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How the Standard Meal Per Diem Deduction Works for Truck Drivers

Updated on January 31, 2011

Don't Miss Your Biggest Deduction

Most drivers are home only 3-4 days a month. That leaves about 320 days a year for the average OTR driver... or about $18,880 that you can write off on your taxes. Over-the-road drivers who are away from home for days at a time can claim a standard meal deduction on their taxes. The current rate for DOT regulated workers is $59 a day.

You do not need to save meal receipts to take this deduction. You do need to track how many days you are away from home. Your logbook is one way to prove this. If you are using electronic logs, you may be able to get print outs from the company that tracks your logs. (This is more likely to be Qualcomm than your employer.) You can also use pay statements that show when and where your loads pick-up and deliver, or a personal planner or calendar that tracks where you were on what day. Whichever of these "proofs" you use, be sure to keep a copy with your tax papers in case you are ever audited.


To claim this deduction you will need to fill out a form 2106. This form covers several travel expenses, including meal allowances. You can deduct 80% of your standard meal deduction minus 2% of your gross income. If the math seems frustrating then you might want to consider using tax software to do your taxes. (I have used TurboTax for the past few years and they manage the per diem claim nicely...they even remember to ask if my travel is DOT regulated so I get 80% instead of 50%.)

Per diem is not just for owner-operators. If you are a company driver, you can take this deduction as long as your employer does not give you a per diem or meal allowance that is untaxed.



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    • Weekend Reader profile image

      Cindy D Whipany 

      5 years ago

      If you weren't on the road at least eight hours (either the first day of your trip or the last), you don't get the full per diem amount. Also, try not to claim more in deductions than you had in income, the IRS loves to ask "Why do you hold a job you don't make money at?"

    • profile image

      Brad Cornett 

      6 years ago

      You need to add that if your an Independent Contractor or an Owner Operator you don't file 2106 per IRS intructions.


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