Yep. It’s that time of year again. The time of year when lots of us become a little anxious and distracted.
And, nope, we don’t mean the F.A. Cup 3rd Round or feeble attempts at Dry January but the end-of-month deadline for submitting tax returns.
So, while many people frantically scrabble together as much information as they can to get their affairs in order, it’s a busy time too for HMRC as their Helpdesk Team prepare for the last-minute rush of enquiries.
Which is why it’s all hands to the pump, and the reason Messrs Preston Garstang and Compton Bassett from the Department of Trivial Affairs (http://www.chapmanworth.co.uk/news/ October 2017 blog) have been drafted in to help.
What they don’t know about the finer points of Self Assessment for the self-employed can be written in several weighty tomes, so, rather than being assigned to the helpdesk, their remit was to instead submit all manner of potential queries as part of a test run.
Here’s a sample of what they came up with…
On travel expenses:
Q. I have friends coming to help me on a business trip who aren't employed by me in any form.
How can I claim for their expenses for the trip?
Q. If I take my cat on Eurostar for business, can I claim £0.45 per mile instead of the fare?
Q. I got a unicycle for Christmas and plan to use it to get to work. I’m unable to ride it yet though.
Two questions – can I be reimbursed for lessons and how much can I claim per mile?
Q. Sorry, that should have read car.
On clothing and personal expenses:
Q. I’m a professional lion-tamer. Can I expense private healthcare if I get injured?
Q. I’m a Scuba Diver Trainer and was thinking of getting a reversible wetsuit/tuxedo like Sean
Connery wore in Thunderball. Do I just claim 50% of the cost?
Q. My work has resulted in back pain from sitting at a desk (my desk is too low and my chair is
too high, and it also only has 3 legs). My osteopath says I can claim the cost of treatments. Is
Q. Good day. I am a method actor in musical theatre and need to maintain a specific physique that
ranges from extremely buff to er, not-so-buff (nonetheless, I remain irresistibly cavalier). How
much can I expense on gym membership and fast-food?
Q. As part of my brand image, I take my Andalusian chihuahua (Rodrigues) to business meetings.
He usually sits in my handbag. However, he gets very nervous if there are a lot of people
present and has already ruined 2 rugs, a welcome mat and a Louis Vuitton Speedy 30. Can I
claim for these as well as a dog hypnotherapist?
On capital expenses:
Q. I’m planning a Star Wars attraction and want to build a Death Star. Some of it will be for work
and some for holidays. How much can I expense? (Ps. Not sure yet if it will be my base for
work. It’ll also be in my back garden and not up in space.)
Q. How do I claim for work done on my swimming pool? The roof was leaking so I had to have it
fixed and my car park also had to be resurfaced.
Q. How about a Bond-villain lair inside a volcano? I say Bond-villain lair but it’s actually just
going to be used for respectable purposes.
Q. Regarding the swimming pool, it’s a separate building next to the patio.
Q. I work from home and my front door is in a terrible state (I think it’s next door’s dog) and needs
replacing. What amount can I claim back?
Q. If I work from home, can I knock all the walls down to make it one big room instead of having
to claim just a proportion?
Q. I can turn the swimming pool into a registered business if that’s easier?
On work-related research expenses:
Q. I regularly conduct wine tasting abroad. Can I fly Business Class and claim it as an expense?
The fact I have family and friends there is completely coincidental.
Q. Performing my work includes researching a lot of culture (films, video games, magazines,
books, travel) for creative inspiration and idea generation. Oh, and gin and tonic. Can these
purchases be included as expenses?
On entertaining expenses:
Q. Can I count membership to a Members’ Club that I use for an office/meeting place for my
Q. Can I claim for a business development meeting with a VIP customer? Usually it’s in my office
but it might be over dinner in an expensive restaurant (they do an early-bird menu).
Q. Is there a daily food allowance of £8.00 per day? And does this go up with London weighting?
Q. What if it’s a Meal Deal?
Q. Or just a bag of crisps (low fat)?
Just in case none of this has been particularly helpful, here are some must-knows:
• The term ‘wholly and exclusively’ is key to much of what can be legitimately claimed for
• Entertaining expenses are a big no-no.
• Any tax due should be paid by 31st January, including payment of any liability (for 2016-17),
and any payment on account (due for 2017-18).
• And, lastly, a £100 penalty also applies for late submissions, even if there was no tax to pay or
any tax due was paid on time.
More information can be found at https://www.gov.uk/expenses-if-youre-self-employed and via HMRC’s online webinars: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/help-and-support-if-youre-self-employed.
So, there you have it.
Incidentally, we’ve just heard that some of the Helpdesk Team have been named in the New Year Honours List; not for services to the public but for ‘outstanding patience and fortitude in the face of extreme ill-informed inquisitiveness’ – from seconded colleagues.
Although the rumour that HMRC now internally stands for ‘Help Me Remain Civil’ is yet to be verified.
Until next month...