What are tax-deductible expenses?
On certain job-related expenses - known as a 'tax-deductible expense' - you can claim tax relief for the amounts you've paid out. This applies both where:
- you have paid the expenses yourself without any reimbursement
- your employer reimbursed the expense but you were taxed on the reimbursement.
Getting tax relief essentially means that the tax you’d usually be charged on an item is removed. This isn’t the same as getting an item for free.
For instance, if you’re a basic rate taxpayer and buy something for work for £100, you can claim for £20 relief – as it’s 20% of the total you paid.
As a general rule, you’re only allowed to claim costs for items or services you’ve bought ‘wholly and exclusively’ in relation to your job.
You can’t claim relief on things you’ve spent money on if your employer has provided you with an alternative.
You also cannot claim for tax relief if your employer has already paid back your expenses.
You must keep records of what you’ve spent (i.e. receipts), and claim within four years of the end of the tax year that you spent the money (the end of the tax year is 5 April).
Claiming tax relief through PAYE
It's possible for HMRC to adjust your tax code so that you pay less income tax through PAYE. This will allow you to take home a larger proportion of your salary and therefore get your expenses paid back in increments.
To qualify for this, you must:
- pay tax through PAYE (Pay As You Earn)
- never fill out a self-assessment form, and
- be owed less than £2,500.
To arrange for relief through PAYE, you can apply online through gov.uk (you’ll need to set up Government Gateway credentials before you begin).
Alternatively, you can print and post form P87 or, if you've made a claim before, phone HMRC.
Find out more: understand your tax code and what it means for your taxes
Claiming tax relief through a self-assessment tax return
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 for relief over £2,500.
Find out how to submit in our guide to self-assessment tax.
If you'd like a hand filing online, you can also use the Which? tax calculator to submit your return direct to HMRC.
Reimbursement for business travel
You can claim on the mileage that has not been reimbursed 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.
Our table below explains what you can claim.
Expenses on 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
If these expenses have been reimbursed by your employer, you'll only be able to claim them if the reimbursement was taxed.
Work uniform expenses
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 has agreed that workers in particular occupations can deduct a flat-rate allowance.
The current list of occupations is set out by HMRC on gov.uk.
- agricultural workers
- airline pilots and cabin crew
- firefighters, police officers and healthcare staff in the NHS
- prison staff
You can also claim for what you’ve spent, if it’s more than the flat-rate, provided you keep all of the receipts.
You may still be able to claim a standard annual amount of £60 in tax relief if your occupation isn’t listed. So, if you pay basic rate tax at 20%, you could claim £12 tax relief on the total £60 flat-rate deduction.
Membership fees expenses
Fees and subscriptions to some professional bodies are eligible for tax relief if membership is necessary to do your job. They have to be on the list approved by HMRC.
You can’t claim back fees or subscriptions for:
- lifetime membership subscriptions.
- fees or subscriptions you haven’t paid for yourself – for example, if your employer has paid for them.
Tax relief 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.
You can only claim for things to do with your work, and not for those that might relate to both personal and work use – such as rent or broadband access.
For claims over £6 a week, you'll need to provide evidence of what you have spent.
If you work at home voluntarily, you can’t claim tax relief on what you’ve spent. Your employer may still choose to contribute to your expenses, but they're not obligated to.
The same rules apply for the amount of tax relief you receive – if your employer contributes up to £6 a week towards your expenses, you won’t need to provide receipts. Any more than this, and you’ll need to be able to show what you’re claiming tax relief on.
You won’t have to pay tax or National Insurance contributions on the tax relief you receive from your employer.
See our guide on tax allowable expenses for more information.