WASHINGTON, DC, November 13, 2023—Representatives Suzan DelBene (WA-01) and Dan Newhouse (WA-04) introduced bipartisan legislation to ensure tax fairness for meals provided to workers on certain Pacific Northwest fish processing vessels and remote facilities.
The 2017 Republican tax law restricted deductions for employers providing free meals as a perk of employment, even when off-premises food and beverage options were readily available. The law reduced tax deductions for employer-provided meals to 50% and eliminated the deduction altogether after 2025. However, this change disproportionately hurt the seafood processing industry, particularly workers on Washington state fish processing vessels who travel north to remote seafood facilities in Alaska. Their employers must provide all meals, leaving them unable to fully deduct these expenses, while offshore oil and gas platforms continue to enjoy this tax benefit.
The Remote Seafood Employee Meals Tax Parity Act would correct this inequity and support these workers by allowing the cost of employer-provided meals served on commercial fish processing vessels and at remote fish processing facilities to be fully deductible again.
“The 2017 tax law had serious unintended consequences on the Pacific Northwest’s seafood industry,” said DelBene. “Our proposal would restore the balance and fairness Congress originally intended and address inadequate meal expense deductions, recognizing that some industries have no other means to support their workforce. We must do more to protect these dedicated workers who feed our communities and boost our economy, and our bill fills a critical need.”
“The men and women in this industry are the front-line workers in our seafood supply chain, and this legislation will promote greater access to employee meal services in remote areas, enhancing their ability to compete with other maritime actors,” said Newhouse. “The reduced deductions we have seen in recent years have not only hurt the seafood industry and its workers but could seriously interrupt the workforce pipeline if it is eliminated as planned in 2025. It is vital we protect an industry that significantly contributes to our economy and communities.”
The Remote Seafood Employee Meals Tax Parity Act is cosponsored by Representatives Mary Peltola (AK-At-Large), Marie Gluesenkamp Perez (WA-03), Rick Larsen (WA-02), Marilyn Strickland (WA-10), and Derek Kilmer (WA-06).
“Members of the Pacific Seafood Processors Association are struggling under the weight of excessive costs, among other challenges, including loss of the tax deduction for the costs of employer-provided meals,” said Julie Decker, President, Pacific Seafood Processors Association. “Remote Alaskan seafood processing plants – which take fish deliveries from thousands of Washington-based fishermen – may house up to hundreds of employees for short processing seasons, and processors must provide thousands of meals daily per plant as an essential function. Loss of this deduction was an unintended outcome of the 2017 tax act, and our members have urgently sought to restore this deduction since then. We applaud the leadership of Congresswoman DelBene and Congressman Newhouse in leading this bipartisan bill, along with Reps. Peltola, Larsen, Kilmer, Gluesenkamp Perez, and Strickland – they understand that rectifying this unintended outcome will not only restore parity with other remote industries, but it will restore a vital tool for controlling costs of processing North Pacific seafood – an economic driver for our region that produces 60% of U.S. harvests.”
The full text of the legislation can be found here.
SOURCE: Office of Suzan DelBene