HMRC PUBLISH UPDATED GUIDANCE ON WORK TRAVEL

Travelling from home to an employee’s normal workplace does not qualify for tax relief. This is referred to as “ordinary commuting and, furthermore, if the costs of the journey are reimbursed by the employer, those costs are taxable. There are exceptions to this rule, in particular where the employer pays for the employee to travel home in a taxi safely late at night.

Travelling to a “temporary workplace” is a qualifying business journey and, where the costs are reimbursed by the employer, there is no taxable benefit. Note also that any associated subsistence costs such as overnight hotel accommodation costs are also a tax-free benefit. HMRC Booklet 490 provides detailed guidance on employee travel, together with comprehensive examples (this is an online document these days).

With more and more employees working from home these days, for at least one day a week, attention should be paid to the latest HMRC guidance on such arrangements.

WORKING FROM HOME 

Whether or not an employee’s home is a workplace does not affect the availability of tax relief for travel expenses. Travel expenses from home to a permanent workplace will only qualify for tax relief if the journey qualifies as travel in the performance of the duties of the employment.

Even though it may have been accepted that the employee’s home is a workplace, it does not necessarily follow that they’ll be entitled to tax relief for the cost of travel between their home and a permanent workplace.

This is because the place where an employee lives will ordinarily be down to their personal choice. The expense of travelling from their home to any other place is a consequence of that personal choice; not an objective requirement of the job.

HMRC guidance states that where an employee performs substantive duties of their employment at home as an objective requirement of the job, they may accept their home as a workplace for the purposes of the ‘travelling in the performance of the duties’ rule. Where this is the case, the employee will be entitled to tax relief for the expenses of travelling from home to other workplaces, as their travel is in the performance of their duties.

HMRC will usually only accept that working at home is an objective requirement of the job if the employee needs certain facilities to perform those duties, and those facilities are only practically available to the employee at their home.

HMRC state that they will not accept that working at home is an objective requirement of the job if the employer provides appropriate facilities in another location that could be practically used by the employee, or the employee works from home as a matter of choice.

Even where the employee works at home as an objective requirement of the employment, tax relief for the cost of travel between their home and their permanent workplace will only be due for travel made on days where the employee’s home is a workplace.

Only on those days is the employee travelling between 2 workplaces. On other days the employee is travelling between their home and a permanent workplace, which is ordinary commuting.

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