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A Series of Unfortunates Expenses: The Ones Rejected by HMRC

Unfortunate Expenses

Every year, HMRC share some of the more ludicrous expense claims that people have made on their Self Assessment tax returns, although this year, their top 5 excuses are quite restrained.

Angela MacDonald, HMRC Director General of Customer Services, said:

“Each year we still come across some poor excuses and expenses, which range from problems with maids to televisions.

“Help will always be provided for those who have a genuine excuse for not submitting their return on time, but it’s unfair to the majority of honest taxpayers when others make bogus claims.”

Wired for sound

There are some jobs where the purchase of music is a necessary work expense. If you’re a musician or perhaps a dancer, then music is part of your job; essential to what you do.

However, it’s understandable that the carpenter who made the top spot in HMRC’s excuse chart made them raise their eyebrows with his claim of £900 for a 55 inch TV and sound bar to help him price his jobs. If any carpenters out there want to explain how this helps in the pricing process, we’re all ears.

Someone also claimed the cost of a music subscription so that they could listen to music while they work. Not exactly an essential business expense.

Kitted out and jetting off

Claiming the cost of workwear essential for carrying out your work, such as protective boots, is perfectly acceptable. But HMRC looked askance for a claim for £40 on extra woolly underwear for 5 years. They also weren’t prepared to pay for the cost of a family holiday to Nigeria. Holidays aren’t a business expense, and why should other taxpayers pay out for someone to take their family abroad?

The other expense that made HMRC’s ‘Unreasonable Top 5’. A £756 claim for pet insurance for the claimant’s dog. Good try.

Allowable expenses

Of course, there are many expenses that HMRC is perfectly happy for you to claim against your tax.

These include:

  • Office costs, for example stationery or phone bills
  • Travel costs, for example fuel, parking, train or bus fares
  • Clothing expenses, for example uniforms
  • Staff costs, for example salaries or subcontractor costs
  • Things you buy to sell on, for example stock or raw materials
  • Financial costs, for example insurance or bank charges
  • Costs of your business premises, for example heating, lighting, business rates
  • Advertising or marketing, for example website costs

To fully understand what you can (and can’t!) claim, get advice from your accountant or check out the Government’s webpage on Expenses if you’re self-employed.

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