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By Jason Watson, CPA
Posted Tuesday, October 12, 2021
The Sutter rule allows the IRS to disallow a portion of your business meals when they consume a large part of your normal living expenses. In other words, if every meal you eat is a justifiable business meal, it might not matter under the Sutter rule. This rule was created in Richard Sutter v. Commissioner, 21 Tax Court 170 (1953), where Sutter expensed his lunch every day but the court found that “the deduction for the cost of lunches was apparently almost entirely payment for petitioner’s own meals when he attended such functions as meetings of the Chamber of Commerce. There is no evidence that these costs were any greater than expenditures which petitioner would have been required to make in any event for his own personal purposes. They must consequently be disallowed.”
Sutter was audacious- he deducted everything he could think of. It is a great read.
Again be careful. Business meals are low hanging fruit for the IRS. We’ve seen thousands of dollars in tax savings disappear before our eyes during an examination because the client could not demonstrate the business purpose. To not lose an audit, make sure you keep receipts beyond relying on the credit card statement. In addition, keep a log or journal of the person(s) you met with and the topics of discussion. Be very specific. Memories fade, so if you intend to reconstruct this evidence upon receipt of your examination notice from the IRS, think twice. IRS agents are no dummies on meals.
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