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The Quirky World of Self-Assessment Expenses: What Can and Can't Be Claimed



When the time rolls around for your self-assessment, the dilemma often faced is discerning exactly which expenses are permissible claims. While the basics like office rent, salaries, and utility bills might be straightforward, there exists a realm of bizarre and surprising expenses that raise eyebrows and can often lead to confusion. Let's embark on a journey into the lesser-trodden paths of the self-assessment landscape.


The Unexpectedly Allowable:

Every expense you claim must follow the 'wholly and exclusively' rule, meaning it must be wholly and exclusively for the sake of your business. This may sound straightforward, but you'd be amazed at some of the allowable claims under this rule.

For instance, ever thought dog food could be claimed? If your loyal canine companion doubles up as a security guard for your business premises, their sustenance can indeed be considered a legitimate business expense. However, your poodle probably doesn’t qualify.

For those in the entertainment industry, the lines between personal and professional blur quite often. Actors and stage performers can claim for wigs and costumes, items essential to their line of work.

If your work demands a specific uniform or costume that you launder at home, you might find some relief knowing the washing costs are deductible. No, this doesn’t include your favourite “casual Friday” jeans.


Renting out a part of your home for business purposes? Rent and utilities are indeed claimable, but be cautious. HMRC scrutinises these claims closely, and only the portion of your home used 'wholly and exclusively' for business can be considered.


The Alluring But Not-So-Allowable:

Now, not everything that seems business-related passes muster with HMRC. Many a businessperson has been caught out assuming that all client-related expenses are allowable.

Entertaining clients, for example, is a surprising no-go. The fancy dinners, theatre tickets, or golf outings with potential clients aren’t seen as necessary by HMRC.


Gym memberships, even for roles where physical fitness might be crucial (think actors or models), are not typically allowable. The rationale? Personal benefit trumps business necessity.

Discussing business strategy over a sumptuous personal dinner doesn't make it a business expense. Remember, 'wholly and exclusively' is the mantra.

And while travel expenses can often be claimed, your daily commute doesn’t qualify. Even if you're mentally preparing for that big meeting during the drive.


Treading the Fine Line:

Then there's the territory where the lines between personal and business aren't as distinct. When using assets like cars for both personal and business purposes, it's crucial to clearly demarcate and document the split. A meticulously maintained logbook can be a lifesaver here.

Working from home has its benefits, but when it comes to expenses like rent, mortgage interest, or utilities, only the exact portion used for business is claimable. Hence, having a dedicated workspace helps.

Subscriptions to magazines or memberships to professional bodies are a tricky area. Only those indispensable to your business qualify. So, your subscription to “Gourmet Monthly” probably won’t pass, even if you're in the food industry.


Self-assessment doesn’t have to be a daunting task. With a bit of knowledge, some diligent record-keeping, and an understanding of the quirks of the system, you can navigate the process confidently. Remember, while it's essential to claim all legitimate expenses, it's equally crucial not to stretch the boundaries of what's permissible.

Need help distinguishing between the quirky and the quintessential in your expenses? Let Carter Bookkeeping guide you. From the peculiar to the everyday, and the grey areas in between, we're here to ensure your finances are both optimised and compliant. Navigate the self-assessment maze with a trusted partner by your side.

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