A little paperwork is a small price to pay for a free lunch

Can They Do That?

Your Money

April 24, 2005|By Carrie Mason-Draffen

My employer provides a free lunch in the company cafeteria. Traveling personnel are reimbursed for meals they buy on the road. Recently, the company hired internal auditors who now require road employees to list where we buy lunch. When I asked why a new policy was instituted after all these years, a manager said the company needs documentation if IRS auditors come calling. It just seems like a silly record-keeping exercise for $7 to $8 a day. Can you shed light on this?

A. Boy, are you the envy of a lot of people. Free lunches are hard to come by these days. And yours has just a little string attached.

Your company probably claims some of the free-lunch expenses on its taxes and has to provide documentation for that. To claim meals, the company has to have records that indicate such things as time, place and amount of the expense, an IRS spokesman said. "We've always had the same rules to document your meals," he said. So your new auditors are requesting information that probably should have been required all along.

The information seems like a small price to pay for a free lunch.

Carrie Mason-Draffen is a columnist for Newsday, a Tribune Co. newspaper. E-mail her at yourmoney@tribune.com.

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