Your Questions Answered: Is food an allowable business expense?

Annie has a question on something we might not be thinking about as an allowable business expense, but perhaps should be:

Are food purchases an allowable business expense? For example, if I flew to Germany for an audition and had to pay for food whilst I was out there, would I be able to count that as an expense? Because I wouldn't have bought that food if I wasn't in Germany for that audition? But then would buying a coffee on my way to an audition in London count? Or would that not count because I might've bought a coffee if I was in London anyway? Thank you very much!

This is a really good question, but such a tough one to give a good answer to!

As self-employed people, we can claim 'reasonable' costs of food and drink when we're travelling on business, if:

  1. We're making an 'occasional business journey outside the normal pattern'; or
  2. We stay overnight on a business trip (meaning we can claim the cost of accommodation as well as meals - know as 'subsistence').

So yes when you head to Germany, reasonable food costs are an allowable expense. Coffee is a little bit of a grey area – if you’ve got an early audition and you’re picking up some breakfast en route then this will be fine… probably not if just grabbing a coffee in the middle of the day.

The challenge is that it all hinges on the word ‘reasonable’ – so if you’re literally just doing what you normally would, then this isn’t really allowable. Likewise, you can’t really head to the most expensive restaurant you can find where you’re auditioning and claim this as an allowable business expense, but so long as you’re keeping your meal price down under about £15 (or £40 for the day when staying overnight), you probably won’t draw too much attention.

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Love Jo and James x