Press Releases

DelBene, Young Introduce Bill to Bring Tax Parity to Fishermen Meals Costs

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Washington, D.C., February 3, 2021 | comments

Today, Representatives Suzan DelBene (WA-01) and Don Young (AK-AL) introduced legislation to bring tax parity to meals provided to workers on certain fish processing vessels and remote fish processing facilities.

The 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act reduced the tax deduction for employer-provided meals to 50% and eliminates the deduction altogether after 2025. The law still allows for 100% deductibility for meals when they are required by federal law but that does not apply to the fishing industry. However, Congress did retain full deductibility for workers’ meals on offshore oil and gas platforms, showing a lack of parity between similar remote industries. This loss of deductibility has adversely harmed the fish processors based in Washington state and Alaska who have no alternative but to provide meals to their workers.

The Remote Seafood Employee Meals Tax Parity Act would allow the cost of employer-provided meals served on commercial fish processing vessels and at remote fish processing facilities located north of 50 degrees north latitude to be fully deductible again.

Congress’ intent in the 2017 tax law was to limit meal cost deductibility for employers who were providing free meals as a perk of employment, even when off-premises food and beverage were readily available. However, workers on commercial fish processing vessels from Washington state that travel north to fish and at remote seafood facilities in Alaska that process the catches from Washington fishing operations cannot get meals from other sources.

“The 2017 tax law had many unintended consequences and particularly harmed the fishing industry in Washington and Alaska,” said DelBene. “Our proposal would fulfill Congress’ original intent of curbing inappropriate meal expense deductions while preserving it for industries that have no other source for their workers’ meals.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted nearly every sector of our economy, including our fishermen and seafood processors," said Young. "Our fishermen and processing vessels work long, often dangerous hours to bring Alaskan seafood to market, and they often receive employer-provided meals onboard to help sustain them on the job. Unfortunately, only 50% of these meals are tax-deductible, negatively impacting our seafood industry’s ability to compete. I am proud to introduce the Remote Seafood Employee Meals Tax Parity Act with Congresswoman Suzan DelBene to help support our fishing industry in this time of great need. We must get this bill across the finish line, and I will continue fighting hard on behalf of Alaska's commercial fishermen.”

“Providing meals for thousands of seafood industry workers at sea and in remote Alaskan communities is a mission-critical expense. Health protocols, including quarantines, designed to keep our workers and communities safe, make these employer-provided meals even more critical in the COVID-19 era. On behalf of our members, I applaud Congresswoman DelBene and Congressman Young for leading this bill to correct this unintended consequence of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, and we look forward to the 117th Congress restoring fairness to this aspect of our nation’s tax code,” said Chris Barrows, President, Pacific Seafood Processors Association.

“The seafood sector plays a critical role in the social and economic wellbeing of Alaska, Washington, and coastal communities throughout the United States. We are grateful to Representatives DelBene and Young for leading efforts to restore fairness to the tax code as it relates to our industry. Their legislation will help ensure that companies in Washington and Alaska are able to compete. In so doing, it will help preserve employment opportunities and cultural traditions, and safeguard the supply of sustainable and nutritious American seafood,” said Stephanie Madsen, Executive Director, At-sea Processors Association.

The text of the legislation can be found here.

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