A Guide to Claiming Umbrella Company Expenses

Chris Andreou

February 15, 2021

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What expenses can I claim for as an umbrella company contractor?

When you work through an umbrella company, there are a few types of expenses you may be able to claim for:

Client billable expenses

These expenses are agreed upon prior to the engagement, and are paid for by the end client or agency. 

Business costs

Business costs are expenses that are necessary for the performance of your work. 

Examples include professional materials (such as textbooks and manuals), training, electronic equipment and parking fees. These will be reimbursed tax and NICs free by your umbrella company. 

Non-client billable business expenses

These expenses won’t be reimbursed by the end client or agency, but can be claimed as allowable expenses from HMRC—provided that the expenses are incurred “wholly, exclusively and necessarily” in the performance of your work. 

Here are some examples of allowable expenses you can claim for: 

  • Mileage
  • Professional subscriptions
  • Protective clothing
  • Stationery, postage, phone and internet 
  • Business entertainment

What is the SDC legislation?

Introduced in April 2016, the SDC legislation was implemented to level the playing field between permanent employees and contractors or freelancers in relation to travel and subsistence expense rules. 

If a contractor is deemed to be under SDC, he or she won’t be able to claim tax relief on home-to-work travel and subsistence expenses

Defining SDC

SDC is defined as:

  • Supervision: Being overseen by a manager, supervisor or another individual when performing your work, so as to ensure that the work done is performed correctly according to the standard specified
  • Direction: Being provided with instructions, guidance or advice on how to perform your work. 
  • Control: Being dictated by another individual with the authority to decide where, how and what work you do. You’re deemed to be under control if someone else has the power to move you from one job or task to another.

How does SDC affect expenses I can claim for as an umbrella company contractor?

If you’re subject to SDC, you won’t be able to claim home-to-work travel and subsistence expenses. Bear in mind that expenses incurred during an assignment, such as an occasional trip to a different workplace (detached duty travel) aren’t affected by the SDC legislation.

What are travel and subsistence expenses?

Subsistence expenses refer to expenses for meals and other necessities incurred while an employee is away from a permanent workplace. 

These include expenses for food and drinks, accommodation, business phone calls, parking charges, tolls, mileage and other costs of travelling. 

Travel expenses are expenses incurred for: 

  • Travelling that is required for a contractor to perform his or her assignment
  • Trips made to and from a workplace (excluding normal commuting)
  • Trips made to and from a temporary workplace 

What is defined as a temporary workplace?

A worksite is considered to be a temporary workplace if a contractor’s period of engagement is less than 24 months, or if the contractor spends less than 40 percent of his or her time at the workplace. 

Are there exceptions to the rule?

The rule doesn’t apply if a worker’s services are provided wholly in the end client’s own home—such as when a contractor provides gardening or cleaning services in the home of a client. 

And if you’re under SDC, but are a mobile worker, you’ll be able to claim mileage for travel from one appointment to another. A mobile worker refers to an individual who works in multiple locations, works away from their normal workplace or doesn’t have a fixed workplace. 

What expenses can I claim for if I’m not subject to SDC?

You’ll be able to claim for the client billable, business costs and non-client billable business expenses we’ve outlined above. 

Additionally, each of your workplaces will be considered a temporary worksite. This means that you’ll be able to claim travel and subsistence expenses, provided that these are incurred wholly, exclusively and necessarily for the performance of your work.

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Other FAQs

How do I determine my SDC status? 

Your SDC status will be assessed by your umbrella company before the start of each assignment. 

In general, your provider should have a compliance team who will obtain information through a questionnaire about various aspects of your assignment—such as the level of experience needed, the level of supervision required and the amount of information or advice that will be provided. 

Your provider will then determine your SDC status, and provide recommendations about moving forward with the assignment. 

What’s the process for making expense claims?

Generally, you’ll be asked to upload expenses claims on a weekly or monthly basis, and your provider will reimburse client billable expenses and business costs. You may claim tax relief on-client billable expenses via Self Assessment tax return or the P87 form at the end of the tax year. 

Your umbrella company will have a process in place for handling expense claims. The process may vary across different providers; some may provide assistance or complete the necessary tax forms on your behalf—so this is something you’ll want to clarify when you’re speaking with a prospective umbrella company. 

What are record keeping requirements I need to know? 

Your umbrella company will require receipts or other evidence for expenses claims, so you’ll need to keep full records of your expenses. 

Additionally, these records should be kept for a minimum of six years, as you’ll need to show proof of your expenses in the event of an HMRC investigation. 

Download our Ultimate Expenses Guide

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