I understand that any expenses must be wholly for business purposes, so that means normal eating doesn't count, it has to be outside the usual pattern of business.

However there seem to be a lot of subtle cases where it's not clear:

  1. I do a 6 week contract in the client's office in another part of the city. I take the train and eat lunch out every day. Are travel and food both valid? Does it change anything if I do some of this work from home?
  2. I decide to work from somewhere else like a coffee shop. I don't think I can claim for food, but can I claim for bus/train fare there?
  3. I take a client out for coffee or a meal to discuss a new project.
  4. I go overseas for a project staying Monday to Friday - can I claim for all the travel and food expenses incurred while on the trip? Does it change anything if part of the trip is for leisure?

1 Answer 1


Food is almost never a valid expense. Reason for it is simple - if you were not conducting business you would have to eat too.

Ad 1. I don't see why travel in that case would not be a valid expense, as the only reason for you to travel there is for business reasons.

Ad 2. Unlikely as there is a duality of purpose. So while part of it may be business, you are also getting personal benefit from the visit (coffee/cakes etc) so that generally is a no.

Ad 3. No, while you can claim for entertainment of employees (to sensible extends), that doesn't work when entertaining clients.

Ad 4. If any part of the trip is for leisure then you cannot claim it as business expense, sorry! If there is any duality of use then it's not a business expense. And food, as always, is a no go.

  • Could you provide some evidence from HMRC for these answers? Jun 28, 2016 at 10:40
  • 1
    HMRC does not have long list of rules that could be used as clear cut evidence like that sadly, just guidelines (gov.uk/expenses-if-youre-self-employed/overview for example). Those I know from my own experience as I had similar dilemmas, followed by giving them a call and asking a lot of questions.
    – Aida Paul
    Jun 28, 2016 at 13:03
  • I might disagree with point 3 of this otherwise excellent answer. When working in the UK, I frequently deduct the cost of entertaining clients, and neither my accountant nor HMRC disagree. However, I employ myself there through a £99 off the shelf Ltd company, so maybe that makes a difference?
    – Mawg
    Jan 7, 2020 at 10:44

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