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Can I claim my lunch as a business expense?

Claiming back the money you spend on food is one of the greatest perks of being self-employed – but you can’t just claim everything you eat. So what’s the deal?

Being self-employed gives you the ability to claim back any business expenses you incur, saving on tax. You can make 20% of your money back on every single business expense that qualifies, saving your company precious pennies.

HMRC’s general rule when it comes to expenses is that you can only claim back expenses that are “wholly and exclusively” for the purposes of trade. That’s why food and drink expenses can be a tricky one, as everyone needs food and drink to survive, making it hard to apply HMRC’s rule.

There are certain situations where you can claim for food and drink expenses. The rule is that you’re only allowed to claim a meal as a travel expense – but it has to be outside of your normal working routine – so, if you’re travelling to and from the same workplace every day, it’s unlikely that this will be classed as a ‘travel’ expense.

To make things even trickier, there are also different rules depending on whether you operate as a sole trader or limited company.

What makes a workplace ‘temporary’?

A temporary workplace is any place of work that does not count as a ‘permanent’ workplace under HMRC’s rules. This is defined as a place where you spend more than 40% of your working time, over a period of two years (often referred to as “the 24 month rule”). This can include your own home.

Need more help with expenses?

The rules on what you can and cannot claim as business expenses are complicated and vary depending on a number of factors. Our handy business expenses guide will help you figure it out by giving you detailed instructions on exactly what you’re entitled to claim as business expenses and how to go about doing it.

For help with other benefits, such as company cars and private medical insurance, take a look at our benefits in kind guide.

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