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HMRC self-employed simplified expenses – a guide

4-minute read

HMRC self-employed simplified expenses – a guide
Catriona Smith / Josh Hall

Catriona Smith / Josh Hall

11 January 2021

Simplified expenses are a useful way for self-employed people to ease the pain of accounting and tax returns.

Bookkeeping and reporting can be complicated when you work for yourself. HMRC’s simplified expenses set a flat rate to make the claiming process easier and quicker for small businesses to manage.

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So what are simplified expenses, and who can use them?

HMRC simplified expenses – a quick-start guide

Simplified expenses let the self-employed calculate some of their allowable business expenses based on flat rates set by HMRC. This is instead of working out your exact expenditure, which can be a complicated process.

The self-employed allowable expenses list using flat rates includes:

  • business-related vehicle costs
  • working from home
  • costs if you live in your business premises

Simplified expenses may be suitable for those who have straightforward tax affairs and relatively few business expenses. It can also be useful if you drive a lot for your business.

However, it’s not the right option for everyone as calculating and reporting your actual outgoings may save you more money – check which method is best for you at gov.uk.

For all other costs, other than those listed above, you’ll need to work out exactly how much you’ve spent.

Simplified expenses can only be used by:

  • sole traders
  • business partnerships in which none of the partners is a company

If you’re set up as a limited company, or a partnership involving a limited company, you can’t use simplified expenses.

Simplified expenses and working from home

Running a business or freelancing from home can make calculating exact business expenses a challenge. This is because you’ll need to work out the proportion you use for business purposes, for example the hours you work and rooms you use.

With the simplified expenses scheme you can claim a flat rate for your home office expenses.

Using your home as an office

If you’ve made use of your home as an office for at least 25 hours a month, you can use this allowance for the following expenses:

  • rent
  • utilities
  • other similar costs

You can’t use it for internet or telephone expenses as you’ll need to work out the proportion used for business purposes.

The working from home allowance for the 2020/21 tax year is:

  • £10 a month if you work between 25 and 50 hours a month
  • £18 a month if you work between 51 and 100 hours a month
  • £26 a month if you work 101 or more hours a month

Simplified expenses mileage rates

If you use a vehicle for your business, you could claim simplified expenses rather than working out the exact cost of buying and running your vehicle.

HMRC mileage rates can be used for:

  • cars
  • vans
  • motorcycles

The simplified expenses scheme can’t be used for vehicle expenses if you’ve already claimed capital allowances, or if you’ve already included them as part of your business profits.

The simplified expenses mileage rates for the 2020/21 tax year are:

  • 45 pence a mile for cars and goods vehicles on the first 10,000 miles
  • 25 pence a mile for cars and goods vehicles over 10,000 miles
  • 24 pence a mile for motorcycles

This rate only applies to the use of these vehicles.

It’s important to note that once you start claiming simplified expenses for your vehicle, you must continue to do so for as long as it’s being used for business purposes.

You don’t have to use flat rates for all of your vehicles. If you have multiple vehicles used for work, you might choose to use flat rates for some, and work out exact costs for others.

Simplified expenses and living at your business premises

Some self-employed people live in their business premises – for example those running a bed and breakfast. In this case the process for calculating simplified expenses works slightly differently.

If you’re living in your business premises, you can use the HMRC flat rates to calculate a deduction from your total expenses related to the premises. This means you’ll still need to work out your exact costs, but you don’t have to work out the balance between personal and business use.

The simplified expenses flat rates for living in a business premises for the 2020/21 tax year are:

  • £350 a month if one person is living in the premises
  • £500 a month if two people are living in the premises
  • £650 a month if three or more people are living in the premises

For example, two people living full-time in a bed and breakfast can claim £500 multiplied by 12 months (£6,000) for the year. As their overall business premises costs are £20,000 a year, they can deduct the flat rate and claim the remaining £14,000 as a business expense.

Self Assessment allowable expenses

Simplified expenses are a way of working out some of your business expenses for Self Assessment using flat rates. For other tax-deductible expenses, you need to work out the actual costs.

Self Assessment – what can I claim?

Other allowable expenses mean you may be able to claim back certain expenses such as office supplies, travel, insurance, and financial costs.

For example, if you’re making train journeys or using other transport solely for business purposes, you can claim these costs as allowable expenses. This differs from the flat rate for vehicles mentioned above as you’ll need to work out the exact cost.

Read our guide on allowable business expenses to find out more.

Need some help with small business accounting?

As we mentioned above, the simplified expenses scheme isn’t right for everyone as you may save money by recording and reporting your exact costs.

As with everything related to your business taxes, it’s important that you seek advice from a qualified accountant before making a decision.

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We create this content for general information purposes and it should not be taken as advice. Always take professional advice. Read our full disclaimer

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