Everything You Need to Know About Truck Driver Per Diem 2021


Truck Driver Using Radio To Contact Other drivers to talk about per diem for truck drivers You work hard to make your money as a truck driver, but do you make every dollar count? Let’s face it, while you’re on the road, there are tons of expenses. First, you’ve got to eat, buy a few necessities, and, on a bad day, you might have a few incidental expenses.

All these expenses can amount to a lot of cash. But, what if we told you that there’s a way you could do all that and still keep most of the cash? Most probably, you’ve already heard of per diem. Most companies offer it, but what exactly does it mean for you? Here’s what every truck driver should know about per diem in 2021. 

 What Is Per Diem in Trucking?

Per diem literally means “per day.” It is a form of reimbursement whereby the trucking company gives you a certain amount of money for meals, overnight stays, and other incidental expenses. 

The IRS allows you to deduct per diem from your taxable income. But, to make it work for you, you first have to figure out your per diem rates and if you actually qualify for it. But first;

How Does Per Diem Work for Truck Drivers?

When you’re on the road, you have lots of out-of-pocket costs like meals and lodging. Your trucking company reimburses you these funds as part of your next paycheck. Per diem pay is mostly a set amount, but in some cases, it can also be equated to the number of miles driven.

Since you paid for these costs out of pocket, per diem is not a taxable income. This allows you to deduct it from your gross income when filing your taxes. The resulting effect is lower taxes or bigger tax refunds.

Figuring Out Truck Driver Per Diem Rates in 2021

When figuring out your per diem rates, you must consider your per diem pay and per diem tax deductions. As of 2017, each truck driver gets a per diem allowance of $66 per day when driving within the intercontinental United States. However, if you’re driving outside the continental US, this rate increases to $71. When filing your taxes, the IRS allows you to deduct 80% of this pay.

If you’re riding with a partner to help you with your duties, they can also get a per diem tax deduction. Riders without a commercial driver’s license (CDL) who help in dispatching, bookkeeping, or unloading can also claim a per diem pay amounting to $33 per day. The IRS allows them to deduct 50% of this amount from their gross income when filing taxes.

What Are the Qualifications for Per Diem Tax Deductions?

Unlike other deductions, the IRS does not require you to keep receipts for travel expenses as proof. Instead, the IRS places restrictions on eligibility. According to IRS publication 463, a truck driver must meet these criteria to be eligible for per diem tax deductions:

  • Away from home considerably longer than an ordinary day’s work
  • Your work requires you to seek accommodation while you’re away from home

Calculating Per Diem Tax Deductions

You can use tax preparation software for this, but if you prefer doing your own calculations, here’s how to do it:

Add up the number of days spent driving within the continental US and multiply the result with your per diem rate. Next, add up the number of days spent driving outside the continental US and do the same, add them, then multiply the result by 80. 

In other words:

(number of days in continental US) x (per diem rate) + (Number of days outside continental US) x (per diem rate) x 80%

For partners and other people without a CDL, the procedure for calculating per diem tax deductions is the same, the only difference being the fact that they multiply the final figure by 50%.

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