Dirty laundry??

Claiming Tax Relief For Cleaning Workwear

In a recent tax case, three taxpayers claimed tax relief for the cleaning costs of work clothes amounting to £2,200 a year.

HMRC disagreed.

The facts were interesting.

Each of the claimants worked in the drainage or sewage industry and in order to maintain personal hygiene they washed work clothing on a daily basis.

So why shouldn’t they claim for the costs of keeping their work clothes clean under these circumstances ?

Their claims were based on the purchase of sanitising and washing products, wear and tear on their home washing machines and an apportioned cost of home electricity charges.

But importantly, no receipts were kept.

To succeed with this tax claim, three criteria were required to be met:

  1. That the amounts claimed were actually paid by the claimants,
  2. That they were obliged to clean the clothes by their employers,
  3. That the amounts incurred were wholly and exclusively laid out for the purposes of their employment.

The First Tier Tribunal did not see any evidence that these three criteria had been met and they dismissed the claims. What they did agree, was that each appellant could claim HMRC’s £60 maximum cleaning allowance.

This case illustrates the importance of keeping evidence of expenditure. For example, keeping supermarket bills with the cleaning products highlighted would have helped.  Electricity is clearly more difficult as even if meter readings were taken when the washing machine was running it would be hard to realistically claim that no other appliances or lighting were also switched on at the same time.

Wear and tear of the washing machine would be impossible to claim. Its use would always fail as it was partly used for personal cleaning purposes – in other words the cost of the machine was not incurred wholly and exclusively for the purposes of their employment.

To stand a reasonable chance of success in their claim, it would appear that each would need to:

  1. keep receipts for purchases of cleaning products and somehow restrict its use to work clothes only,
  2. meter the electric supplied to the washing machine,
  3. install a washing machine that was only used for cleaning work clothes, and
  4. make sure that their contracts of employment required that they wash work clothes each day.

As always, the burden of proof is on the taxpayer, and evidence is vital to a successful claim.

However reasonable a claim may seem - after all who would not want to wash their work clothes each day if they had been crawling through sewers - without extensive proof that the expenditure qualifies, such a claim will fail.


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