highwaySTAR Magazine - Trucking Careers


Life and Family

Doing Your Job

The highwaySTAR Meal Tax Crusade

You have to eat on the road - no way around that. And now that U.S. Customs officers have taken to seizing truckers' lunch bags at the border for fear that a carelessly discarded roast beef sandwich might cause outbreak of Mad Cow disease, the cost of eating on the road is gonna go nowhere but up.

At one time in the not-too-distant past, carriers routinely gave their employee drivers a meal allowance, but that went out the window along with paid waiting time and layovers back when the industry was forced to deregulate.

At least drivers still a mechanism in the tax code where they could claim a tax deduction of 80% of the cost of their away-from-home meal expenses. But that got whacked back to 50% in 1994 under then-finance-minister, Paul Martin - the same tax-and-spend Liberal who owns Canada Steamship Lines, a company that has offices in certain countries around the world where safety and labour laws - and tax laws too -- are relaxed to be more business-friendly.

While Martin's company (in a blind trust arrangement) was flying flags of convenience to avoid paying an appropriate share of Canadian tax, his government was digging deep into Canadian corporate pockets. In his 1994 budget, Martin lowered the boom:

"Certain Canadian corporations are not paying an appropriate level of tax," Martin said in his budge speech. "Accordingly, we are taking measures to prevent companies [except his] from using foreign affiliates to avoid paying Canadian taxes which are otherwise due."

Martin and subsequent Ministers of Finance continued to defend the move by saying all corporations should be paying the same level of tax on business meal expenses - neglecting the fact that drivers' meals are no longer a corporate expense (they were back in the days when carriers offered meal allowances), but a personal expense impossible to avoid when a driver is away from home for extended periods.

Canadian drivers have been limited to 50% of the actual amount claimed ever since. The U.S. government made a similar move around the same time, but has been slowly restoring the 80% deductibility limit for its drivers. It's currently at 75%. Canadian drivers saw a modest hike in the rate for the 2003 tax year when Minister of National Revenue, Elinor Caplan, announced an increase in the flat-rate meal expense deduction from $33 a day to $45.

However, the 50% cap in the meal expense claim remained.

Beginning 2 January, 2007, Canada's major trucking organizations are launching a campaign calling upon current federal Finance Minister, Jim Flaherty, to restore the deductibility limits on truckers' meal expense claims to 80%.

The Canadian Trucking Alliance, the Owner-Operator's Business Association of Canada, and Teamsters Canada say that meal costs are a reasonable expense incurred by Canadian truck drivers to earn a living, and that Canadian drivers deserve -- at least -- to be on a level playing field with American truckers.

Joanne Ritchie, executive director of OBAC urges owner-operators to get behind the program saying "its time for the government of Canada to do the right thing and stop eating our drivers' lunch." Phil Benson, a lobbyist for the Teamsters agrees, saying "when an American and Canadian truck driver sit down side-by-side in the same truck stop, eating the same breakfast, it's very hard to stomach the fact that one of them is getting an 75% write-off while the other gets only 50%; its not fair or reasonable." David Bradley, CEO of CTA says "we are not talking about lavish meals with $100 bottles of wine here; this is about subsistence, pure and simple."

To get the finance minister's attention, the three groups have launched the "End Canada's Lunch Bag Let-Down Campaign."

Below, you'll find some background information on the initiative, including a illustration of how much on-the-road meals eat out of a trucker's take home pay - and what the difference would be between the current 50% and the proposed restoration of 80%.

Our February issue will carry a mail-in post card that drivers can send to the finance minister, or you can download the postcard below, sign it, and mail it to Mr. Flaherty. You won't even need a stamp, as there's no charge to mail correspondence to a member of Parliament.

Here's the address:

Honourable Jim Flaherty
Minister of Finance
House of Commons
Parliament Buildings
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6

Truck Drivers & Owner-ops,
Act Now! The next Federal Budget could be as early as February.


Click here to download your copy and mail it today. Let's end Canada's Lunch Bag Let Down in the 2007 Federal Budget by restoring the 80% meal claim deductibility limit.

Meal Tax Backgrounder
How much did the 50% roll-back actually cost truck drivers?

Meal Tax Cost Comparison
How much did the 50% roll-back actually cost truck drivers?

Meal Tax News Release
The actual news release from CTA, OBAC, and Teamsters Canada

Declaration Of Conditions Of Employment
The employee does not have to file this form with his or her return, but must keep it in case CCRA asks for it. It's to be filled out by the employer in cases where it applies.

Declaration Of Conditions Of Employment
A version of the T2200 that may be filled out on-screen.

TL2 Meal and Lodging expense claim form
Required by all transport employees wishing to use the flat-rate meal expense claim option - must be filed with your personal income tax forms.

TL2 Form information circular
This information circular explains the terms and conditions of the TL2 form - Claims for Meals and Lodging Expenses of Transport Employees. (This circular cancels and replaces Information Circular 73-21R7, dated March 8, 1991.)

Wilkinson Wins Meal Tax Appeal
A Winnipeg truckers takes his appeal for a broader meal claim to court – and wins (from march 2001).

Download the Wilkinson case transcript
A transcript of the actual court proceedings, showing the arguments Wilkinson's lawyer used to justify his claim for a higher allowance.

We're Doing it All Wrong
An alternative to the TL2 meal deduction called the Per Diem. This could work especially well for incorporated owner-ops.

Appendix "C" - Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat - Travel Directive; Oct. 2006
What do Canada's Federal Civil Servants get from their employer when they travel?


In the Magazine

You'll find these and other stories in the highwaySTAR print magazine this month. Available at your favourite truckstop.

  • HOS controversy just won't go away
  • Television looking for world's toughest driver.
  • EcoMotors' OPOC is a potential game-changing engine.