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HMRC internal manual

Employment Income Manual

Other expenses: diets and food supplements

The cost of meals and other nutrition will only rarely be deductible, except as part of the cost of qualifying business travel, see EIM31815. This is so even where the nature of the employment imposes particular nutritional demands on the employee. In Hillyer v Leake, see EIM32455, Goulding J.commented:

‘some jobs require the person holding them to work in the open air in very cold weather, so making that person hungrier than he would be if he was sitting in a warm office, but it is quite clear that he could not charge extra nourishment arising from those circumstances against his taxable emoluments.’

The cost of meals and other nutrition is not incurred in performing the duties of the employment, except in those rare cases in which an employee is employed to eat, for example a product tester for a food manufacturer. Similarly, it is not possible to distinguish between calorific intake that is consumed in carrying out the employment and that consumed in the employee’s other activities. Unless the benefit of the calorific intake can be demonstrated to be merely incidental to the business purpose the expense will not satisfy the ‘wholly and exclusively’ rule, see EIM31660 and EIM31664.

You may face requests for a deduction from professional sports players, who may have a specialised diet, or may need to take vitamins or other dietary supplements. No deduction should be permitted. In the case of Ansell v Brown (73TC338) the High Court ruled that no deduction could be permitted for the cost of vitamin and other dietary supplements taken to increase the player’s weight and muscle development to improve his fitness for the demands of professional rugby.

It was accepted that the rugby player would not have taken the supplements if it were not for the demands of his employment. But taking the supplements was not a duty of his employment, it was something he did to prepare himself to perform his duties, see EIM31650. And the need for the expenditure arose out of his own personal circumstances, the need to increase his weight, see EIM31640. Therefore, even in this case the statutory tests could not be met, see EIM31630.