Tax breaks working from home

Employees who are working from home may be able to claim tax relief for any additional costs due to home working. No tax relief will be due if employers reimburse employees for the additional household expenses incurred.

The tax relief covers expenses such as business telephone calls or heating and lighting costs. Expenses that are for both for private and business use (such as broadband) cannot be claimed. Employees may also be able to claim tax relief on equipment purchased. For example, a laptop, chair or mobile phone.

Since 6 April 2020, employers can pay up to £6 per week (or £26 a month for employees paid monthly) to cover an employee's additional costs if they have to work from home. Employees do not need to keep any specific records if they receive this fixed amount. 

If the expenses or allowances are not paid by the employer, then the employee can claim tax relief directly from HMRC. Employees will qualify for tax relief based on their highest tax rate. For example, if they pay the 20% basic rate of tax and claim tax relief on £6 a week they would receive £1.20 per week in tax relief (20% of £6).

Employees can claim more than HMRC's fixed amounts but may need to provide evidence to HMRC of the amount claimed. 

Note, that if an employee is working at home voluntarily, they cannot claim tax relief.

However, these tax reliefs are available to anyone who has been asked to work from home due to the COVID-19 outbreak. 

Buying equipment for your job

Employees who need to buy substantial equipment to use as part of their employment may be able to claim tax relief. In most cases they can claim relief based on the full cost as it usually qualifies for a type of capital allowance called the Annual Investment Allowance. Any tax relief would be reduced if the employer provides a contribution towards buying the item.

The way to claim tax relief depends on the amount you are claiming for. HMRC provides the following information on making a claim:

Claims up to £2,500

You should make your claim:

  • using a Self-Assessment tax return if you already fill one in
  • online or by printing and posting form P87 if you don’t already fill in a tax return
  • by phone if you’ve had a successful claim in a previous year and your expenses are less than £1,000 (or £2,500 for professional fees and subscriptions)

Claims over £2,500

  • You can only claim using a Self-Assessment tax return. You need to register if you don’t already complete a return.

There are different rules for employees claiming for their own uniforms, work clothing and tools for work.

Tax codes for employees

The P9X form is used to notify employers which tax codes to use for employees. The latest version of the form has just been published and shows the tax codes to use from 6 April 2021. The forms states that the basic personal allowance for the tax year starting 6 April 2021 will be £12,570 (£12,500 in 2020-21) and this means that the tax code for emergency use will be 1257L.

The basic rate limit will be £37,700 (£37,500 in 2021-21) except for those defined as Scottish taxpayers who have a lower basic rate limit as well as an intermediate rate. Note, that the Income Tax rates and thresholds for 2021-22 are subject to confirmation at the budget.

As a result of the increase in the basic personal allowance, there will be a general uplift of tax codes with suffix 'L' which have increased by 7. Employers should therefore add 7 to any tax code ending in L, for example 1250L will become 1257L. The new form P9X is available online on GOV.UK to download or print.

The P9X (2021) form also includes information to help employers in the new tax year. The document reminds employers that have new employees starting work between 6 April and 24 May 2021 and who provide you with a P45 to follow the instructions at www.gov.uk/new-employee

Employing domestic staff

When you employ someone to work in your home it is your responsibility to meet the employee's rights and deduct the correct amount of tax from their salary. This can include employees such as a nanny, housekeeper, gardener or carer. The rules are different if the person is self-employed or paid through an agency.

If you employ anyone they must:

  • have an employment contract
  • be given payslips
  • work no more than the maximum hours allowed per week
  • be paid at least the national minimum wage.

Your employee is also entitled to standard employee rights such as statutory maternity pay, statutory sick pay, paid holiday, redundancy pay and a workplace pension once they meet the standard eligibility requirements. An employee must also have minimum notice periods if their employment is to end. Note, that these rules apply even if the employee works on a part-time basis although some payments depend on earnings or may be adjusted pro-rata.

It is also your responsibility to register as an employer, check any employees are allowed to work in the UK and to have employer’s liability insurance. There are different rules if you have an au pair because they are not usually considered to be workers or employees.

