If a business traveler is away from his home and away from his first place of work for business reasons, the cost of his meals is usually higher than at home. Therefore the name "Additional expenses for meals". Another term for this is "per diem."
If the additional cost of meals is reimbursed to the employee by the employer, it is tax-free within the limits of established amounts. However, there is no legal obligation to do so; the employer does not have to pay additional meal expenses to its employees.
If the employer does not pay additional meal expenses to the employee, then the employee can claim these amounts as part of their tax return. If the employee is only partially reimbursed for his or her additional meal expenses by the employer, then he or she can claim the difference to the additional meal expenses paid by the employer in his or her own tax return.
For business trips abroad, a different additional expense for meals applies than in Germany. For some countries, there are even several amounts, depending on the city in which you stayed or other special cases. The Federal Ministry of Finance adjusts the amounts each year. Furthermore, the amounts for additional meal expenses depend on the duration of the trip. The amounts for additional meal expenses take into account local consumer prices and the current value of currencies (e.g., euros to dollars).
For each country, two rates are set by the Federal Ministry of Finance, a larger amount for the case of an absence of at least 24 hours per calendar day and a smaller amount for the day of arrival and departure and for the case of a one-day trip with an absence of more than 8 hours per calendar day. In Germany, the smaller amount is 12 euros and the larger is 24 euros.
If several countries are traveled to during the business trip, the per diem meal rate of the country last reached before midnight is applied for each individual day.
The decisive factor in determining the duration of absence is the duration of the professional absence from the home or place of work.
The additional meal allowance may also be granted on Sundays and public holidays if work was performed on these days.
Higher actually documented additional expenses for meals cannot be deducted for tax purposes. Itemization is excluded.
The current list of the Federal Ministry of Finance can be viewed here.
The costs of overnight stays and other expenses such as travel expenses, incidental travel expenses on the occasion of a business or official trip are not included in the additional expenses for meals. These can additionally be claimed as travel expenses.
For some countries or cities there are special regulations, here are just a few examples:
The suburbs of London (City of Westminster, Kensington and Chelsea, Hammersmith and Fulham, Wandsworth, Lambeth, Southwark, Tower Hamlets, Hackney, Islington, Camden) receive the (higher) food allowance of London and not that of Great Britain
The French departments 92,93 and 94 receive the food allowance from Paris
The Canary Islands receive their own food allowances
In some cases, knowledge of the history or political situation of the country visited is necessary for correct allocation of the per diems, e.g. Aruba receives the per diems of the Netherlands(https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aruba), Macao receives the per diems of China(https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Macau) or Greenland receives the per diems of Denmark(https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grönland). This list is not exhaustive. Spesenfuchs maps all special cases.
Countries that are not listed and do not represent a special case receive the per diems of Luxembourg
Spesenfuchs automatically determines the correct rate for meal expenses based on the destination(s) of the trip and the stored daily details.
A distinction is made between the following cases when using additional meal expenses:
One day trip under 8 hours
The business trip takes place in one day and lasts a maximum of 8 hours. In this case, there is no tax-free reimbursement (trip too short).
One day trip over 8 hours
The business trip takes place in one day and lasts for a minimum of 8 hours and 1 second and a maximum of 24 hours. In this case, the small lump sum, which in Germany is 12 euros, can be reimbursed tax-free. Abroad, according to the table of the Federal Ministry of Finance for the day of arrival and departure, and for an absence of more than 8 hours per calendar day.
Two days trip with overnight stay
The business trip lasts 2 days and includes one overnight stay. Time of arrival and departure are irrelevant. In this case, 2 times the small flat rate, in Germany this is 2 times 12 euros (=24 euros), can be reimbursed tax-free.abroad according to the table of the Federal Ministry of Finance for the day of arrival and departure and for an absence of more than 8 hours per calendar day.
Two-day trip without overnight stay ("midnight rule")
The business trip lasts 2 days without overnight stay. For the special case "midnight rule" please read here
The business trip lasts several days, e.g. 3 days. In the case of external activities lasting several days which include an overnight stay, a per diem meal allowance of EUR 12 may be applied for both the day of arrival and the day of departure, without a minimum period of absence being required on these days. For the days between arrival and departure, an additional meal expense of 24 euros may be recognized. For a 3-day trip, that's 12+24+12 = 48 euros.