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A straightforward guide to claiming lunch expenses from HMRC

August 22, 2021by The PAYE People

During the course of your working week, you’ll often find yourself getting your wallet out to pay for something. Some of these are just things you must accept as part of the cost of working. The cost of your weekly bus ticket, for example – unfortunately, it’s just one of those things we all have to endure!

In other cases, however, the money you spend for work reasons can be claimed back through a discount on your tax bill. This can include things like lunch expenses.

In this post, we’ll be focusing on employees who spend money on food while travelling for work. While business owners and the self-employed are often well aware that they can pay less on tax as a result of their lunch expenses, a significant amount of employees aren’t aware that the same can apply to them.

We’ll give you all the information you need to work out if you’re eligible for claiming lunch expenses from HMRC in the form of a tax rebate.

Tax relief for employees

Firstly, let’s stress a very important point: there are lots of work-related expenses that entitle you to claim tax relief.

Tax relief is simply a discount on your tax bill. This discount is usually applied retrospectively, meaning you’ll get some money back at the end of the year. This is done through a tax rebate, which is simply a refund for your overpaid tax.

Relevant expenses include things like:

And it’s this last point where your lunch expenses come into play. If you’re travelling for your work, you’re going to need to sustain yourself while you do so. HMRC recognises that these costs – so-called “subsistence” costs – can be substantial. After all, we’ve all seen the price of food from a service station! So, they’ll allow you to claim some of the cost back in a tax rebate.

But how do you go about claiming lunch expenses from HMRC?

Firstly, we need to look at a few conditions around work-related travel – what counts and what doesn’t.

Then we’ll be able to give you a clearer sense of what you can claim and how to go about it.

A service station with coffee and food selections.

What is work-related travel?

The first thing to stress is that your daily commute does not count as work-related travel. This is classified as “travel to your work” as opposed to “travel for your work” – and only the latter is factored in for any tax relief claims.

However, if you are, for example, a service engineer based in a central office but making visits to particular sites during the course of the day, this would be work-related travel. It’s travel that you do as part of your daily work tasks, rather than to get to work in the morning or head home at the end of the day.

There is an exception, however. If you must attend a so-called “temporary workplace”, you can claim for the cost of commuting to and from this workplace. A temporary workplace is broadly defined as somewhere you’re required to attend for “tasks of a limited duration” – less than 48 months consecutively.

Claiming lunch expenses from HMRC

Okay, so we’ve established what counts as work-related travel. Let’s turn to meal expenses.

This is probably a fairly obvious point, but let’s get it out of the way first: your meal expenses have to be reasonable in order to claim them back from HMRC. If you pop into a Michelin-starred restaurant while you’re travelling for work and try to claim the costs for this in tax relief, HMRC will likely take a very dim view.

Secondly, you can’t claim the costs of food you purchase immediately after leaving home or just before arriving back again. This would generally be considered a personal choice rather than a necessary work expense.

Thirdly, if you prepare food at home to take with you, this also wouldn’t entitle you to tax relief, even if you eat the food during your journey.

Finally, you won’t be able to claim if your employer already reimburses you the full cost for your meal expenses. However, if they only reimburse you part of the cost, you may be able to claim the rest in tax relief.

However, if you are buying and eating a sandwich to keep you going while you are out and about on work-related duties, the cost of this may well allow you to get a refund on your tax bill.

A service station showing how claiming lunch time expenses is possible.

How to make a claim

So, we’ve established the reasons for which you can claim your lunch expenses from HMRC.

But how do you actually go about doing it?

Claiming your lunch expenses from HRMC involves filling out a P87 form. You can access this form through HMRC’s website.

When filling out the form, you’ll need to provide some details – the dates and destinations of your journeys, for example, and receipts for the meals you’ve bought.

(If you don’t have receipts, all is not lost – you can use your bank statements as evidence.)

It’s also worth remembering that you can claim a rebate for the last four years’ worth of tax payments. So, if you’ve been doing a lot of travelling for work in recent years, you could be owed a fairly substantial sum! This is even more so the case if you’re eligible for other kinds of tax relief from the list we gave above.

Of course, you may also be a bit confused or overwhelmed about the whole process. The regulations can be very complex, and you may feel anxious about filling out the forms incorrectly. You may not be sure about what you are allowed to claim, or if you’re even entitled to claim at all.

Read on below to find out an easier way to claim your lunch expenses from HMRC – and everything else you might be owed, while you’re at it!

Get in touch with The PAYE People

When it comes to tax relief, it’s important that you don’t let the confusion or difficulty of making a claim put you off. After all, it’s your hard-earned money that you’re owed back. It’s important you don’t just decide to forget all about it.

The easiest way to get back all the tax you’re owed is to get in touch with our expert team here at The PAYE People. With an in-depth knowledge of HMRC’s rules, we can give you a clear sense of exactly what you’re eligible to claim. Not only that, but we can take over the claims process for you. We’ll help you gather the necessary evidence, fill out all the forms properly.

We offer free consultations, so if you think you may be owed a tax rebate, get in touch today. We can discuss the specifics of your situation and help you understand if you’re owed money. If we think you are, we can take over the claim on a no-win, no-fee basis. If you don’t get a refund from HMRC, you won’t owe us a penny.

To get in touch, simply fill out the contact form on our website, or give us a call on 0333 344 4599.

The PAYE People

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