Confirmation of Minimum Wage increases 2021

The Chancellor used the recent Spending Review to confirm that increased National Minimum Wage and National Living Wage rates will come into effect on 1 April 2021.

From 1 April 2021, the National Living Wage will increase by 19p to £8.91. This represents an increase of 2.2%. The National Living Wage currently applies to those aged 25 and over but from next April will be extended to 23 and 24 year olds for the first time. The threshold will further reduce to 21 by 2024.

The hourly rate of the National Minimum Wage (NMW) for 21-22 year olds will increase to £8.36 (a rise of 16p). The rates for 18-20 year olds will increase to £6.56 (a rise of 11p) and the rate for workers above the school leaving age but under 18 will increase to £4.62 (a rise of 7p). The NMW rate for apprentices increases by 15p to £4.30.

The new rates mirror the recommendations made by the Low Pay Commission (LPC) which have been accepted in full by the Government. The LPC recommended smaller minimum wage increases for those aged under 23 in recognition of the risks to youth employment which the current economic situation poses.

The independent Low Pay Commission (LPC) was established following the National Minimum Wage Act 1998 to advise the government on the NMW. It is made up of representatives from all sides of industry. The increases will come into effect from 1 April 2021, subject to Parliamentary approval.

New advisory fuel rates published

Advisory fuel rates are intended to reflect actual average fuel costs and are updated quarterly. The rates can be used by employers who reimburse employees for business travel in their company cars or where employees are required to repay the cost of fuel used for private travel. HMRC accepts there is no taxable profit and no Class 1A National Insurance on reimbursed travel expenses where employers pay a rate per mile for business travel no higher than the published advisory fuel rates.

Employees can also use the advisory fuel rates to repay the cost of fuel used for private travel. In this case, HMRC will accept there’s no fuel benefit charge. The advisory rates are not binding if you the employer can demonstrate that employees cover the full cost of private fuel by repaying at a lower rate per mile.

The latest advisory fuel rates became effective on 1 December 2020. Fuel rates are reviewed four times a year with changes taking effect on 1 March, 1 June, 1 September and 1 December. You can use the previous rates for up to 1 month from the date the new rates apply.

The new rates are as follows:

Engine size Petrol – amount per mile LPG – amount per mile
1400cc or less 10p 7p
1401cc to 2000cc 11p 8p
Over 2000cc 17p 12p
Engine size Diesel – amount per mile
1600cc or smaller 8p
1601cc to 2000cc 10p
Over 2000cc 12p

Hybrid cars are treated as either petrol or diesel cars for this purpose.

Advisory Electricity Rate
HMRC accepts that if you pay up to 4p per mile when reimbursing your employees for business travel in a fully electric company car there is no profit. While electricity is not considered a fuel for tax and NICs purposes, the Advisory Electricity Rate is now published quarterly alongside the other advisory fuel rates.
 

Claiming tax relief for work related expenses

Employees who need to buy equipment to use as part of their employment may be able to claim tax relief based on the cost of the equipment acquired. In most cases you can claim tax relief on the full cost of this type of equipment as it usually qualifies for a type of Capital Allowance called annual investment allowance. Any tax relief would be reduced if the employer provides a contribution towards buying the item.

The way to claim tax relief depends on the amount you’re claiming. HMRC provides the following information on making a claim:

Claims up to £2,500

You should make your claim:

  • using a Self-Assessment tax return if you already fill one in
  • online or by printing and posting form P87 if you don’t already fill in a tax return 
  • by phone if you’ve had a successful claim in a previous year and your expenses are less than £1,000 (or £2,500 for professional fees and subscriptions)

Claims over £2,500

  • You can only claim using a Self-Assessment tax return. You will need to register if you don’t already complete a return.

There are different rules for employees who use their own uniforms, work clothing and tools for work. It is possible to claim for the cost of repairing or replacing small tools you need to do your job (for example, scissors or an electric drill), or cleaning, repairing or replacing specialist clothing (for example, a uniform or safety boots). A claim for valid purchases can be made against receipts or as a 'flat rate deduction'. However, an employee cannot claim relief on the initial cost of buying small tools or clothing for work.

