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What is the self-employed daily food allowance?

  • 2 min read
  • Last updated 2 Apr 2024

Did you know that if you’re self-employed you might be able to claim back some of the money you spend on food? The self-employed daily food allowance can be claimed as a business expense on your Self Assessment tax return. But you can’t just claim everything you eat.

Below, we outline what exactly the self-employed daily food allowance is, and what meals can be claimed as a business expense.

How do expenses work?

When you’re self-employed, you are in charge of declaring your income to HMRC and paying your own taxes via a tax return.

When it comes to your self-employed expenses, you should be as organised as you can. You should keep track of all of your income and business expenses monthly, per tax year. This is because you’re allowed to deduct your business expenses from your overall income. This means that you only pay tax on your profits, not your overall earnings. 

What are the rules on claiming the self-employed daily food allowance?

If you’re self-employed, you already know that this gives you the ability to claim back any business expenses you incur. Up until a few years ago, self-employed people couldn’t claim the cost of any food or drink incurred while travelling on business. The only exception was if they were staying away overnight.

HMRC’s rule when it comes to self-employed expenses is that you can only claim back expenses that are ‘wholly and exclusively’ for the purposes of trade. To add to the complication, there are various rules that apply. And they depend on whether you’re a sole trader or limited company.

Food and drink expenses can be difficult to interpret under these rules, as everyone needs food and water to survive. But in business you may end up in certain situations where you need to purchase food or a drink that you can ultimately claim back. 

Can you claim coffee as a business expense?

You can claim back money on food and drink if you can prove that it’s done as a business expense. The general rule is that you’re allowed to claim a meal as subsistence, but it has to be outside of your everyday working routine.

For example, you can claim back money on a meal you have in a restaurant with clients or suppliers. But you’ll struggle to claim any money back on a meal deal sandwich you ate at your desk!

You cannot claim the same amount back if the food you have indulged in is expensive or extravagant. HMRC don’t give a clear definition of what classes as a ‘reasonable’ expense. But they have previously given an example of ‘having an elaborate menu and fine wines’ as ‘meals on an unreasonable scale.’

Don’t go thinking you can claim a meal at the Ritz!

What about food and drink expenses if I’m travelling?

HMRC allows you to claim self-employed daily food allowance if you’re staying away from home overnight on a business trip. In this case, to be eligible to claim, you must meet the following conditions:

  1. The expenses incurred on foods and drinks must be during your business travel only
  2. You don’t travel to the place or the location on a regular basis as a part of your business
  3. You stay overnight on a business trip

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