is a great way to earn rewards and supplement your total income from the app.

If you know someone who's potentially interested in rideshare driving, you might take them out for dinner to answer their questions and sell them on joining you. That meal would be a write-off.

{email_capture}

🛣️ When you're traveling for work

Most meals have to be eaten with someone to be considered a legitimate tax deduction. But an exception kicks in if you travel for work.

Of course, the normal driving you do over the course of a work day doesn't count. You have to be pretty far from your usual stomping grounds — at least 100 miles away from home. That's far enough you wouldn't be able to return home to sleep.


Say you're an Uber driver based in Kansas. Your brother lives in Austin, where SXSW, the music festival, happens in March. You drive down there and crash with him for a couple of weeks while the festival is going on, so you can drive all those music-lovers around.

If you're working full days while you're there, your trip to Austin would count as a business trip. That means you'd be able to write off your travel expenses, including meals — even if there's no one eating with you.

Sarah York, EA

Sarah York, EA

websitetwitter-link

Sarah is a staff writer at Keeper Tax and has her Enrolled Agent license with the IRS. Her work has been featured in Business Insider, Money Under 30, Best Life, GOBankingRates, and Shopify. She has nearly a decade of public accounting experience, and has worked with clients in a wide range of industries, including oil and gas, manufacturing, real estate, wholesale and retail, finance, and ecommerce. Sarah has extensive experience offering strategic tax planning at the state and federal level. During her time in industry, she handled tax returns for C Corps, S corps, partnerships, nonprofits, and sole proprietorships. Sarah is a member of the National Association of Enrolled Agents (NAEA) and maintains her continuing education requirements by completing over 30 hours of tax training every year. In her spare time, she is a devoted cat mom and enjoys hiking, baking, and overwatering her houseplants.

Find write-offs.
File taxes.

Keeper Tax helps independent contractors and freelancers discover tax deductions and file taxes.

Try for free →
Find write-offs. File taxes.

Tax filing for freelancers and side hustlers

Most tax software isn't built for you. Ours is. We know every form you need and every deduction you can take to pay less this year.

Get started→
Yearly

Free Tool

What tax write-offs can I claim?

I am ...
Freelance designer
Uber / Lyft driver
Text Link
Freelance designer
Freelance designer
See write-offs
Company Contact Country
Alfreds Futterkiste Maria Anders Germany
Centro comercial Moctezuma Francisco Chang Mexico
Ernst Handel Roland Mendel Austria

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 email support@keepertax.com if you have questions.