Working from home tax claim

If you do not receive compensation from your employer you can still claim tax relief for some expenses that result from home working. HMRC will usually allow you to claim tax relief if you use your own money for things that you must buy for your job and you only use these items for work. You must make a claim within 4 years of the end of the tax year that you spent the money.

For example, if you use your own uniforms, work clothing and tools for work. It is possible to claim for the cost of repairing or replacing small tools you need to do your job as an employee (for example, scissors or an electric drill), or cleaning, repairing or replacing specialist clothing (for example, a uniform or safety boots). A claim for valid purchases can be made against receipts or as a 'flat rate deduction'. However, you cannot make a claim for relief for the initial cost of buying small tools or work clothing.

You may also be able to claim tax relief for using your own vehicle, be it a car, van, motorcycle or bike. As a general rule, there is no tax relief for ordinary commuting to and from your work. The rules are different for temporary workplaces where the expense is usually allowable and if you use your own vehicle to do other business related mileage.

Note, that if you have agreed with your employer to work at home voluntarily, or you choose to work at home, you cannot claim tax relief on the bills you have to pay.

Kickstart scheme officially launched

The new £2 billion Kickstart scheme that was announced as part of the Summer Economic update by the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak was officially launched by the government on 2 September 2020. The scheme is intended to create hundreds of thousands of high-quality 6-month work placements aimed at those aged 16 to 24.

It is hoped the scheme will help young people into work and spur Britain’s economic revival. The scheme will cover the wages (plus associated costs) of new jobs created for any 16 to 24-year-olds – who are at risk of long-term unemployment and claiming Universal Credit – for a six month work placement. 

The government will fully fund each “Kickstart” job by paying 100% of the age-relevant National Minimum Wage, National Insurance and pension contributions for 25 hours a week. Employers will be able to top up this wage and offer kickstarters' training and support to find a permanent job. The government will also help by paying employers £1,500 to set up support and training for people on a Kickstart placement. Any employers, regardless of size, can apply for funding. However, there are conditions that must be met including that the job placements created with Kickstart funding must be new jobs. 

Young people will be referred into the new roles through their Jobcentre Plus work coach with the first Kickstarts expected to begin at the start of November. The scheme, which will be delivered by the Department for Work and Pensions will initially be open until December 2021, with the option of being extended.

New edition of the employer bulletin

HMRC has released the latest issue of the 'Employer Bulletin' publication which includes summaries of recent changes and updates that have been announced which are relevant to employers and agents.

The topics covered in the latest edition include the following:

  • Coronavirus relief measures. Updates on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, COVID-19 Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme, Deferral of VAT payments, general Coronavirus guidance on supporting employees and a Benefits and Tax Credits Update.
  • Short term business visitor changes. HMRC’s rules for employers with short term business visitors (STBVs) from overseas branches or territories with which the UK does not have a Double Taxation Agreement changed from 6 April 2020. This is known as STBV Appendix 8. A number of changes have been made to HMRC’s guidance due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
  • Off-payroll working rules. The government has postponed the roll-out of off-payroll working rules to the private sector until 6 April 2021. This deferral was announced in response to COVID-19, to help businesses and individuals deal with the economic impacts of the pandemic and the government remains committed to introducing this policy.
  • COVID 19 – Salary Sacrifice. If an employee wishes to amend their terms and conditions of employment and opt out of a salary sacrifice arrangement directly because of the change in their circumstances due to COVID-19 (including furlough arrangements), this can be done. HMRC’s guidance includes further details.
  • Claiming Employment Allowance. The Employment Allowance increased by a third to £4,000 from 6 April 2020. The allowance is now only available to employers with employer NIC liabilities of under £100,000 in the previous tax year. Connected employers or those with multiple PAYE schemes will have their contributions aggregated to assess eligibility for the allowance.
  • Official Rate of Interest for the 2020-21 tax year. From 6 April 2020, the official rate of interest was reduced to 2.25% (from 2.5%). This interest rate is used to calculate the Income Tax charge on the benefit of employment related loans and the taxable benefit of some employer-provided living accommodation.