Coronavirus stimulus: Trump wants business meals, entertainment to be tax deductible again

He says the measure will 'open up' restaurant industry after coronavirus-related restrictions are lifted

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President Trump made a push Wednesday to bring back a tax deduction for business meals in an effort to restore the restaurant sector, which has taken a crushing hit from measures implemented to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

In a White House press briefing, Trump noted that many restaurants would have “a hard time reopening,” which is why he’s calling for a renewal of the deduction.

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“We’re asking for, going back to deductibility where corporations can buy and corporations can go out to lunch and they pay, and they get a deduction on what they eat,” Trump said. “They get a deduction on the bill and same with the entertainment. It’s going to bring a lot of people back – I think it’ll open up the restaurant business.”

Trump made similar comments in a tweet posted earlier in the day.

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Trump claimed that when the deduction was ended – as a part of the 2017 tax reform law – many restaurants went out of business.

Under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, Congress repealed the entertainment deduction. That caused confusion as to whether business meals were still deductible.

The IRS issued guidance on business meals in 2018 indicating 50 percent of the expenses remained deductible – as long as the meals were not “lavish” or “extravagant" and other criteria were met.

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Because any expenses related to activities generally considered entertainment, amusement or recreation were still not deductible, the scope of the business meal provision was limited. When a business meal was considered entertainment, for example, remained unclear.

The IRS laid out examples where food was deductible as a business expense during an entertainment outing – like hot dogs bought at a baseball game (50 percent of the cost of hot dogs is deductible, not baseball tickets).

Traditionally, business and entertainment meals were 50 percent deductible as a business expense as long as they were considered “necessary” and “ordinary.”

The IRS was scheduled to hold a public hearing on the deductions this month.

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