An interesting case of home-to-work travel

Furnished Property

The tribunal recently ruled in a case involving what counts as business mileage. This decision might have serious and wide ranging consequences for taxpayers who have more than one place of work. What’s the full story?

Homeworking

The recent tribunal ruling in the case of Dr Samadian (S) could trigger a long overdue tidy up of the rules regarding the tax deductibility of travel expenses for the self-employed and those in partnership. If the judgment in this case is anything to go by there could be trouble ahead.

Work travel

S was employed by the NHS and also undertook private work as a doctor. He had an office at home where he did much of his self-employed private work. The remainder was carried out at two private hospitals where he was provided with facilities to do his work. He also worked as an employee at an NHS hospital. He often drove between his home and the various hospitals, between hospitals, and also between his home or hospitals and patients’ homes. As you can imagine he racked up a lot of mileage in the process.

Deductions claimed and allowed

He claimed a tax deduction for 65% of his journeys on the basis they related to his self-employed work, whereas HMRC said he was only entitled to claim for 6% of the journeys. The disputed ones were those made between:

  • home and the private hospitals
  • the NHS and private hospitals.

HMRC agreed that part of S’s business was to visit patients and travel costs in doing so were deductible. Therefore, the cost of travel between a hospital (NHS or private) and a patient’s home or other care location was allowed.

To and from home

The tribunal accepted that for his private work S had three places of business, his home and both private hospitals. Travel between his home and the private hospitals had a dual function: firstly for business, to get to or from a patient, and, secondly, to start or end from the place he lived. The rules say that a deduction can’t be claimed unless the reason for an expense is “wholly and exclusively” for business. The tribunal therefore rejected S’s claim for travel between his home to hospitals even though it was also a place of work.

Between NHS and private hospitals

The tribunal also ruled against S in respect of his claim for travel between NHS and private hospitals. Its reasoning was that these journeys weren’t part of S’s self-employed work, they only put him in a position to do it. By contrast, the tribunal considered that travel by S from his home to visit private patients was in the course of his work.

Implications of the decision

If S appeals this decision it will reignite the tricky question of when travel costs are tax deductible. In our experience tax inspectors take differing approaches on this, which has led to an uncomfortable balance. Hopefully, a hearing by a higher court might produce a long overdue precedent that both taxpayers, tax advisors and HMRC can stick to.