Teachers often pay for extras to help with the classroom job. Subscriptions to professional bodies, union fees, or the purchase of specialist clothing and equipment all add up. Happily, some tax breaks are available. If you're a teacher, you can claim a tax refund for expenses that are wholly to do with your work and necessary for the job. You can even make a backdated claim; as of 2013, the time limit for doing this is four years.
You can claim tax relief on your annual membership subscription if you belong to a teaching union. The amount you can claim varies with your particular union. This is because each union struck an individual deal with Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) service. Contact your local union representative to find out the details.
You can claim tax relief on fees and subscriptions to professional bodies too, such as the Association for Science Education. HMRC maintains a list of approved organisations, so check the list on the HMRC website.
Specialist equipment and clothing
You can claim tax relief on any sports equipment and clothing that you need to buy in order to do your job. You are not eligible to claim for any sports gear you use outside of work, though.
You cannot claim expenses for your daily commute, but there are some circumstances when you can claim for travel; for example, if you are a peripatetic teacher and have to travel between schools during the working day. Similarly, if your school is on a split site and you have to journey between locations in your working day, you may be able to claim expenses for those journeys.
What you cannot claim
Although you may spend time at home preparing lessons or marking course work, you cannot claim for home office expenses, such as electricity or computers. HMRC takes the view that you could stay behind at school to do this work and that you don't have to do it at home.
Gather all the proof you can lay your hands on to back up your claim. This includes any relevant receipts, but also bank statements that record specific payments or purchases. HMRC may ask to see documentary proof of all the expenses you wish to claim. Use your receipts and bank statements to work out the total you have spent on expenses over a given year.
Making a claim
To make a new claim, contact HMRC by letter. Write to your local tax office or use the contact details webpage given in the Resources section of this article to find an address. In your letter, say which expenses you wish to claim, the years covered by the claim and how much your claim comes to in total. HMRC will respond by sending you form P87 to fill out.
Complete form P87 and return it to HMRC. Tax officials should then process your claim and refund any tax owing to you. Sometimes, the tax office may contact you to ask for receipts to prove your claim, but you do not normally have to submit them with your form.