Millions of taxpayers in the UK wear a uniform to work and, whether they're aware or not, can claim a tax rebate on them. The rules for what is considered uniform and what's not can be slightly unclear at times. Therefore, many people out there don't know that their work attire qualifies for tax relief and are missing out on hundreds of pounds worth of tax refunds.
Unfortunately, you cannot claim tax relief on the costs of purchasing the uniform. But you can certainly claim a tax rebate on the costs of maintaining these work uniforms – this includes costs of washing, repairing, or replacing them.
The words "tax rebate" might make you think it's a lengthy process with lots of paperwork and receipts. But for most people in most industries, that couldn't be farther from the truth.
In this article, we'll explore what conditions need to be met to qualify for a uniform tax rebate, how to file a claim, how much you can expect to receive, and much more.
Claiming a tax rebate on your uniform is done using the catch-all expenses P87 form. If it's your first time claiming and your costs were less than £1,000, you can do it online. But, if you're claiming for multiple years, you will have to print and fill one form for each tax year and send it by post.
If you've claimed before, your tax code will usually be adjusted to reflect the tax rebate. You can call the HMRC phone lines to reclaim it if your tax code hasn't changed. However, for claims above £1,000, you will have to print the P87 form and send it by post.
There's a lot of confusion about what is considered uniform and the conditions for claiming a tax rebate on it since you can't claim on all clothing you wear at your workplace. For example, you can't claim tax relief on the suit you wear to your office, even though your boss requires you to wear it. For a uniform to be eligible for a tax rebate, all of the following conditions must apply:
- Your uniform has to be a particular type of clothing that identifies you as having a specific job. A police uniform, nurse scrubs, firefighter bunker gear, or a company-branded t-shirt are examples of this. If you wear your uniform out in public and are instantly recognised as an employee in a particular industry or for a specific company, you would satisfy this condition.
- You are required to wear your uniform whilst you work. You can claim a full year's tax relief even if you only wore the uniform once; you had to buy the uniform for that one day and would therefore qualify for a tax refund.
- You are responsible for costs associated with cleaning, replacing, or general upkeep of the uniform. However, suppose your employer washes your uniform for you, compensates you for the costs, or provides the facilities to do so. In that case, you cannot claim tax relief. This also applies if you don't use the cleaning facilities; you have to be solely responsible for the maintenance costs to claim a tax refund on the costs.
- You paid tax on your PAYE wages for the year you're claiming for. Since this is a tax rebate, of course, you would have to be a taxpayer in the year you are claiming tax relief for – you can't claim tax back if you haven't paid Income Tax that year.
Many people lose out on money they can claim back simply because they're unaware that they are eligible to do so. If these four conditions are met, you can claim a uniform tax rebate and make back some of your money.
Unfortunately, the uniform tax refund doesn't apply to personal protective equipment (PPE) at work. If PPE is required in the workplace – for instance, safety helmets, goggles, or high-vis workwear, the onus is on the employer to pay for it. If the employee pays for it, it's the employer's responsibility to reimburse the employee for the total cost, and the employee cannot claim additional uniform tax relief on this protective clothing.
Those who are self-employed cannot claim via the rebate as it only applies to those under the PAYE tax return system. However, they can still get tax refunds on their uniforms, something we'll discuss later in this article.
Also, those in the armed forces will be ineligible to claim tax relief on uniform maintenance costs. Instead, these costs will be accounted for in the service member's tax code, which will be increased accordingly to reimburse them.
Keeping track of your spending habits when it comes to uniforms can be a bit of a nightmare. To truly calculate how much you spend on maintaining the uniform, you'd need to figure out information such as how much laundry detergent you're using when washing it and how much water and electricity bills were spent on it.
As you can imagine, that's pretty much impossible. And HMRC recognises this, so they generally issue flat rates for uniform expenses. This not only makes your life much easier since there's less to calculate, but it's less work for HMRC as well.
For most people in most lines of work, HMRC estimates that it costs £60 every year to maintain their uniforms. This is called the standard flat-rate allowance, and you are eligible for a tax refund on that £60. How much you receive will be dependent on what tax band you are in. Basic rate taxpayers who pay 20% in taxes are entitled to a tax rebate of £12 (20% of £60). On the other hand, higher rate taxpayers who pay 40% in taxes are entitled to a tax rebate of £24 (40% of £60).
The above calculations hold true for most industries; however, there are specific occupations in specific sectors that are eligible for much higher tax reliefs. For instance, those in the police force have a maximum standard uniform tax allowance of up to £140 each year. Basic rate taxpayers can claim back £28 each tax year, and higher rate taxpayers can claim back £56. Nurses and midwives have an allowance of £125, meaning basic rate taxpayers can claim back £25 (higher rate £50), and they can also claim tax relief on costs for replacing shoes, underwear, and socks.
Some other examples include the following:
- Airline: Pilots, co-pilots get an annual allowance of £1,022 (basic rate taxpayers can claim £204, higher rate taxpayers can claim £408)
- Healthcare: Ambulance staff get an annual allowance of £185 (basic rate taxpayers can claim £37, higher rate taxpayers can claim £74)
- Agriculture: All workers get an annual allowance of £100 (basic rate taxpayers can claim £20, higher rate taxpayers can claim £40)
The complete list can be found here.
What if the standard flat-rate allowance isn't enough?
If you find that you're paying much more than a "normal" person would and HMRC's estimate is off, you can get a tax rebate on the actual amount you've spent. However, this is a lot more complex than if you went with the standard flat rate.
In order to claim a tax rebate on your actual costs, you would have to have receipts and proof of how much you've spent in each tax year. Of course, this is much easier to do if you only wash your uniforms at a laundrette, for instance, but keeping receipts and paperwork would be necessary to prove your costs.
Absolutely! If for whatever reason, you didn't claim for years gone past, HMRC states that you can claim back money for up to four years, so it's not too late. This means that including the current year's allowance, it would be five years in total – from the 2018/19 tax year all the way to the current 2022/23 tax year.
It's best to make the most of this and claim for as many of those four years as you can since those tax refunds will undoubtedly add up, especially for an entire four year period. Hopefully, when that tax refund hits, it will make up for the time and effort put into keeping your uniforms looking sharp throughout the years.
A basic rate taxpayer can claim a total of £60 for all four years and £120 for higher rate taxpayers. However, the deadline to claim a uniform tax rebate for the 2018/19 tax year is on 5 April 2023 so ensure you don't leave it too late.
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When you consider the annual allowance that workers in other industries receive, claiming tax relief for the current and previous four years can result in a significant reimbursement from HMRC.
Typically, HMRC will adjust your tax code to reflect uniform tax rebates for the current tax year. This means you'll be taxed less, and your take-home pay will increase slightly. But if you're claiming for past tax years, HMRC will either adjust your tax code or directly give you a tax refund.
But before making any changes, HMRC will send you a letter to verify that they have received and processed your uniform tax rebate claim, how much you're entitled to, and information on when you can expect to receive the tax refund.
Uniform tax rebate in the context we've described in this article only applies to those who are employed and operate under PAYE. But that's not to say you can't claim tax relief in other ways.
Uniforms and PPE are considered allowable business expenses. So when it comes time to do your Self Assessment tax return, you can include these as essential business costs in order to bring your total tax bill down.
So there you have it. As long as your uniform identifies you as working for a specific company or in a particular role, you are solely responsible for cleaning and general upkeep of your uniform, and you paid tax in that fiscal year, you will be eligible for a uniform tax rebate.
Depending on which industry you work in, which tax band you are in, and how many years you're claiming for, you could be looking at a couple of hundred pounds in tax refunds.