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Business Income Manual

HM Revenue & Customs
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Wholly and exclusively: duality of, or non-trade, purpose: non-travel topics: subsistence

S34 Income Tax (Trading and Other Income) Act 2005, S54 Corporation Tax Act 2009

Cost of food or drink, taken in whole or in part for sustenance, is not allowable

The cost of food or drink consumed for the human requirement of sustenance is not allowable. It does not matter that work occasions a greater appetite or causes greater expense. The expenditure is at best dual purpose. There is no mechanism to allow an apportionment to give a ‘business’ proportion or the ‘extra cost’ imposed by the business. The whole cost is disallowed.

In the case of Caillebotte v Quinn [1975] 50 TC 222, Mr Quinn was a sub-contract carpenter, working on sites within a 40-mile radius of his home. When working, Mr Quinn could not go home for lunch and bought one at an average cost of 40 pence, compared with an estimated cost of 10 pence for a light lunch at home. Mr Quinn attributed the additional cost to the need to eat a more substantial meal in order to maintain the energy expended in carrying out physical work and to keep warm during the winter. The General Commissioners allowed the additional cost as a deduction from the taxpayer’s trading profits.

Templeman J said that the taxpayer ate to fulfil the human need for sustenance. Mr Quinn ate to live, and not because he was a carpenter. Moreover, the attempt to apportion the expenditure pointed out the essential duality of purpose. Templeman J distinguished the cost of food consumed by a carpenter from the cost of food consumed by actors during the course of a performance. There is no deduction where the purpose of consuming food is the human need for sustenance even if that need is increased by the greater exertions required to carry on the trade or profession in question.

Templeman J stressed that the taxpayer’s attempt to apportion the expenditure highlighted its fatal duality of purpose, as the consumption of food could in no way be said to be incidental to carpentry:

`A [self-employed] taxpayer, like every other taxpayer, must eat in order to live; he does not eat in order to work. Mr Medd, for the Crown, submits - and I accept - that in these circumstances no part of the cost of Mr Quinn’s lunch was “exclusively … expended for the purposes of” his trade as a carpenter. The cost of tea consumed by an actor at the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party is different, for in that case the quenching of a thirst is incidental to the playing of the part. The cost of protective clothing worn in the course of carrying on a trade will be deductible, because warmth and decency are incidental to the protection necessary to the carrying on of the trade. There is no such connection between eating and carpentry. … It is not without significance that in the present case the taxpayer does not claim the whole of the cost of his lunch as an allowable expense, but only part of the cost. This attempt to apportion discloses the duality of purpose that is fatal…’