Evidence or assertion?

In a recent tax case, three taxpayers asserted that cleaning costs of work clothes amounted to £2,200 a year and HMRC disagreed.

The facts were compelling. Each of the appellants worked in the drainage or sewage industry and to maintain personal hygiene they washed work clothing on a daily basis. Why shouldn’t they claim for the costs of keeping their work apparel clean?

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. Importantly, no receipts were kept.

To succeed in their tax claim, the appellants needed to satisfy three criteria:

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 the HMRC’s £60 maximum cleaning allowance.

What this case illustrates is the importance of keeping evidence of expenditure. For example, keeping supermarket bills with the cleaning products highlighted. Electricity is more difficult as even if meter readings were taken when the washing machine was running it would be difficult to prove 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:

• keep receipts for the purchase of cleaning products and somehow restrict its use to work clothes only,

• meter the electric supplied to the washing machine,

• install a washing machine that was only used for cleaning work clothes, and

• 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 the key to a successful claim. However reasonable the assertion – who would not want to wash their work clothes each day if required to crawl through sewers – without proof that expenditure qualifies, a claim is likely to fail.

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