Under the lodging plus meals and incidental expenses (M&IE) per diem method, the amount of an employee's (or other payor's_ reimbursed expenses that is deemed substantiated (for purposes of the employer's return) is equal to the lesser of the employee's per diem allowance or the federal per diem amount for the locality of travel for the period in which the employee is awy from home (Rev. Proc. 2011-47). The employer is not required to provide lodging receipts if per diem allowances are used to substantiate such expenses. The locality of travel is the place where the employee stops for sleep or rest. Employees and self-employed individuals may determine their allowable deductions for reimbursed M&IE while away from home by using the applicable federal M&IE rate. However, unreimbursed lodging costs must be substantiated by required records.
Per Diem Rates. The federal per diem rate for lodging plus M&IE depends upon the locality or travel. For various geographic areas within the continental United States (the 48 contiguous states plus the District of Columbia) (CONUS), the federal per diem rate for a given locality is equal to the sum of a maximum lodging amount and the M&IE rate for that locality. There are also federal per diem rates for nonforeign localities outside of the continental United States (OCONUS), such as Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and U.S. possessions. Rates are also established for foreign travel (foreign OCONUS).
Rates for CONUS, OCONUS, and foreign travel are published under the Federal Travel Regulations for government travel and are updated periodically (Rev. Proc. 2011-47). The travel rates are issued to coincide with the government's fiscal year of October to September.
High-Low Method. Instead of using the maximum per diem rates from the CONUS table, taxpayers can compute per diem allowances for travel within the continental United States under the high-low method, which is a simplified method for determining a lodging plus M&IE per diem. This ethod divides all CONUS localities into two categories: low-cost or high-cost localitiesa (Rev. Proc. 2011-47).
For travel on or after October 1, 2017, through September 30, 2018, the following per diem rates for lodging expenses and M&IE are used for high-cost and low-cost localities (Noltice 2017-54):
High-cost locality -- Lodging Expense Rate = $216; M&IE Rate = $68; Maximum per diem rate = $284
Low-cost locality -- Lodging Expense Rate = $134; M&IE Rate = $57; Maximum per diem rate = $191
For travel on or after October 1, 2016, through September 30, 2017, the following per diem rates for lodging expenses and M&IE are used for high-cost and lkow-cost localities (Notice 2016-58):
High-cost locality -- Lodging Expense Rate = $214; M&IE Rate = $68; Maximum per diem rate = $282
Low-cost locality -- Lodging Expense Rate = $132; M&IE Rate = $57; Maximum per diem rate = $189
Some areas are treated as high-cost during certain periods of the year (e.g., peak tourist season) and as low-cost during other periods. Thus, employers who use the high-low method must determine whether the employee traveled in a high-cost area and if the area was classified as high-cost during the actual period of travel.
If the high-low method is used for an employee, then the payor may not use the actual federal maximum per diem rates for that employee during the calendar year for travel within CONUS. For travel outside CONUS, the employer may use the applicable federal OCONUS rates, the M&IE-only rate, or reimbursement of actual expoenses.
Proration of M&IE Allwance. If an individual is traveling away from home for only a portion of the day, these are two alternative methods that may be used to prorate the per diem rate or the M&IE rate. Under the first method, 75 percent of the M&"IE rate (or the M&IE portion of the per diem rate) is allowed for each partial day during which an employee or self-employed individual is traveling on business. Under the second method, referred to as the reasonable business practice method, the M&IE rate may be prorated using any method that is consistently applied and in accordance with reasonable business practice. For example, if an employee travels from 9:00 a.m. one day until 5:00 p.m. the next day, a proration method that gives an amount equal to two times the M&IE rate is treated in accordance with reasonable business practice (Rev. Proc. 2011-47).
Transition Rates. Taxpayers may continue to use the per diem rates effective prior to October 1, 2017, for the remainder of 2017, or they may begin to use the new per diem rates for reimbursement for travel, as long as they use either the pre-October 1 rates or the updated rates for the October 1 through December 31 period consistently. Taxpayers who used the per diem method or the high-low substantiation method to reimburse travel expenses during the first nine months of calendar year 2017 must continue to use that method for the remainder of the calendar-year 2017. Taxpayers who use the high-low method during the first nine months of calendar-year 2017 may either continue to use the rates and localities in effect before October 1, 2017, or use the updated rates and localities in effect for travel on and after October 1, 2017, as long as they use the same rates and locations consistently for all employees reimbursed under the high-low method.