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Is this end of Cost of Travel from home to work for Contractors and Freelancers?

As a self employed contractor or small business owner and working from home one of the major expense which you claim is cost of travel from your home office to your client place. How will you feel if you find out that this expense can no longer be claimed as business expense.

This is what happened with Dr. Samadian. The Upper Tier Tribunal have backed the decision of First Tier Tribunal where they have disallowed the cost of travel from home office to client place. Dr. Samadian have lost his appeal and so does hope for hundreds of thousands of contractors and freelancers.

Case Recap

S is an employed NHS doctor who also does private (self employed) work. He has a home office, which was base of operations for self employed business. He has 2 other bases located in private hospitals. The disputed tax deductions related to the cost of travel to and from all 3 bases of operation.

Ordinarily the cost of travel between various workplaces, in the course of employed or self employed work is tax deductible. Tribunal did allowed his travel costs between his bases between private hospitals. However, it refused a deduction where the travel started and ended at S's home. It considered that those journeys fell foul of a fundamental tax rule.

The reasoning for UTT refusal to allow the expense was the fundamental principle of wholly  and exclusively concept. Travel to S's home does involved dual purpose as this being his home as well. Even though S's home was his base of operations for his business, it was also his family home so any journey between the other bases and it had two purposes: personal and business. If the expense is not wholly and exclusively for business the business isn't allowed the tax deduction. This is simple.

The Tribunal did allowed S's cost from his home to Patient's home. The reason for allowing such costs  there was no regular pattern or frequent travel. This is where trouble begins. Many of our contractor and small business clients are travelling to client place on frequent and regular basis. They are on short term contracts and their travel usually fall within temporary workplace rule.

Issues?

  • What about the concept of temporary workplace rule and claims of travel made on those basis.
  • Can this extend to employees as well who work from home and visit same client on regular basis.
  • Concept of wholly and exclusively for those self employed who are working from home.

HMRC may start attacking travel expenses of most of the self employed working from home and travelling to client place regularly. Easy target I think will be contractors and freelancers working from home and visiting client place regularly and frequently. Its very hard to avoid regular pattern for such contractors.

Conclusion

Contracting industry is under huge pressure with so much legislation around them coming out almost on weekly basis. This is another blow to the industry and self employed business working from home.

Until the clear guidance is given on temporary workplace concept I suggest Contractors, Freelancers and small business whose main base is home should continue to claim travel expenses.  Yes there is some doubt on concept of wholly and exclusively as home being main base, this is not something new and have been going for some last 20 years. So I do not see this as new development and HMRC is well aware of this.

So before you stop claiming expenses and loose tax benefit I will wait for clarification on this area from HMRC.

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