There are a variety of different transportation professionals who keep things moving and get our people where they need to go every day. Some have diesel (or aviation fuel) running through their veins, and for others it's just another job. Some spend a literal lifetime on the road, and others get home every night. They are truck drivers, bus drivers, train drivers, and plane drivers.
Okay... you don't have to point out that engineers operate trains, and pilots fly planes. That sentence just flowed so nicely when we called everyone a “driver” that we granted ourselves a healthy dose of artistic license. And it nicely brings us to our first point: you don't actually have to drive the vehicle to be considered a transportation professional for tax purposes. You might be the brakeman on a train, or a flight attendant, or a labourer for a moving company. Each of these positions might just qualify you for a “Meal Allowance” claim if you work away from home and your company's main purpose of existence is the transportation of goods or passengers.
At Liberty Tax Service, we've found a large number of people who work in the transportation industry aren't aware they may qualify to claim a meal allowance. Many people think only truckers can claim meals using the “simplified” method, but that's not true!
What about someone working for a moving company who travels with the truck as a labourer? How about a bus driver who regularly leaves the municipality and is away from home overnight? A track-worker who maintains remote sections of railway line and stays far from home. And the list goes on. In fact, all of these people (and lots of others) might have a claim for the meal allowance just like a trucker.
And what's so great about long-haul truckers and the way they claim meals on their taxes, you ask? They can deduct meals on their tax return without receipts. That's right... WITHOUT receipts. Each claim is based on a logbook, and how many days/hours they are away from home. It's called the “Simplified Method” when completing the TL2; which is the form used to calculate a Canadian taxpayer's “Claim for Meals and Lodging Expenses”.
To quote the TL2 form itself, you can “use this form if you are an employee of a transport business, such as an airline, railway, bus or trucking company...”. You'll notice it doesn't say you must have a specific position within the company, and it definitely doesn't say it only works for truckers – quite the opposite.
But for all you dispatchers out there... don't get too excited. Not every employee of a transportation company can make a meals claim. You have to be away from the municipality (away from your home terminal) for at least 12 consecutive hours in order to start making a claim for the meal allowance using the “simplified method”.
And an authorized person at your company must sign the TL2, certifying to the Canada Revenue Agency that you are actually away from home on a regular basis for more than 12 hours at a time and the company's main business is the transportation of goods or passengers.
It's also important to mention that often transportation companies offer tax free reimbursements to their employees who are away from home over-night. Affectionately known as a “per diem”, it's tax-free money provided to cover daily expenses while away from home. Employees, of course, very much enjoy getting tax free money, even if people insist on describing it with a silly Latin term like “per diem”.
But the tax-free “per-diem” payments received by an employee must be deducted from any tax claim made using the TL2. So unfortunately people like flight attendants and pilots sometimes don't have any claim left on the TL2 because the per-diem offered by major airlines and even many railroads is often better than the amount allowed on the TL2.
But not everyone works for a major airline. And in this day-and-age of corporate cost reductions, not all employees are getting as much “per diem” as they used to. So it can be an interesting exercise to calculate your allowable meal claim using the TL2. Then determine your “per diem” reimbursement (if you have one). If your TL2 claim is more than your tax-free reimbursement then you can make a claim for the difference... and presto, you have a bigger tax refund!
There are people working for smaller airlines, lots of bus companies, certain railroads, most trucking companies, and loads of other transportation professionals who don't get any per-diem expense reimbursements at all. And our experience is that many of those people who work away from home regularly may not have known this meal deduction was available to them.
– Wayne Blackmere, Liberty Tax Franchisee