Meeting Meals for Board or Council Members

Members of the governing body and staff sometimes patronize restaurants either before or after board/council meetings. If the public entity pays for the meals, at least three separate compliance issues are raised:

  • There are potential Open Meeting Law issues whenever a quorum of a board/council gets together. The meeting would not be open to the public, and any discussion of matters relating to the public entity may result in an Open Meeting Law violation.
  • If matters relating to the public entity are not discussed during the meals, the meals should not be reimbursed because the meal expenses are not a necessary expense and do not serve a public purpose.
  • The meals may be taxable income because the board/council members and staff are not in travel status.

Whether a meal is necessary for a meeting depends upon the necessity for holding a particular meeting during mealtime rather than at some other time, and upon the benefits derived from providing food during the meeting. If a board/council meeting must be held during mealtime, we recommend that food be provided to the board/council members and staff on site, avoiding issues with taxes, expense reimbursement, and the Open Meeting Law.

For more information on the tax issues specifically, please see IRS Publication 463 (pages 5-6) and IRS Publication 15 (Circular E) Employer’s Tax Guide (pages 16-17).

Date this Avoiding Pitfall was most recently published: 6/2/2023