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Can I claim my meal expenses as a sole trader?

As a sole trader running your own business it can be confusing to know what expenses are allowable. The rules for food and drink can be especially complicated and the lines between personal and businesses expenses can become blurry.

HMRC rules state that for an expenditure to be allowable it must be wholly and exclusively for the purpose of the business.

HMRC rules also state that ‘everyone must eat in order to live and therefore such costs are normal costs of living incurred by all and not incurred for the purpose of trading’.

However, HMRC will allow you to claim for those expenses in certain circumstances.

As a self-employed person, you can claim “reasonable” costs of food and drink when you’re travelling on business, if:

  • Your business is by nature itinerant or
  • You’re making an “occasional business journey outside the normal pattern”,
  • You stay overnight on a business trip and claim the cost of accommodation as well as meals.

So if you bought a cup of coffee on the way to your normal place of work it is not allowable but if that cup of coffee was bought on an overnight business trip it would be allowable.

The general rule is that food and drink expenses incurred away from your place of business where an overnight stay is not involved cannot be claimed as a tax deductible expense.

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