TORONTO -- One step forward, two steps back. That's how some truckers are describing the new meal claim rules announced in the recent federal budget.
Thanks to pressure from truckers -- fueled by the "Lunch Bag Letdown campaign" that included the Canadian Trucking Alliance and this magazine -- Conservative Finance Minister Jim Flaherty promised to restore the deductibility of meal claims to 80 percent from the current 50 percent, phase din over three years.
However, despite the meal tax benefits for most drivers, it seems that some owner-ops are still taking a hit that's hard to swallow.
Lunch Letdown: Owner ops aren't swallowing
the new meal tax benefits as easily as others.
While the tax change applies to owner-ops as well as drivers, Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) auditors are reportedly auditing owner-ops' meal-tax claims, and disallowing any claims made with the simplified method (no receipts).
Scott Taylor of Transport Financial Services in Waterloo, Ont. says he began warning his company's clients several years ago that his might happen.
"One day they allow something by practice, then they change their mind," Taylor says. "They're coming back and sweeping two or three years at the same time saying, 'well, we're not going to allow that any more.' That's not right."
Taylor suspects the strict stance on owner-ops might be backlash over the incredible volume of drivers who attempted to use the "reasonableness" aspect of the TL2 allowance first brought to light by Winnipeg driver Don Wilkinson in a Today's Trucking article back in 2000 (see Related Links below for more background).
Andrew Galvin, president of The Transport Advisor, Ltd. in Belleville, Ont., suspects the audits may involve owner-ops who tried to push the envelope, claiming an amount equal to the Treasury Board guidelines for traveling civil servants, which, depending on the circumstances, could be as much as $71.00 per day.
When called for a comment on the rash of audits, a CRA spokesperson said the agency could not comment on specific cases involving individual taxpayers.
The meal tax amendment was supposed to being Canadian truckers in line with their U.S. counterparts. "Well," Taylor says, "put it this way. Now we have a company driver and an owner-op working for the same company sitting at the table, but one can claim his meals from the log book but the other can't unless he keeps the receipt. How fair is that?"
By Today's Trucking