BIM37660 - Wholly & exclusively: duality of, or non-trade, purpose: non travel topics: subsistence
Cost of food or drink, taken in whole or in part for sustenance, is not allowable
The cost of food or drink consumed for the human requirement of sustenance is not allowable. It does not matter that work occasions a greater appetite or causes greater expense. The expenditure is at best dual purpose. There is no mechanism to allow an apportionment to give a ‘business’ proportion or the ‘extra cost’ imposed by the business. The whole cost is disallowed.
In the case of Caillebotte v Quinn  50TC222, Quinn was a sub-contract carpenter, working on sites within a 40-mile radius of his home. When working, Quinn could not go home for lunch and bought one at an average cost of 40 pence, compared with an estimated cost of 10 pence for a light lunch at home. Quinn attributed the additional cost to the need to eat a more substantial meal in order to maintain the energy expended in carrying out physical work and to keep warm during the winter. The General Commissioners allowed the additional cost as a deduction from Quinn’s profits under Case I of Schedule D.
Templeman J said that the taxpayer ate to fulfil the human need for sustenance; Quinn ate to live, and not because he was a carpenter. Moreover the attempt to apportion the expenditure pointed out the essential duality of purpose. Templeman J distinguished the cost of food consumed by a carpenter from the cost of food consumed by actors during the course of a performance. There is no deduction where the purpose of consuming food is the human need for sustenance even if that need is increased by the greater exertions required to carry on the trade or profession in question.
Templeman J stresses that the taxpayer’s attempt to apportion the expenditure highlighted its fatal duality.
For those who do not have ready access to tax case volumes, the part of Templeman J’s judgement on which the above guidance is based is set out below, 50TC page 226G to page 227E:
A Schedule D taxpayer, like every other taxpayer, must eat in order to live; he does not eat in order to work. Mr. Medd, for the Crown, submits - and I accept - that in these circumstances no part of the cost of Mr. Quinn's lunch was ‘exclusively ... expended for the purposes of’ his trade as a carpenter. The cost of tea consumed by an actor at the Mad Hatter's Tea Party is different, for in that case the quenching of a thirst is incidental to the playing of the part. The cost of protective clothing worn in the course of carrying on a trade will be deductible, because warmth and decency are incidental to the protection necessary to the carrying on of the trade. There is no such connection between eating and carpentry. The Commissioners appear to have derived some assistance from the fact, which they found, that Mr Quinn's appetite at work exceeded his appetite at home, and from Mr. Quinn's evidence, which they accepted, that he did not regard lunch as a personal habit. In this Court Mr. Nolan, who appeared for Mr. Quinn, disclaimed any such assistance…
… It is not without significance that in the present case the taxpayer does not claim the whole of the cost of his lunch as an allowable expense, but only part of the cost. This attempt to apportion discloses the duality of purpose that is fatal under [what is now ICTA88/S74 (1)(a)]. It is not possible to divide up a meal or the expense of a meal so that the first sandwiches or the first 10p. are attributable to Mr. Quinn and the residue to his business. Nor do I accept the logic of the suggested method of apportionment. No one has a divine right to work and eat at home, or to eat at his place of business, or to measure the cost of his appetite by the cheapest method which would have been available to him if he had chosen to conduct his business in some fashion other than that which he in fact chooses.