Contractor expenses are very simple to claim if you’re a limited company contractor working outside of IR35. If you are working inside IR35, the list of what you can claim is a little shorter (an accountant can help you with this).
HMRC’s rules state that expenses can be claimed to provide they are wholly and exclusively for the purposes of your business.
Remember: You must be able to provide evidence you actually incurred the expenses if HMRC ever asked you. This is usually achieved by keeping receipts.
Our contractor expenses frequently asked questions hub will answer the most commonly asked questions about contractor expenses.
What is the 24-month rule and how does it apply to me?
One of the most common expenses to claim as a contractor is for travel. The 24-month rule allows travel from home to a qualifying workplace for up to 24 months. A qualifying workplace assumes the workplace passes a basic ‘temporary workplace’ test. Such as:
- The contract will last less than 24 months
- The length of the contract is uncertain
- The length of the contract is less than 24 months, however, if the contract gets extended past 24 months then from the date of change travel expenses can’t be claimed.
The 24th month is calculated from when you first start travelling to your clients’ premises from either your home or office, until the end of the contract if it is less than 24 months or until you have reason to believe your contract may last over 24 months.
For example, if you were to start a new contract with a different department but your end client remained the same, the 24-month rule does not restart with the new department you are working in, it continues to run from when the first contract was started with the client.
If the original was for 12 months and then you were offered another contract for 14 months to run simultaneously, which you accepted you would not be able to claim travel expenses from the point you knew your time at your client’s site will exceed 24 months.
The 24-month rule goes hand in hand with the 40% rule. It’s not uncommon for a contractor to return to the same workplace but on a different contract within a 24 month period. The 40% rule means that as long as that premises has been your workplace for less than 40% of the time between the original contract start date and the new contract start date travel expenses can be claimed and can be continued to be claimed until the time spent at the workplace exceeds either 24 months or 40%.
Can I claim for the cost of a Christmas Party?
As a limited company contractor working outside IR35, you can claim expenses for a Christmas party.
Your Christmas party will be considered an annual event. An annual event is an allowable expense and is also treated as a tax-free benefit as long as you meet certain conditions such as:
- The price per head does not exceed £150. Even if you go 1p over the £150 the full amount will be subject to tax and National Insurance.
- Everyone in your company is invited.
- Partners are welcome to join you and will count for the £150 per head allowance.
The £150 a head allowance can be used at any time of the year and across multiple events, though it is recommended that you just have one event to make it simple to calculate the £150 per head allowance. If you do decide to have more than one event in the year, for example, a summer barbecue, you may need to justify to HMRC that they are annual events and not just a night with your employees.
Can I claim for the cost of entertaining clients?
You can claim expenses for entertaining clients. However, unlike an annual event, they will not be a tax-free benefit, as there is no Corporation Tax relief on entertaining. Although by claiming these costs as expenses through your company you will not be paying out of your taxed income or personally paying the costs.
Similar to any expense the cost needs to be reasonable and justified.
We've been providing expert accountancy advice and helping contractors to focus on doing what they do best since 1992. Our advisers are available to guide you through questions you may have on eligible expenses. Get in touch here.
Can I claim for the cost of accommodation?
As a limited company contractor, you can claim accommodation expenses when you are staying away from home due to work purposes. The only qualifying factor is that you have a permanent principal residence.
There is no limit to the amount you can claim back for accommodation, but the cost needs to be reasonable. For example, spending £300 a night on a hotel room wouldn’t exactly seem justifiable to HMRC. However, an £80 a night bed and breakfast would be perfectly acceptable. As long the cost is justifiable no questions should be asked.
This is similar to renting a furnished flat. Say you need to rent a hotel for a month as your contract required you to work away from your usual workplace for that period of time, a flat may be a cheaper and more convenient alternative. As long as the flat is to the same or less standard to that of your permanent residence, this could be a claimable business expense. Please note though, if your permanent residence is of a very high standard you may not be able to rent a flat of the same calibre and expense the full amount.
If you do decide to take a short-term lease out on a flat, it is advisable to set the lease-up in your company name and pay it ideally from your company bank account. The full cost of the lease should be allowed unless:
- The standard of the flat exceeds the standard of your permanent residence
- The contractors family is using the flat too
- The location of the flat is not near a temporary workplace.
Always remember that with any expense, a receipt must be kept for all transactions as proof of purchase, as HMRC may wish to see it as evidence that you actually incurred the expense.
Also, don’t forget that if you are an employee of your own limited company working away from home, a fixed sum of £5 per night (£10 for working abroad) may be claimed to cover incidental costs such as telephone calls, a newspaper or laundry.
Can I donate money to charity through my limited company?
You can qualify for Corporation Tax relief on the donation as long as it is made directly to a registered charity, which avoids you having to the take the money out of your company as a dividend. To fully benefit from the Corporation Tax relief, you need to make sure you do not make a tax loss as a result, your accountant will be able to help you to work this out.
Can I claim for work clothing?
This is one of those expenses where the rule ‘wholly and exclusively for business purposes’ definitely applies. If you feel the item has a dual purpose, unfortunately, you cannot claim this back as a business expense.
You cannot claim for daily work clothes, as these could be used for purposes other than for your company. For example, a suit could be used for work and for a social event, or a jumper to keep you warm on an outdoor contract could be used for other than work purposes.
Though you can claim for specialist clothing, say you need a pair of steel cap boots. You’re unlikely to wear the boots outside of company uses so these could be expensed to the company. This is the same with items such as safety helmets and protective clothing.
How much can I claim for mileage?
Mileage claims depend on whether the vehicle is company-owned or owned by you personally. If you personally own the vehicle, any travel to and from your temporary place of work can be claimed as an expense, at the following rates:
- First 10,000 miles in the tax year – 45p
- Over 10,000 miles in the tax year – 25p
These rates take into consideration the costs of running the vehicle and fuel costs.
If it is a company vehicle, how much you claim depends on the size of the engine. For example, for a petrol car with an engine up to 14,000, you can claim 11p per mile.
Mileage can also be claimed back as a passenger in car or van for any work journeys at a rate of 5p per mile.
If you use a motorcycle or a bicycle for work travel the mileage rates there is a flat rate of 24p per mile for a motorcycle and 20p for a bicycle.
Claiming for use of a home office
If you work from home, as in you use a room in your home for business purposes, you can claim for ‘home as office’ expenses.
The rate is currently set at £216 a year towards household expenses. No records need to be kept to claim back this allowance. This £6 is towards the extra cost of gas and electricity to heat and light your work area and towards work phone calls.
It is important to remember you can’t claim back any expenses which could have a dual purpose such as line rental and broadband.
You can claim over £216 in a year, however, you need evidence of why you are. This can be provided by estimating what percentage of your property the room you use is and the time you use it. You can then add up the cost of your gas, electricity, water, cleaning costs, home and contents insurance and telephone line standing charge.
For example, if this total is £1,000 a month and your room is 10% of your house. Then that room is worth £100 a month and then you use it for work 50% of the time you can claim back £50 per month in expenses for it.
If you do need to buy any office furniture, you may be able to claim it back through capital allowances. Strictly speaking anything you have to use in your work that is likely to last two years or more, there are some exceptions to this rule such as cars, vans, motorcycles and cycles, but generally anything that is wholly and exclusively for the use of the company and will last two years or more can be a company expense.
Guide to Contracting
IR35 Guide for Contractors