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April 25, 2017

Trucker Per Diem Rules Simply Explained

Mark Sullivan- Per Diem Plus
Mark W. Sullivan, EA
Mark is our transportation industry expert and has nearly two decades of experience advising clients on IRS accountable per diem programs. 
per diem plus - owner operators mobile app
Per Diem Plus - Owner Operators mobile app

Trucker per diem rules simply explained

What is per diem? A per day travel expense allowance. Eliminates the need for proving actual costs for meals & incidental expenses incurred.

Do I have to spend all the per diem?
No. This is the maximum amount the IRS will let you claim on your tax return.

Who can claim trucker per diem?
Self-employed truckers who are subject to DOT HOS and who travel away from home overnight where sleep or rest is required. The Per Diem Plus mobile app software takes the guesswork out of tracking trucker per diem for OTR truckers.

  • As of January 1, 2018 employee (company) drivers can no longer claim per diem on their Form 1040, US Income Tax Return, as an itemized deduction on Schedule A.

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Can all truck drivers receive per diem?
No. Drivers who start and end a trip at home on the same DOT HOS 14-hour work day cannot claim per diem.

What qualifies as a tax home?
Where you park your truck. Your regular place of business, or home in a real and substantial sense.

If I live in my truck can I claim per diem?
No. A taxpayer who’s constantly in motion is a "tax turtle," or someone with no fixed residence who carries their “home” with them.

Are truck drivers allowed to claim a mileage allowance per diem?
Only fleets can use a cents-per-mile per diem.  IRS’ standard mileage allowance is for use of a personal vehicle.

Can a driver claim per diem for lodging?
Trucker per diem is exclusively for meals and incidental expenses. You must have a receipt for all lodging expenses. A self-employed driver falls under the related party rules of IRC 267(b) & Rev. Proc 2011-47.6.07 and, therefore, cannot use per diem substantiation that includes a meals and lodging per diem.

ALERT for Per Diem Plus and Per Diem Plus Fleets mobile app users

Have you noticed Per Diem Plus is suddenly not tracking your trips? The likely cause is the location services settings have been changed on your device after software update by Apple or Google. This is an easy issue to fix.


  • Open Settings>Privacy>Verify Location Services are ON
  • Select Location Services>Per Diem Plus / Per Diem Plus Fleets
  • Set to "Always Allow"


  • Open Settings>Privacy>Permission Manager
  • Select Location>Per Diem Plus / Per Diem Plus Fleets
  • Set to "Allow all the time"

Motorola Devices

  • Swipe UP on your device home screen to view your app icons
  • Select Settings>Security & Location
  • Select Location>App-Level Permissions
  • Select Per Diem Plus>"Allow all the time"

Per Diem Plus Fleets Mobile App for Android & iOS

IRS per diem substantiation requirements

What documentation meets the IRS substantiation requirements to prove overnight travel and expense?
Only Per Diem Plus or DOT ELD backups with an itemized log listing "time, date & place" for each per diem event. Unlike ELD backups, Per Diem Plus a can create an IRS-compliant itemized per diem report in seconds.

Company-paid per diem

Can motor carriers pay per diem to employee drivers? 

Yes. A motor carrier can offer per diem to drivers subject to DOT HOS and who travel away from home overnight where sleep or rest is required under an accountable per diem plan.

Is company-paid per diem taxable as income to an employee driver under an accountable fleet per diem plan?

No. Per diem is classified as a non-taxable reimbursement to an employee driver.

2022 Trucker per diem rates

What are the current per diem rates for travel in USA & Canada?
IRS increased per diem rates effective October 1, 2021:

  • USA $69 from $66
  • Canada $74 from $71

Can a driver prorate per diem for partial days of travel?
Yes. A partial day is 75% of the per diem rate.

  • Partial per diem rate USA $51.75, Canada $55.50
  • Per Diem Plus will record 3/4 per diem when a driver departs their tax home AFTER noon or returns to their tax home BEFORE noon.

How much per diem can I deduct on my income tax return?
A self-employed trucker can deduct 80% of per diem (100% for tax years 2021 & 2022) on their tax return.

  • Use Schedule C, Profit / Loss From Business, or
  • Form 1120S - Line 19 "Other Deductions"

Incidental expenses

What are Incidental Expenses?
Only fees and tips.

Are showers & parking fees incidental expenses?
No. Self-employed drivers may separately deduct expenses for: Per Diem Plus subscription, showers, reserved parking fees, mailing expenses, supplies and laundry.

Can employee drivers deduct company-paid per diem on their tax return?

Documenting other travel-related expenses

What documentation is required to prove other expenses?
Paper or electronic receipts that identify what, when and the amount are required. You can upload and store receipts on the Per Diem Plus app and share them electronically with your tax preparer in seconds. 

How long should tax records be retained?
No less than 3 years from the filing date of an income tax return.  You have access to your Per Diem Plus tax records for four years.

What published guidance has the IRS issued that explains trucker per diem?

Refer to IRS Revenue Procedure 2011-47 or use the Per Diem Plus app that takes the guesswork out of tax-related record keeping. 

Drivers, try Per Diem Plus for free for 30 days - No Credit Card Required.

Available as a $7.99 monthly subscription on Google Play and App Store.

About Per Diem Plus

Per Diem Plus was born over our 30 years of experience as agents and tax practitioners and a relentless pursuit to introduce efficiency to the time-consuming task of tax compliance for truck drivers, fleets and their accounting professionals. The Per Diem Plus® Fleets enterprise platform enables motor carriers to easily implement an IRS-compliant fleet per diem program in hours that is scalable and data plan-friendly. Per Diem Plus was designed, developed and is managed in the USA and is the only IRS-compliant mobile application that provides automatic trucker per diem for solo and team drivers traveling in the United States and Canada. For more information, contact us at info@perdiemplus.com or visit www.perdiemplus.com

About the Author

Mark is tax counsel for Per Diem Plus. With nearly two decades of experience advising trucking companies on per diem issues, Mark was responsible for defining the Per Diem Plus software logic rules that automatically calculates trucker per diem in accordance with IRS regulations. He also previously served as the consulting per diem tax expert for Omnitracs.

In addition to his time working with Per Diem Plus, Mark works in private practice as an Enrolled Agent at Mark Sullivan Consulting, PLLC specializing in federal tax controversy representation and consulting. He also served as the consulting and expert witness for the Federal Defenders Office and private defense counsel in financial crimes cases in multiple federal district courts. Contact Mark W. Sullivan, EA

Copyright 2017-2022 Per Diem Plus, LLC. Per Diem Plus proprietary software is the trademark of Per Diem Plus, LLC.®

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