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  1. #1
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    DOT Meal Allowance Tax Deduction?

    On my Facebook home page today I saw someone make a comment on one of my friend's pages (he is an ATC) that he should claim the DOT meal allowance which would allow him to deduct around an additional $14,000 from his taxes. She said that a few controllers she knew at ZDC claim it and even though they got audited everything still worked out fine.

    Does anyone know anything about this deduction? I've been doing research into it and it appears that there is a special standard meal allowance rate if you work in the transportation industry. You can deduct $59 per day. Most of the info from IRS publications states that the meal allowance is typically for people who travel away from their "tax home" (like truck drivers), but it appears to include those subject to "hours of service" limits. This includes "Certain air transportation workers (such as pilots, crew, dispatchers, mechanics, and control tower operators) who are under Federal Aviation Administration regulations."

    What I can't tell is if you definitely have to travel away from your place of work in order to take advantage of the deduction or not. From the way I'm understanding it after reading a bunch of stuff, it seems to me that since controllers are subject to hours of service limits, it doesn't matter that we don't travel and we are still allowed to take the deduction.

    I'm thinking about trying to claim it, but all of these IRS publications are making my head spin. Any help would be appreciated if anyone knows anything about this or has any experience with it!

  2. #2
    Roddy_Piper's Avatar
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    Re: DOT Meal Allowance Tax Deduction?

    i personally don't do it. sounds like a lot of money to be deducting.

  3. #3
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    Re: DOT Meal Allowance Tax Deduction?

    I would be hesitant to file it just because of the amount of money you are deducting. The IRS looks for abnormalities whenever looking at your returns (or when the computer looks at it). So if last year you only had $5000 in deductions and this year you bump it up to $19000, that's going to raise some flags. And if you get picked for an audit, you better be ready to defend your stretched interpretation of the rule. I think it's clever, but I'd be very, very hesitant. The IRS scares the hell outta me.

  4. #4
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    Re: DOT Meal Allowance Tax Deduction?

    Hmmmm. IDK.... I know for flight crew that "high speeds" or "quick turns" result in your per diem being taxed because you were away from home for less than 8 hours.

    Example: DTW-FNT 2300-2345, Followed by FNT-DTW 0500-0645.

    I have no idea if this means anything for ATC

  5. #5
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    Re: DOT Meal Allowance Tax Deduction?

    1. I am not a tax pro
    2. This is my opinion

    http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/i2106.pdf

    The publication does talk about this for line 9 without clear definitions.

    HOWEVER... look at the form!


    http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f2106.pdf

    "9 In Column A, enter the amount from line 8. In Column B, multiply line8 by 50% (.50). (Employees subject to Department of Transportation(DOT) hours of service limits: Multiply meal expenses incurred whileaway from home on business by 80% (.80) instead of 50%. For details, see instructions.)..............?

    This is for meal expenses incurred while away from home on business....I am not sure why ATC was included but I know this would mainly apply to a pilot, conductor or engineer away from home who runs out of hours and would not be legal to return or his held away from the need of the business.

    My .02$

  6. #6
    Radium's Avatar
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    Re: DOT Meal Allowance Tax Deduction?

    Im obviously not a tax pro, but looking into it... it means for meal expenses away from your TAX HOME.

    So say you work @ Chicago Midway Tower... to qualify this you would have to be eating lunch due to work reasons away from the chicago area (ie your Tax Home).

    I would think if say you fam'd to lets say, Indy Center from Chicago Midway... you could get the meal deduction for that day... but I'd say you are ripe for IRS rape if you tried to use it every day.

    Your tax home seems to be like a local area, not an exact physical address.

  7. #7
    MikeATC's Avatar
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    Re: DOT Meal Allowance Tax Deduction?

    Another very key point is, "You Must Have A CTO", and we all know that center controllers don't have current CTO's.

    I've taken the deduction when I worked but I worked away from my tax home in another state (120 miles away), so I felt comfortable that my deduction was legal in accordance to the tax regulation.

    I know a lot of controllers that have taken the deduction, a few were aduited and once they proved they had a CTO didn't have a problem with the IRS.

  8. #8
    mbalunda's Avatar
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    Re: DOT Meal Allowance Tax Deduction?

    So did you ever end up using it?

    Seems that most people at the center do file for it without issue.
    CPC @ ZAU

  9. #9
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    Re: DOT Meal Allowance Tax Deduction?

    It sounds sorta legit...like most IRS rules. Every auditor will give a different answer. The form instructions say you can deduct business meals and entertainment INCLUDING meals incurred away from home. It means BOTH. I'm surprised. I think where it gets tricky is record keeping. I do not believe you can use the standard M/E rate seeing as you are not away from home. You have to keep receipts or a tally of every penny you spend on food at work.

    Why would this only apply to tower guys and not enroute....again, its the IRS.

  10. #10
    marklar84's Avatar
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    Re: DOT Meal Allowance Tax Deduction?

    A few years back, a IRS watchdog group gave 100 IRS auditors the same exact info on a family of 4. Everyone came up with a different answer as to how much tax the family owed! I say again, it all depends on who you get.
    Nowadays, the IRS gets commissions on back taxes and re-adjustments they find. SO, if you do claim this and get audited....the IRS now has a huge incentive to deny you so they can get a commission (and fund obummercare!!)

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