Question:

“I am a self-employed photographer and occasionally travel overseas for photo-shoots which require me to pay my own travel costs. On a recent two-day shoot in the Caribbean I stayed a further week after my work had finished where my family joined me for a holiday before we all flew back to the UK together. What travel costs are allowable as a deduction on my tax return?”

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Answer:

For the most part travel that is not wholly and exclusively for the purposes of trade is disallowable for tax purposes. However there is scope where the business element can be clearly identified and is a reasonable portion of the overall travel costs, to allow this part of the costs.

In the case of the Caribbean trip obviously the final seven days accommodation and meals coupled with the travel costs of the family are not allowable for tax. With regard to the other two days accommodation and meals these would be allowable for tax as the costs were incurred wholly and exclusively for the purposes of the photo shoot. If the accommodation for the nine days was booked initially then a simple pro-rata of this would suffice.

The grey area surrounds the flight costs; obviously those incurred in transporting the family to and from the Caribbean are not allowable. With regards to your flights HMRC will consider the primary purpose of the trip. With the trip being a business trip and a family holiday added on there will be no issue with the outbound flight. The timing of the booking of the return flight is likely to be crucial in determining whether this element is allowable. If both outward and return flights were booked with the sole intention of the work element of the trip lasting the full nine days then both flights will be considered allowable. If, however, the return flight was booked separately or booked with the intention of a holiday then this element should be disallowed.

The issue of travel costs with personal and business elements is a complicated area. We suggest that should you be in any doubt you should seek the assistance of an accountant.

You might want to also check out our guide on typical business expenses for the self employed.