Governor Branstad has issued an order which forbids most state workers from claiming their bill for lunch as an expense unless they’re spending the night away from home.
David Roederer, the governor’s budget director, says the old rule allowed a state employee to be reimbursed for lunch if they ate outside the county in which their office was located.
“So if somebody were in Des Moines and went down to Indianola, just a few miles south, and it was over lunch time, since they were in different counties, then the state would reimburse them for that meal,” Roederer says. “What the new policy is is that you must be on a trip that at least requires one overnight before you would be reimbursed for a lunch.”
The new policy on lunch reimbursement is “standard practice” in most private companies, according to Roederer. “We’re estimating that it could save the state taxpayers up to $1 million a year,” Roederer says.
There will be a few exceptions to the new policy. State troopers, for example, will still be reimbursed for the lunches they buy while they’re on the road, patrolling their territory. “There will be exceptions made on a case-by-case basis,” Roederer says.
The I.R.S. has a complicated set a rules for businesses that reimburse meals for employees, requiring businesses to count some reimbursement as taxable income for the employee if it exceeds $52 per meal. However, there are other rules which let that reimbursement price rise if the meal is consumed in an area where food costs more, like New York City or Aspen, Colorado.