Higher Business Meal Tax Deductions Can Translate into More Jobs


HOBOKEN, NJ (December 2009) – Chris Onieal, owner of Onieal’s in Hoboken, NJ and a member of the New Jersey Restaurant Association (NJRA), is one of thousands of restaurant owners who say the limited tax deductibility of business meal expenses is eating into their profits.

            Onieal and others are driving a national movement to restore tax deductibility for business meals and entertainment to its former level. In 1986, Congress reduced the allowable tax deduction from 100 percent to 80 percent. Congress further reduced the deduction to 50 percent in 1993.

The “reduction in the deduction” has hurt businesses nationwide – particularly small businesses and the people they employ.

“It’s amazing that almost every other business expense including travel, gifts for clients and hotels are fully deductible and business meals are not.  The business meal should be treated as a legitimate business expense also,” noted Onieal.  “With today’s economy, face-to-face client meetings are more important than ever.  Plus, those business luncheons translate into job creation in the restaurant industry.”

However, legislation introduced earlier this year by Representative Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii) would increase the federal tax deduction for business meals from 50 percent to 80 percent. The move would augment business meal sales by $6 billion annually and power an $18 billion boost to the U.S. economy, according to research by the National Restaurant Association.

In New Jersey, restaurants and hospitality companies represent the largest private-sector employer in the state. Industry observers emphasize the critical connection between President’s Obama’s current initiatives to create new jobs and the beneficial impact the tax law change would have on reducing unemployment here and across the country.

 “No other single piece of legislation would have the positive effect that this bill, HR 3333, would have on the New Jersey, the regional and the national restaurant industry – particularly from a job-creation standpoint,” said Deborah Dowdell, president of the NJRA.

“NJRA applauds this proposed legislation not only because it would improve restaurant sales, but also because it would directly benefit small-business owners and their employees, many of whom are part-time workers who have lost employment opportunities because of the negative impact of the deductibility restrictions,” Dowdell added.

Studies have shown that two-thirds of the companies that claim the business meal tax deduction are small-business owners, who tend to use restaurants as “conference rooms” for conducting business with customers and prospects. Consequently, the tax deduction has historically benefited small enterprises, which rely on it to help them from both a marketing and customer relations standpoint.

Jamie Hoyos, of the Manhattan Steak House and 2010 chairman-elect of the NJRA added, “The reduction in business meal tax deductions has clearly had a negative ripple effect on businesses in New Jersey and across the country. To increase the percentage of deductibility to its former level would have a similar ripple effect – but in a dramatically positive way.”

The NJRA believes restaurants will continue to face serious financial challenges in the year ahead.  “Despite the fact that we’re sensing an imminent upturn in the economy, restaurants will still contend with onerous market conditions in 2010. Increasing the business meal tax deduction will go a long way to helping the restaurant industry, as well as other sectors of the economy –  like business travel and tourism industries – which also rely on the tax deduction,” continued Dowdell.

            When looking at jobs creation and the impact that jobs in the restaurant industry have had on society, nearly one-half of all adults have worked in the restaurant industry at some point during their lives while 32% of all adults got their first job experience in a restaurant. America’s eating-and-drinking places employ more minority managers than any other industry.  One-quarter of restaurants are owned by women, 15% by Asian-Americans, 8% by Hispanic- Americans and 4% by African-Americans.         

“Restoring business meals deductibility will benefit all segments of the industry from casual to fine dining, and will be beneficial to urban revitalization that relies so heavily on the labor intensive-job creating restaurant industry that employs so many first time job holders, teenagers and entrepreneurs looking to transition to new careers by starting their own businesses,” noted Dowdell. 

The NJRA represents owners and operators of full-service restaurants, catering facilities, taverns and pubs, brew pubs, diner restaurants, hotel restaurants, coffee shops, limited and quick service restaurants, institutional feeders, delis, pizzerias, country clubs, culinary students and schools.  Today, the New Jersey restaurant and hospitality industry includes 23,000 eating and drinking establishments with over 300,000 employees – making restaurant and hospitality the largest private-sector employer in New Jersey.  Visit

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