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Sure as night follows day, when spring rolls around conference centre doors fly open and fill up with excited professionals wanting to learn, network and collect free branded pens.
A common question posed at this time of year is: “What expenses can I claim when I go to a conference?”. Well, the good news is that – provided the conference is for business purposes, and not to indulge your passion for philately – the majority of the expenses you incur will be legitimate business expenses which you can reclaim.
HMRC doesn’t issue definitive lists of allowable expenses, on the basis that every business’ needs will vary, and a totally superfluous luxury for one freelancer may be an everyday necessity for another. Instead, they provide guidance on what you should and shouldn’t claim. The rule of thumb for business expenses is that they must be “wholly and exclusively” used for your business.
For business conferences, this means the cost of tickets are covered, as is travel to and from where the conference is taking place (although bear in mind HMRC may begin to raise eyebrows if you try to claim First Class return airfare – see their guidance here) and accommodation for the duration of the conference. Again, keep the “wholly and exclusively” rule in mind – you’ll be causing trouble for yourself if you claim for a week at the Mandarin Oriental to attend a two-day telesales conference in Croydon (more HMRC guidance here).
At a conference, food expenses are covered, plus any day-to-day costs such as hotel wifi or taxi fares. Keep in mind that alcohol isn’t an allowable expense, no matter how much you might need a drink after a long day on the show floor.
See out complete guide to business expenses for a useful list of some allowable expenses to give you a more general idea of claimable items.
Legally, all expense receipts must be kept for six years. If you’re one of the lucky few selected for an HMRC investigation, you must provide invoices, receipts and records for every single claim you’ve made. It’s important to remember to get a receipt for absolutely everything (cab rides in particular are often overlooked) and store them somewhere safe. Unfortunately, as anyone who has ever bought a rail season ticket will tell you, a receipt will fade to nothingness in just a few months, let alone six years!
This is where our handy expense attachments become invaluable. Simply take a picture of a receipt and upload it as an attachment to an expense and we’ll keep it safe for you.
We love a good conference, and encourage anyone and everyone to get themselves along to events covering their sector. Plus, they’re that much more enjoyable when you know the cost is being offset against your Corporation Tax!