CRA increases meal allowance limit

OTTAWA, Ont. – Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) has changed the rate at which drivers can claim meal expenses using the simplified method from 80% of $17 to $23 per meal.

The changes are retroactive to Jan. 1, 2020. The announcement was made by federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau during a media briefing Sept. 3.

Federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau announces changes to Canada’s meal tax allowances at Rosedale Transport in Ottawa Sept. 3.

The former $17 limit was last updated in 2009. The feds say increasing the limit provides truckers with more flexibility and more accurately reflects the cost of a meal today, while also recognizing the work they’ve done keeping Canadians supplied with needed food and supplies during the pandemic.

“This is an important measure of support for Canada’s transportation sector employees, particularly our truckers,” said Garneau. “Canadians owe much to the tireless work of Canada’s truck drivers, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic. These increased meal allowance rates will ensure that truckers and other essential workers can access affordable meals as they travel long distances, transporting critical goods and supplies.”

Rosedale Transport’s new Ottawa terminal served as the backdrop to the announcement. Garneau praised Canada’s truckers for keeping goods moving during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“First and foremost, on behalf of the Canadian government, I would like to express our gratitude to all those who work in the Canadian trucking industry,” he said. “This year, more than ever, you’ve been on the front lines. You’ve kept our country going, moving food, medicine and so many other essential goods that keep Canadians safe and healthy.”

Stephen Laskowski, head of the Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA), noted truckers have seen the cost of food and water increase by as much as 100%-300% in some areas during the pandemic.

“Today’s announcement is a significant measure and commitment from the Government of Canada,” he said. “Some of the simplest things like resting and eating have been challenging for our sector.”

Garneau thanked the CTA and other industry groups such as the Private Motor Truck Council of Canada (PMTC) and Teamsters Canada for “standing shoulder to shoulder with Transport Canada during these unprecedented times.”

PMTC president Mike Millian said a coalition of transportation associations had appealed to the feds earlier this year for help dealing with increasing driver expenses while on the road.

“We are glad to see the government act on this and thrilled to see they are making it retroactive,” Millian said. “While it does not help the driver in the short term, it will put money back in their pockets at the end of the year.”

(Source: iStock)

Garneau likened the increased limits to a tax credit that truckers will enjoy when filing their 2020 income taxes. “It’s very important for the trucking industry, which has been making enormous sacrifices these past few months. It’s deferred tax income that would come to the government otherwise, but it’s very much deserved by our truckers.”

Laskowski noted truckers have had fewer options for rest and food since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. Many restaurants, including truck stop buffets, were closed and truckers struggled to find affordable and healthy meals. Price increases were particularly acute in remote areas, Laskowski added.

“The meal allowance policy change will assist our essential workers who continue to move our nation’s domestic and two-way trade with the U.S.,” he said. “These positive changes to the meal allowance policy is an investment in securing the Canadian supply chain and is a symbol of the value and respect cabinet – and Minister Garneau, particularly – has for our nation’s commercial truck drivers.” 

The news was welcomed by Shelley Uvanile-Hesch, head of the Women’s Trucking Federation of Canada and a longhaul truck driver for Sharp Transportation.

“Today’s announcement by Minister Garneau shows incredible support for the trucking industry and its workforce throughout the Covid-19 pandemic,” she told Today’s Trucking. “These have been challenging times for all Canadians. Yet through these challenges our driving force has stayed committed and dedicated to moving our nation’s commodities across the nation. With the rising cost of food and the decline in the Canada-U.S. exchange rate, this is a very welcomed increase to our professional drivers.”

Uvanile-Hesch said longhaul drivers will see a significant benefit. A driver averaging 21 days a month over the road, for example, will see a roughly $1,512 increased return at tax time, according to her calculations.

“It was extremely challenging for drivers at one point to simply find a bathroom or take a shower at the end of the day.”

Francois Laporte, Teamsters Canada

Teamsters Canada also lauded the increase, saying it has been pushing for these changes since April, when access to food on the road had become challenging due to the pandemic.

“Truck drivers and other essential workers shouldn’t have to wonder if they can afford lunch. Today’s changes help by effectively putting hundreds of dollars back into drivers’ pockets. It’s the least the government can do to help the folks who keep Canadians supplied with everything they need,” said the national president of Teamsters Canada, Francois Laporte.

“Things were not easy for truckers at the height of the Covid-19 crisis. On top of soaring food prices on highways and an out-of-control viral outbreak, truck stops and restaurants had closed or limited access to their washrooms. It was extremely challenging for drivers at one point to simply find a bathroom or take a shower at the end of the day. We owe truckers a debt of gratitude for working under these difficult circumstances.”

This story has been updated with reaction from Teamsters Canada.

James Menzies

James Menzies is editor of Today's Trucking. He has been covering the Canadian trucking industry for more than 18 years and holds a CDL. Reach him at james@newcom.ca or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies.

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  • The write of is still only 80% of the $23 per meal correct? If that’s the case the tax savings would by closer to $1100 a yr

    • considering the liberals reduced the claimable percentage from 80% to 50% back in the day I might be able to recoup loss in about 10 years Still appreciate the increase

  • Raising the meal allowance is fine but why can’t we claim hundred percent of it instead of only 80% which is not fair. Truckers should be able to claim 100% for there meals its very expensive for us on the road. Tk U

  • Huge thank you Federal Minister Marc Garneau from CRA.
    I have been in the trucking industry in Canada for 9 years, I am glad that the government observes our work and does great changes to our benefits. This a great country and I’m glad my family is safe here.

    Thank you!

  • It hasn’t changed in 11 years, yet truckers were paying meal expenses out of their pockets, and the cost of those meals skyrocketed. This should have been done annually to keep up with inflation!! Plus, you can only claim 80% not 100%. It is sad that it took a pandemic for people to appreciate truckers . Thank you to all the truckers out there ❤