Q. I own a number of rental properties; a mixture of self-contained flats and houses. I’ve received an email from a property expert that says I can claim capital allowances as a percentage of the cost of these properties, which will produce a guaranteed tax refund for me. Is that true?
A. No, this is not true. Capital allowances cannot be claimed for equipment or fittings used within residential properties, which the Tax Office refer to as ‘dwelling-houses’. There is an exception for properties that qualify as furnished holiday lettings, when each letting must generally be for short periods of less than 30 days. If you make a capital allowance claim for your rental properties it may be passed by the Tax Office, under their ‘process now, check later’ system. But when the Tax Inspector checks your claim it will be refused, any tax refunded will have to be repaid with interest, and penalties will be charged. This can happen up to 20 years after you submitted the incorrect claim!
Q. My employer has given me a form P11D, which shows that I am taxed on the cost of my smart phone. I thought each employee could have one tax-free mobile phone, so why am I taxed on my only mobile phone?
A.Tax Officials think smart phones are computers rather than phones, so don’t want to apply the ‘one free mobile per employee’ rule, when the mobile phone is a smart phone. However, this can work in your favour if the private use of the smart phone provided by your employer is insignificant. Where any computer equipment is provided to you solely for work purposes, and there is no significant private use, there should be no tax charge. This tax-free treatment doesn’t apply where the contract for the mobile phone is in your own name and not the company’s name. Where the contract is not in the company’s name and your employer pays for your smart phone the cost is taxed as if it was part of your salary. To remedy this, make sure your next smart phone contract is made between your employer and the telephone provider and you are not a party to that contract.
Q. I work as a nurse in a NHS hospital. My professional organisation tells me I can claim tax refunds for the last 6 years, for the cost of the particular shoes and stockings I need to wear for work. Is there a limit on what I can claim?
A. There are set limits for such costs, known as flat rate expenses, which vary according to the taxpayer’s profession and work description. The full list of tax claimable flat rate expenses can be found here:http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/manuals/eimanual/EIM32712.htm. Nurses can claim £100 per year as a flat rate expense against their taxable income for uniforms without any receipts but in addition can claim £12 per year for the cost of shoes and £6 per year for stockings or tights. The £100 figure was £70 per year from 2004/05 to 2007/08. However, you need to make your claim quickly, as the deadline for claims relating to 2005/06 is 31 January 2012. The deadline for 2006/07 is 31 March 2012, and for 2007/08 it’s 5 April 2012. However those deadlines only apply if you were taxed under PAYE, and did not submit a self-assessment tax return for those tax years. If you did submit a self-assessment tax return for the year the claim relates to, your claims period is already limited to 4 years from the end of that tax year. In that case the earliest year you can claim for is 2007/08, and the claim must be received by HMRC by 5 April 2012.