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Tax rates and allowances

Tax-deductible expenses

By Joe Elvin

Article 5 of 10

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Tax-deductible expenses

Learn the rules around claiming tax relief for work-related expenses, including what you're entitled to claim for.

When you've paid out for expenses related to your job - be it to travel or buying a uniform, you may be able to claim tax relief on the costs you've incurred. 

The technical term for this is a 'tax-deductible expense'. These apply both where:

  • you have paid the expenses yourself without any reimbursement
  • your employer reimbursed the expense but you were taxed on the reimbursed amount.

This guide explains what you can, and can't, claim for, and how to lower your tax bill by claiming expenses.  

Tax relief on work expenses explained

Tax relief essentially means the tax usually charged on a item is removed. This isn’t the same as getting an item for free.

How to claim tax relief on expenses

How you can claim tax relief depends on how you usually pay tax and how much you’re claiming for.

Changing your tax code to claim tax relief

If you pay tax through PAYE (Pay As You Earn) and haven’t done a self-assessment tax return before , and you are owed less than £2,500, your tax code will normally be adjusted to reduce the amount you pay.  To arrange this, you can either:

  • apply online through gov.uk (you’ll need to set up Government Gateway credentials before you begin)
  • print and post form P87
  • phone HMRC if you’ve done a claim before

Find out more: understand your tax code and what it means for your taxes

Claiming tax relief through a self-assessment tax return

However, if you usually have to fill out a self-assessment tax return, you must use this to claim tax relief on expenses. You must also use a self-assessment tax return if you're claiming over £2,500.

Find out more: See more about self-assessment tax returns and who has to fill one in.

And you can get a head start on your 2016-17 tax return with the Which? tax calculator. Tot up your tax bill, get tips on where to save and submit your return direct to HMRC with Which?.

Work expenses you can claim back

Claiming expenses for business travel 

You can claim on unreimbursed mileage if you use your own car or a company car for work, up to the HMRC-approved mileage allowance.

If you have been reimbursed less than this, you can claim relief on the difference between what your employer paid and the HMRC rate. 

You can't claim tax relief on mileage used commuting between your home and your normal workplace, but you might be able to claim on journeys to a temporary workplace. 

Claiming expenses for business trips

You can claim on reasonable expenses encountered as a result of business trips, including: 

  • public transport costs
  • overnight accommodation
  • food and drink 
  • congestion charges and tolls 
  • parking fees
  • business phone calls, fax and photocopying costs
  • uniform and equipment

Claiming expenses for work uniforms

You can't claim for the initial cost of buying a uniform. However, the cleaning, repairing or replacing of protective clothing and uniform necessary for your job is eligible for tax relief. 

In some cases, HMRC have agreed that workers in particular occupations can deduct a flat-rate allowance. 

The current list of occupations are set out by HMRC on gov.uk. 

Examples include:

  • agricultural workers
  • airline pilots and cabin crew
  • builders
  • firefighters, police officers and healthcare staff in the NHS
  • prison staff

You may still be able to claim a standard annual amount of £60 in tax relief if your occupation isn’t listed.

You can also claim for what you’ve spent instead, if it’s more than the flat-rate, if you keep all of the receipts. 

Claiming expenses for membership fees

Fees and subscriptions to some professional bodies are eligible for tax relief, if membership is necessary to do your job.

Claiming tax relief and expenses if you work from home

You may be able to claim tax relief on some of the expenses incurred as a result of working at home regularly, such as heating, lighting and telephone costs.

For claims over £4 a week (£18 a month), you'll need to provide evidence of what you have spent. 

See our guide on tax allowable expenses for more information. 

  • Last updated: July 2017
  • Updated by: Gareth Shaw
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