Firefighter-EMT Meals

Today TaxMama hears from Janice in the Tax Parlor who asks, ” I have a client who is an EMT (Emergency Medical Technician). His shifts are 24 hours at a time. Are EMT’s on 24-hour shifts eligible to deduct per diem for meals? Of course he says that his coworkers take the deduction. ”


Dear Janice,

What is it about EMTs and firefighters? Such wonderful people, who insist on living on myths fabricated by fools.

The meals, as a rule, are not deductible. And are constantly audited and disallowed. Unless…there’s a Tax Court case that explains when the meals may be deducted:

SWAGLER (Tax Court – TC Opinion 2004-63)
“Firefighters required by their employer to pay their share of a common meal fund, even if they did not eat the meal, could deduct the amount they paid. If, however, a firefighter’s payments into a common meal fund is not a condition of employment, then the expense is a personal expense.”

In other words, they’ve got to eat, just like the rest of us. Pack a lunch. Or bring food to put into the fridge…’cause it’s not deductible.

Incidentally, if they are paying into a meal fund as a condition of employment, only the amount they pay in is deductible – not a per-diem rate.

And remember, you’ll find answers to lots of questions about meals on the job and other tax information, free. Where? At

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