I am a self-employed carpenter and from time to time my work takes me a fair distance from home, whether to visit a timber merchant to buy materials or to carry out work on a client’s property. In these cases, nipping home for lunch becomes impossible. However, I have heard that I can eat at a local restaurant and claim the meal as an allowable expense for tax purposes. How does it work? A.L.
A: If you are self-employed and pay income tax on your profits (either on a BIC or BNC régime) it is possible to deduct meal expenses from your taxable work income.
However this only applies if you declare for tax under the régime réel (or régime de la déclaration contrôlée for liberal professionals) and not one of the micro regimes.
Firstly the meal must genuinely be work-related, whether that is a business lunch to meet new clients or a meal taken in a break.
It does not extend to spouses or partners and it should not be food prepared by yourself (nor are any meals you prepare at home considered to be deductible expenses).
The meal out should usually be justified by the distance between home and where you are working.
Commuting to a neighbouring village, for example, does not really prohibit returning home for lunch; however there is flexibility depending on the kind of work you do, where you work and your working hours.
You should note that you can only claim for costs exceeding that of a meal at home, currently estimated at a flat rate of €4.80, including tax. The figure is reviewed at the start of each year to reflect average consumer prices.
There is a cap on how much the food bill can come to as well – €18.60 – so in reality the amount deducted per meal cannot be more than €13.80 (€18.60 - €4.80).
If you do end up spending more, you will need a good reason for it – for example, lack of cheaper dining options in the immediate vicinity.
To make a claim you must keep your bill as proof.