What is Per Diem? 

Per Diem (which literally means “per day”) is one of the largest tax deductions for owner-operators. This tax deduction is one that the IRS allows to substantiate ordinary and necessary business meals and incidental expenses paid, or incurred, while traveling away from home.

Who Can Claim This Deduction?

The IRS allows contractors and self-employed transportation workers, subject to the hours of service regulations that travel for business, to deduct their meal expenses from their income. 

As a result of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, employees known also as company drivers are no longer eligible to claim the Per Diem deduction

How Much is the Per Diem Rate and How Do I Know What Days Qualify for It? 

The IRS has set the current rate for 2023 at $69 per full day and $51.75 per partial day in the Continental U.S. (last updated October 1, 2021). 

In order to qualify, IRS publication 463 states that you are traveling from home if:

  1. Your duties require you to be away from the general area of your tax home substantially longer than an ordinary day's work, AND
  2. You need to sleep or rest to meet the demands of your work while away from home.   

If you’re an owner-operator, you get to claim this deduction for each day that you’re away from your “tax home”. On the days that you depart and the days that you arrive home, you must claim a partial day allowance, instead of a full day allowance. That is ¾ of the standard allowance.

You may be asking yourself questions like:

  • Does taking a nap count? 
  • What if I’m a local driver? 
  • What qualifies as a tax home?

At Team Run Smart, we trust the trucking tax experts at ATBS to know the answers. Read their full-length blog for more information, found here: Seizing the Per Diem Tax Break (For Truck Drivers)

What's the Best Way to Track Per Diem? 

A good way to track your Per Diem is to keep a separate calendar where you can put an ‘X’ on full days away, and a ‘/’ on partial days. This way, you can count up exactly how many days of Per Diem you have for your tax preparer when tax season rolls around. A good tool to use is the ATBS Mobile App. 

In order to prove your Per Diem, you will need to be able to provide DOT ELD logs with time, date, and location. Also, it's good practice to keep all receipts and documentation of travel for at least 3 years. 

Need help calculating your Per Diem deduction, storing your receipts digitally, and filing your taxes? Contact ATBS here!

Comments (13)

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Informative article.
American drivers get 80% of $63.00 in the US and $68.00 when traveling in Canada.
Hummm we Canadian drivers are only allowed 80% of $51.00 no matter where we travel. But we can claim the US exchange rate.
We need a per diem raise !!!

April 05, 2016 0:33:51 AM

This website is an excellent source for information to help you run your new business. As time allows, look through the different pillars (Truck Smart, Fuel Smart, Business Smart and Health Smart) and read the articles and comments. Also the Team Run Smart Pros each have pages with very good information. You can also post questions to the Forums and people with respond and answer your question or give suggestions. It's well worth your free time!

February 05, 2015 13:44:28 PM

I've been an owner/operator since July 2014 and no one told me about this until i talked to a cpa and read this. i am glad i joined.

February 05, 2015 3:18:00 AM


December 24, 2014 6:38:34 AM

I found this to be very helpful. Thanks!

September 22, 2014 12:53:07 PM

@Shalom Jacobs - The per diem rule can be confusing. To claim per diem you do not necessarily need a loaded truck -- the focus is on your time away from your "tax home". Please see the article "Seizing the Tax Per Diem" on the ATBSshow.com website for clear guidelines on how to claim Per Diem: http://www.atbsshow.com/seizingperdiemtaxbreak

April 02, 2014 6:27:31 AM

Shalom, you can only claim per diem if you are away from home. If you have questions on per diem call ATBS, the trucking tax and accounting experts. The number for ATBS is 888-640-4829.

April 01, 2014 12:15:44 PM

Very good article!

March 01, 2014 5:07:28 AM

Kaitlin, I have asked this same question to three different CPAs and have gotten a different answer from both. My residence is in AZ, I lease myself to a company in Wisconsin 8 months of the year for regional work. Do I claim per diem when I am away from the terminal overnight, away from my WI apartment overnight, or away from my tax home overnight? Nobody seems to be able to answer this. And is Shalom correct in his post below?

January 03, 2014 15:03:48 PM

Shalom, I have never heard of being able to claim per diem this way. Did you get this advice from a CPA? It would have saved me thousands in the last two years.

February 22, 2013 20:53:37 PM

IF your truck is loaded you can claim the per-dime. regardless if you are away from home or not. i normally leave my loaded rig @ the carrier terminal and go home. claiming the per dime for each night

January 17, 2013 7:59:44 AM

I concur.

January 15, 2013 11:11:38 AM

One caveat to this discussion is that we must have a home address that shows we do not live in our truck. Living in the truck and we lose the deduction. As a team this is a fantastic deduction. Great Article!

January 14, 2013 10:05:55 AM