Here’s how to reduce business and household costs by using simplified expenses

Simplified expenses for smaller businesses
Certain unincorporated small businesses may choose to use the ‘cash basis’ when calculating taxable income, under which participants are taxed on the basis of the cash that passes through their books, rather than being asked to undertake complex and time-consuming calculations designed for big businesses. Whilst easing the administrative burdens of preparing ‘traditional’ accounts, using the cash basis can also help with cash flow as it will not be necessary to accrue for income not yet received, or expenditure not paid out.
To complement the cash basis, HMRC also introduced ‘simplified expenses’ for small businesses. Basically, instead of working out the exact cost of certain expenses, HMRC allow the business to deduct a standard, or flat rate amount. Simplified expenses can apply to the following expenses:
• standard mileage rate for business use of cars or motorcycles;
• flat rate expenses for business use of home; and
• flat rate adjustment for personal use of business premises.
The taxpayer should, where relevant, record business miles for vehicles, hours worked at home and the number of people living at the business premises during the course of the tax year. At the end of the tax year, HMRC’s flat rates are used to work out the expenses, which are then included on the self-assessment tax return.
Vehicles
HMRC’s flat rate mileage allowances are designed to cover all vehicle-related running costs (insurance, repairs, servicing, fuel etc.). Current rates are as follows:
• first 10,000 miles               45p per mile
• exceeding 10,000 miles    25p per mile
• Motorcycles                        24p per mile
Using mileage rates is not obligatory, but once they have been used for a vehicle, they must continue to be used for as long the vehicle is used for the business.
Other travel expenses – train journeys, parking and such like – may be claimed on top of the mileage rates.
Where a car is purchased for business use, capital allowances may be claimed, but only if simplified expenses are not being used to work out business expenses for that vehicle.
Business use of home
A monthly deduction will be allowable if certain criteria are satisfied. Current rates are as follows:
Number of hours worked Monthly amount
25 to 50                                    £10.00
51 to 100                                  £18.00
101 or more                              £26.00

The number of hours worked in a month is the number of hours spent wholly and exclusively on work done by the person, or any employee of the person, in the person’s home wholly and exclusively for the purposes of the trade.
Mixed use
Where premises are used for both business and private purposes, instead of making the standard deduction outlined above, the business can make a deduction for the non-business use. The allowable deduction will therefore be the amount of the expenses incurred, less the non-business use amount. The non-business use amount is the sum of the applicable amounts (see below) for each month, or part of a month, falling within the period in question (usually the tax year). The applicable amounts are as follows:
Number of relevant occupants Applicable amount
1                                                               £350
2                                                                 £500
3 or more                                               £650

A relevant occupant is someone who occupies the premises as a home, or someone who stays at the premises otherwise than in the course of the trade.
Benefits
Simplified expenses may help reduce business and household costs, without needing to retain the associated paperwork. However, like any flat-rate scheme, simplified expenses may result in an increased tax liability. The scheme may not be for everyone and certain checks should therefore be made before using it.

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Don’t pay for expenses that your employer should be paying for – here’s how and when to claim a tax deduction.

Employees – claim a tax deduction for expenses

Employees often incur expenses in doing their job – this may be the cost of a train ticket or petrol to visit a supplier, or purchasing stationery or small tools which are used in their job. Employers will frequently reimburse the employee for any expenses that they incur, but where such a reimbursement is not forthcoming, the employee may be able to claim a tax relief.

The test

Employment expenses are deductible only if they are incurred ‘wholly, exclusively and necessarily in the performance of the duties of the employment’. The test is a harsh test to meet; the ‘necessary’ condition means that ‘each and every’ jobholder would be required to incur the expense. Consequently, there is no relief if the expense is not ‘necessary’ and the employee chooses to incur it (even if the ‘wholly and exclusively’ parts of the test are met). The rules for travel expenses are different, but broadly operate to allow relief for ‘business travel’.

In the performance of the job v putting the employee in a position to do the job

A distinction is drawn between expenses that are incurred in actually performing the job and those which are incurred in putting the employee in the position to do the job. Expenses incurred in travelling from the office to a meeting with a supplier and back to the office are incurred in performing the job. By contrast, childcare costs or home to work travel are incurred to put the employee in a position to do the job. Relief is available only for expenses incurred as part of the job, and not for those which incurred, albeit arguably necessarily, to enable the employee to do the job.

Expenses for which relief may be claimed

A deduction can be claimed for any expense that meets the ‘wholly, exclusively and necessarily’ test. Examples include professional fees and subscriptions, travel and subsistence costs, additional costs of working from home, cost of repairing tools or specialist clothing, phone calls, etc.

Where the expense is reimbursed by the employer, a deduction cannot be claimed as well; however, the amount reimbursed is not taxable and is ignored for tax purposes.

Using your own car

Where an employee uses his or her own car for business travel, the employer can pay tax-free mileage payments up to the approved rates. For cars and vans, this is 45p per mile for the first 10,000 miles in the tax year and 25p per mile for any subsequent miles.

If the employer does not pay mileage allowances or pay less than the approved amount, the employee can claim tax relief for the difference between the approved amount and the amount paid by the employer.

Flat rate expenses

Employers in certain industries are able to claim a flat rate deduction for certain expenses in line with rates published by HMRC (see www.gov.uk/guidance/job-expenses-for-uniforms-work-clothing-and-tools#claim-table). Although claiming the flat rate removes the need to keep records of actual costs, employees can claim a deduction based on actual costs where this is more beneficial.

How to claim There are different ways to make a claim depending on your circumstances. Claims can be made online using HMRC’s online service, by post on form P87, by phone or, where a self-assessment return is completed, via the self-assessment return.

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