Introduction: What is additional meal expenses?
Anyone who does an external job for professional reasons, i.e. who is away for one or more days due to their job, can usually not get meals as cheaply as at home. Rather, business travelers are often reliant on restaurants, snack bars, catering options in their accommodations, etc. In order not to put professionally mobile people at a disadvantage, the legislature has regulated the additional expenses for meals in Section 4 (5) No. 5 Sentence 2 EStG .
Strictly speaking, this flat rate is not intended to replace the entire cost of meals during an external activity, but merely to represent a subsidy. Two scenarios are possible : Either the employer reimburses the additional meal expenses at a flat rate and tax-free as part of the travel expense report . The second option: You set the costs as income- related expenses as part of your income tax return, but you have to pay for your meals on business trips yourself . In the following you will find out what exactly you have to pay attention to.
Domestic business trips
If your employer sends you on a business trip within Germany, you cannot settle your actual food costs directly. Instead, it is possible to compensate part of the costs incurred with a lump sum. Since January 2014 there are only two options: The small and the large meal allowance .
The small flat rate is 12 euros per day and is a subsidy for food expenses on work-related trips. It is set for trips that last more than eight and less than 24 hours , but also for arrival and departure days for business trips lasting several days.
The large flat rate is 24 euros per day . It applies to all business trips that last longer than 24 hours . Note: Per day means per calendar day. If the large flat rate is to be set, you really have to be absent from midnight to midnight one day.
Business trips abroad
Since the cost of meals for work-related trips abroad can vary, it is only logical that the lump sums for additional meal expenses vary from country to country. The Federal Ministry of Finance therefore publishes a list almost every year that specifies different flat rates for a large number of destinations. The amount of the flat rate depends on the cost of living and local inflation – they can therefore differ significantly from the small and large flat rates applicable in Germany.
It should be noted that for some countries different flat rates apply depending on the destination. An example: For a trip to Brazil, it matters whether it goes to Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo or other parts of the country. Since Rio de Janeiro has the highest cost of living, the large flat rate is 57 euros / day, the small one at 38 euros / day. In Sao Paulo you can get a little cheaper meals, so the flat rates 53 or 36 euros / day apply here. Since the cost of meals in the rest of the country is lower than in the largest metropolises, the flat rates 51 or 34 euros / day apply here.
Note: Due to the regionally different flat rates, it can happen that you have to use different flat rates for work-related trips within another country.
Do you not only have appointments, but also customers abroad? There are a few things to consider when invoicing to other EU countries and third countries !
Regulations for trips lasting several days
If you are traveling in Germany for several days for your employer , the amount of the daily meal allowance depends primarily on this
- Type of day (arrival / departure / working day on site),
- Duration of employment on site and
- any catering options used (e.g. hotel breakfast, typical seminar catering).
This can best be explained with an example: For a three-day business trip, you start at 3:30 pm on the first day. On the 2nd day you will use the hotel breakfast and spend the day at a congress. On the 3rd day you go home after breakfast. For the calculation of the additional meal expenses this means:
- Day 1: day of arrival, small flat rate (12 euros)
- Day 2: Congress day, large flat rate (24 euros) – hotel breakfast provided by the employer (- 20 percent, 40 percent reduction would be for lunch / dinner, 100% for full board)
- 3rd day: departure day, flat rate 12 euros
EUR 12 + EUR 24 – EUR 4.80 + EUR 12 – EUR 2.40 = EUR 40.80 additional meal expenses
For business trips abroad , further rules apply regarding the place of stay, which in any case makes a difference in view of the very different flat rates depending on the country. In concrete terms this means:
- On the (non-working) day of arrival, the flat rate for the place that is reached before midnight is to be used as a rule
- for the stay, the flat rate for the place that is reached before midnight applies
- the place of the last activity abroad applies for the day of return
An example, for the sake of simplicity, without deductions for meals included: You are going on a three-day business trip. On the 1st day you will fly to Madrid / Spain, where you will arrive at your hotel at 8:00 p.m. On the 2nd day you will take part in customer meetings in Madrid, after which you will fly to Paris / France for further customer meetings. On the 3rd day you will fly home after a meeting.
For the calculation this means:
- Day 1: Small package Madrid / Spain, since the day of arrival
- Day 2: big package Paris / France, because you last arrived there before midnight
- 3rd day: large package Paris / France, since departure day with meeting abroad
You can claim the additional meal expenses in two ways. The easiest way: Your employer will reimburse you the tax-free lump sum as part of the travel expense report . The employer is also allowed to pay more money than the flat rate (quasi as a salary increase), but not more than double the flat rate. The employer (but not you) pays wage tax (flat rate of 25 percent) for the excess amount.
If your employer refuses to pay out part or all of the meal allowance, you can claim the amount from the income- related expenses as part of your income tax return. In this way you will get at least part of your meal costs reimbursed.