Show download pdf controls
  • Overtime meal expenses

    You can claim the cost of a meal you buy and eat while working overtime if:

    On this page

    When overtime meal expenses are deductible

    Generally, the cost of food and drink (meals) while working are a private expense and you can't claim a deduction. However, you can claim a deduction for an overtime meal, if you:

    • buy and eat the meal while working overtime
    • receive an overtime meal allowance under an industrial award or enterprise agreement where both
      • your employer includes it on your income statement
      • you declare it as income in your tax return.

    A meal you buy and eat while you are working overtime is an expense you incur in earning your employment income.

    You must have a record to prove you incur an expense unless an Exception from keeping overtime meal expense records applies. For example, where your claim is within the reasonable amounts the Commissioner publishes.

    Example: deduction for overtime meal expense

    Moana completes her 8 hour shift and her employer asks her to work for an additional 3 hours. She is given a meal break and paid a meal allowance of $20 under her enterprise bargaining agreement. Moana buys and eats a meal costing her $21 during her overtime.

    At the end of the income year Moana's employer reports the allowance on her income statement. Moana declares the allowance as income in her tax return.

    Moana can claim a deduction for $21 for overtime meal expenses. The amount she spent on the overtime meal that she ate while on duty for extended hours was incurred in earning her employment income and is not private in nature.

    End of example

    When you can't claim overtime meal expenses

    You can't claim a deduction if you don't:

    • buy the overtime meal yourself – for example, your employer provides you with a meal or reimburses you for the cost of your meal
    • eat the meal while you are working overtime (such as, if you eat the meal on your way home after you work overtime).

    Example: no overtime meal expense

    Nerissa is paid an overtime meal allowance under an award when she works overtime on a Sunday. On the day, Nerissa’s manager bought pizza for the team, so Nerissa didn’t buy any food or drink herself.

    As Nerissa didn’t incur any expenses on food or drink during her overtime, she can't claim a deduction for an overtime meal.

    End of example


    Example: meal purchased and eaten after overtime

    Michael is asked to work 3 hours overtime after finishing his normal shift. He is given a meal break and paid a meal allowance of $20 under his enterprise agreement. Michael takes his break but doesn't buy any food. After his overtime shift finishes, Michael buys some food on the way home.

    Michael can't claim a deduction for the cost of this food, as he didn't incur the expense as part of earning his assessable income.

    End of example

    Overtime meal allowance

    An overtime meal allowance is:

    • an amount your employer pays you to enable you to buy food and drink (a meal allowance)
    • a payment specifically for working overtime
    • a payment you receive under an industrial instrument – for example, an award or enterprise bargaining agreement
    • reasonably expected to cover the cost of food and drink you consume on overtime.

    If an overtime meal allowance is only made in reference to an industrial instrument, but is not enforceable under it, it is not paid under that industrial instrument.

    An amount for overtime meals that has been folded into your normal salary and wages isn't an overtime meal allowance.

    Example: not paid overtime meal allowance

    Luke's Enterprise Agreement previously paid an overtime meal allowance. In the most recent agreement, the overtime meal allowance was folded into the general pay structure and is no longer a specific allowance to buy food and drink on overtime.

    The amount folded into Luke's general pay is a not an overtime meal allowance. It is not paid to enable Luke to buy a meal specifically while working overtime.

    End of example


    Example: different meal allowances

    Ophelia is a paramedic and her pay and conditions are covered by an industrial award. She receives a meal allowance if, because of her work, she is away from her home station during a rostered meal break. Ophelia also receives a broken meal allowance if she is called out to duty while on a meal break.

    Neither of these allowances are overtime meal allowances as they are not paid in direct connection with working overtime.

    However, Ophelia also receives an overtime meal allowance when she works overtime shifts.

    This allowance is paid directly as a result of working overtime and enables Ophelia to buy a meal when she works overtime. The allowance will be treated as an overtime meal allowance.

    End of example


    Example: not paid under an industrial instrument

    Joe works as a project manager on building sites. His salary is determined by his employer using a starting amount greater than the applicable industrial award. To this, amounts are added to cover notional overtime, vehicle use, meals and work performed at home. Joe receives a fixed weekly amount as his salary.

    Joe’s salary does not take into account the actual overtime he works and he gets paid the same amount regardless of whether he works overtime or not. Although the calculation of his salary was made by reference to an industrial award, he is not being paid an allowance under an industrial award.

    Joe has not been paid an overtime meal allowance and can't claim a deduction.

    End of example

    Overtime meal allowance expense records

    Unless an exception applies, you must keep records (written evidence) of your overtime meal expenses.

    You need to keep written evidence for 5 years (in most cases) from the date you lodge your return.

    Written evidence

    Written evidence is a document (paper, digital or electronic) that you get from the supplier of the goods or services, such as an itemised receipt. Written evidence must set out all of the following:

    • the name or business name of the supplier
    • the amount of the expense in the currency in which you incur the expense
    • the nature of the goods or services
    • the date you incur the expense
    • the date the document (evidence) is created.

    The document must be in English but if you incur the expense in a country outside Australia, the document can be in a language of that country.

    If the document does not show the day you incurred the travel expense, you can use the following to show when you made payment:

    • a bank statement
    • credit card statement
    • other reasonable, independent evidence that shows when it was paid.

    If the document the supplier gave you doesn't specify the nature of the goods or services, you may write the missing details on the document yourself. However, you must do this before you lodge the income tax return in which you claim the deduction.

    In some circumstances, there are Exceptions for keeping overtime meal expense records.

    Last modified: 21 Mar 2022QC 31960