Self Employed Travel Expenses – Eligibility

Claiming travel expenses – whether public transport or using your own car (mileage or apportioned costs) – can be confusing. HMRC have been moving the goal posts over recent years (roughly 2013 onward), and the position is very different to that of earlier years

If someone has an entirely peripatetic working life and their business is run from home, then there are no restrictions on deducting business journeys and related costs against tax – these costs could be:

  • motoring – on actual costs or mileage
  • public transport
  • accommodation for overnight stays
  • subsistence / meals

By contrast if a self employed person has one or more regular places of work other than home then HMRC deem the travel is “regular and predictable” and it becomes home to work travel and hence not eligible for deduction.

Prior to 2013 the issue didn’t come up very often, only in egregious cases. Then in 2013 HMRC unexpectedly too the Samadian case to tribunal and won. This threw the issue of travel for the Self Employed up in the air, changing the existing status quo. Many people regard it as a bad ruling, but for now at least, its law. Briefly:

  • The Samadian case concerned a doctor travelling from an office at home to private hospitals; the private hospitals were considered “places of business”
  • It was also ruled he had a “place of business” at his home
  • It was held that the travel from home to the private hospitals had duality of purpose – thats to say it was home to work travel as well as travel between places of business (as his home was both a home and a place of business)
  • On the principle in Mallalieu v Drummond (a case ostensibly about clothing, but also about disallowing expenses with duality of purpose – those expenses not “wholly and exclusively” for business),
  • Travel to private hospitals, which was deemed “regular and predictable” (and disallowed) was distinguished from travel to see patients at their own homes which was allowed
  • “Travel expenses for journeys between home (even where the home is used as place of business) and places of business are treated as non deductible” (quote from tribunal)

The tribunal did re-affirm that expenses are allowable for itinerant working. They also said “The ‘wholly and exclusively’ test is to be applied pragmatically and with regard to practical reality”.

The tribunal report can be read as well https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/media/5765465ae5274a0da9000064/Dr_Samad_Samadian_v_HMRC.pdf This is a useful succinct summary

The law as it stands then, with Samadain being the latest precedent, requires a pragmatic view of reality:

  • are journeys “regular and predictable”
  • does the work you carry out at one particular place make it a “place of business”

Broadly the more time you spend at a place, and the less different places you work from, then the more likely that these places are “places of business” and the journeys “regular and predictable”

This does create practical issues as most people’s circumstances will be a blend of the extremes above – some regularity, but also an itinerant aspect.

Anyway, your judgement here will determine expenses you can claim.

Generally, our advice would be:

  • travelling to locations where you are employed under PAYE doesn’t count (you can never claim to travel to an employment)
  • travelling to one location which you rent or own for all or most of your classes doesn’t count
  • travelling to a number of different locations for teaching will be borderline – if they are erratic covers then maybe the element of predictability won’t be there, but if there is any regularity to your schedule the position is less more tenuous.
  • travelling to see business customers at home or their business counts
  • miscellaneous trips, eg to the bank, a supplier, trainings, count as business
  • the position is stronger if you carry heavy equipment in a car / van

Remember these rules apply to all travel costs, be they public transport, own car, taxis etc.