So you have just landed the largest contract ever over lunch. Your customer is happy, you are happy, everyone is happy. You merrily pick up the check thinking all is well. The waiter hands you your credit card back along with your receipt. You then leave the restaurant confident that all is well.

A few days later, you turn in your meal receipt to your accountant who quickly advises you that the meal cannot be claimed. You are shocked, truly shocked. How could that not be a business meal.

Like many other new small business people, you have kept the credit card or debit card receipt as your proof of the meal. Unfortunately, the receipt from the debit machine or information from a credit card statement is not accepted as a legitimate receipt for meals. You need the receipt that contains the actual detail of what was consumed at the meal. This is particularly true of fast food or coffee shops that usually provide only the debit receipt as the evidence of the purchase unless you ask. Get the details, not the summary.

The other good practice with meal receipts is to write a short note on the back about who you met with and what was discussed. It doesn’t need to be more than two or three words. You only need enough to jog your memory. The note usually takes 30 seconds and can be scribbled on the back of the receipt without a lot of fuss. Even if you don’t have a pen, the waiter or waitress will have one. This is required in case you are ever asked to prove the authenticity of the expense in a CRA review. A little bit of effort goes a long way in this case.

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