The IRS has released the 2020-2021 special per diem rates. Taxpayers use the per diem rates to substantiate the amount of ordinary and necessary business expenses incurred while traveling away from home. These special per diem rates include the special transportation industry meal and incidental expenses (M&IEs) rates, the rate for the incidental expenses only deduction, and the rates and list of high-cost localities for purposes of the high-low substantiation method. Taxpayers using the rates and list of high-cost localities provided in the guidance must comply with Rev. Proc. 2019-48, I.R.B. 2019-51, 1390.
The guidance is effective for per diem allowances for lodging, meal and incidental expenses, or for meal and incidental expenses only, that are paid to any employee on or after October 1, 2020, for travel away from home on or after October 1, 2020. For computing the amount allowable as a deduction for travel away from home, the guidance is effective for M&IEs or for incidental expenses only paid or incurred on or after October 1, 2020.
Transportation Industry Rates
The special M&IE rates for taxpayers in the transportation industry are:
- $66 for any locality of travel in the continental United States (CONUS), and
- $71 for any locality of travel outside the continental United States (OCONUS).
Incidental Expenses Only Rate
The rate is $5 per day for any CONUS or OCONUS travel for the incidental expenses only deduction.
High-Low Substantiation Method
For purposes of the high-low substantiation method, the per diem rates in lieu of the rates described in Notice 2019-55 (the per diem substantiation method) are:
- $292 for travel to any high-cost locality, and
- $198 for travel to any other locality within CONUS.
The amount of these rates that is treated as paid for meals, and the per diem rates in lieu of the rates described in Notice 2019-55 (the M&IE only substantiation method), are:
- $71 for travel to any high-cost locality, and
- $60 for travel to any other locality within CONUS
The guidance provides a list of localities that have a federal per diem rate of $245 or more, and are high-cost localities for a specified portion of the calendar year. The list differs from the high-cost locality list in Notice 2019-55:
- Added to the list: Los Angeles, California; San Diego, California; Gulf Breeze, Florida; Kennebunk/Kittery/Sanford, Maine; Virginia Beach, Virginia.
- Localities that have changed the portion of the year in which they are high-cost localities: Sedona, Arizona; Monterey, California; Santa Barbara, California; District of Columbia; Naples, Florida; Jekyll Island/Brunswick, Georgia; Boston/Cambridge, Massachusetts; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Jamestown/Middletown/Newport, Rhode Island; Charleston, South Carolina.
- Removed from the list: Midland/Odessa, Texas; Pecos, Texas.
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