An employee or self-employed individual is allowed a deduction for the costs of meals and incidental expenses while traveling away from home for business purposes. The deduction of these costs usually requires the substantiation of the costs. However, there is an optional method provided for these taxpayers that avoids keeping receipts.
The IRS publishes per diem rates that apply to different regions of the United States (See Notice 2015–63 on irs.gov). Taxpayers can use these per diem rates for purposes of calculating the meals and incidental costs deduction and they will be presumed to be substantiated.
The election is made by claiming the amount of the per diem deduction on the taxpayer’s timely filed return. The amounts can only be claimed if the taxpayer is prepared to substantiate time, place and purpose of the business travel in accordance with IRS regulations. A separate statement, however, is not required to make this election.
Also note that deductions that an employee claims on his or her tax return due to the fact that his or her employer does not reimburse the employee are taken as itemized deductions and subject to the 2 percent floor for miscellaneous deductions before amounts may be deducted.