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In-home Meal and Entertainment Expenses

Question:

A church pastor is wondering how to deduct meal and entertainment expenses when he and his wife host gatherings at their house. Is there a set amount he can deduct for each meal served? Or does he need to deduct the actual costs? 

Answer:

Meal and entertainment expenses are deductible or reimbursable (by the employer) if they are ordinary and necessary and are either directly related to or associated with the pastor's responsibilities. If the pastor is reimbursed by the church, he cannot claim the expenses as a deduction.

Since it is difficult to precisely document the cost of meals served in the home, a reasonable cost per meal is generally allowable. Here is a quote from page 67 of Worth's Income Tax Guide for Ministers, 2012 Edition

A reasonable amount per meal, depending on your actual circumstances and services practices, might vary between $8.00 to $11.00 per meal. Those afternoon meetings with refreshments, or after evening service snacks for the youth group, etc., might vary between $2.50 to $3.50 per snack.

We have generally found that Worth's per meal suggestions are greater than most pastors can justify. Her snack range is more typical. On a pastor's tax return, 50% of the costs of meals while entertaining is deductible.

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