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United Kingdom Individual - Deductions

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Employment expenses

Necessary business expenses (which are very narrowly defined) can be deducted from employment income and are not taxable if paid for or reimbursed by the employer. Travel to and from work is regarded as a private rather than a business expense. However, individuals assigned away from their permanent places of work for periods of up to 24 months may claim relief for the travel and subsistence costs associated with attendance at the temporary workplace. Reimbursement for business entertainment and for qualifying removal and relocation expenses of up to GBP 8,000 are not normally taxable.

Personal deductions

Charitable contributions

Basic rate tax relief is available for gifts to UK charities under approved payroll deduction schemes and by way of outright money gifts and charitable payments made under deeds of covenant or under the gift aid scheme. Higher-rate taxpayers can again claim higher rate tax relief through their tax returns under the UK self-assessment regime.

The tax rate applied to death estates where the deceased leaves 10% or more of their estate to charity is 36% (normally 40%).

There is also a tax relief to encourage gifts of ‘pre-eminent works of art’ to the nation. The rules grant up to 30% relief on income tax or CGT to donors who give away major works of art or historical objects to the nation. The total value of tax reductions in this scheme, combined with the existing ‘acceptance-in-lieu’ scheme, which allows IHT to be paid using works of art, is GBP 30 million a year.

Expenses that do not qualify for tax relief

No relief against income is available for the following:

  • Alimony.
  • Medical expenses.
  • Social security contributions.
  • Council tax.
  • Other UK taxes.
  • Most insurance premiums.
  • Mortgage interest payments.
  • Fines and penalties (except for fines, such as parking penalties, incurred in the course of a trade).
  • Contingent liabilities.

Planning for retirement

Any UK resident individual who is under 75 can participate in a registered pension scheme. Contributions of up to GBP 3,600 can be made each tax year without any reference to the individual’s employment earnings. Tax relief at the basic rate is given at source. Higher and additional rate taxpayers can claim further relief through their tax returns under the UK self-assessment regime.

In addition to the consideration of the extent of any employment income, contribution tax relief is also restricted by the annual allowance, which is currently GBP 40,000 annually. It is also possible to carry forward unused annual allowance from the previous three tax years (where individuals were members of a pension scheme in those earlier years). Limits are also imposed for contributions made to, and the increasing value of, final salary schemes. Individuals who exceed the annual allowance may face an annual allowance tax charge. Where this charge is over GBP 2,000, they will in most cases be able to elect for their pension scheme to pay their charge in return for an actuarial reduction to their benefits within the scheme.

There is also a lifetime allowance of GBP 1 million. The lifetime allowance governs the amount of pension savings that can be accumulated by an individual tax efficiently in their lifetime. Any excess will be subject to a lifetime allowance tax charge.

Defined contribution (DC) pensions (e.g. personal pensions)

Since April 2015, new rules in relation to DC pension schemes have been in force. The new rules affect those over 55 who have a DC pension scheme, such as a personal pension. A DC scheme is one in which the pension you receive depends on the amount of money you, and/or your employer, have saved in the scheme.

Since April 2015, from the age of 55, whatever the size of a person's DC pension pot, they can take it as they wish, subject to their marginal rate of income tax in that year.

The first 25% of the money in the pot withdrawn is tax-free, and the rest is taxed as the top slice of income in the tax year of withdrawal.

Everyone with a DC pension will be offered free and impartial face-to-face guidance on the range of options available to them at retirement.

Pensions: Death before 75

If the individual dies before they reach the age of 75, they will be able to give their remaining DC pension to anyone completely tax free.

The person receiving the pension will pay no tax on the money withdrawn from that pension, whether it is taken as a simple lump sum, or accessed through drawdown.

Pensions: Death after age 75

Anyone who dies with a drawdown arrangement or with uncrystallised pension funds at or over the age of 75 is able to nominate a beneficiary to pass their pension to.

The nominated beneficiary is able to access the pension funds flexibly, at any age, and pay tax at their marginal rate of income tax.

There are no restrictions on how much of the pension fund the beneficiary can withdraw at any one time. Beneficiaries also have the option of receiving the pension as a lump-sum payment, subject to the tax charge of 45% (if the deceased was over 75). Lump-sum payments are subject to tax at the marginal rate (not a flat rate charge of 45%). 

Foreign pensions

At 5 April 2017, the tax treatment of foreign pensions was aligned, bringing foreign pensions and lump sums fully into tax for UK residents, in the same way UK pensions are taxed. This means that from 6 April 2017, 100% of foreign pension income is to be subject to UK income tax, abolishing the ‘90% rule’ (or 10% deduction). A number of other changes to specialist foreign pensions and situations have also come into force.

Personal allowances

Most UK resident individuals under the age of 65 are entitled to a tax free personal allowance, which is GBP 11,500 for 2017/18. The basic personal allowances are subject to limits based on income levels. Where an individual’s gross income exceeds GBP 100,000, the amount of the personal allowance will be reduced by GBP 1 for every GBP 2 earned above GBP 100,000. Based on the 2017/18 personal allowance, this will mean that an individual with adjusted net income of GBP 123,000 or more will not benefit from a tax free personal allowance. Adjusted net income is total income less certain deductions, such as trading losses, pension contributions, and gift aid, but before deduction for contributions to trade unions or police organisations.

Married couples and those in civil partnerships are entitled to a married couple’s allowance where either member of the couple was born before 6 April 1935. The allowance is GBP 8,445 for 2017/18, but relief is limited to 10% of the allowance and is therefore of limited benefit. The couple may elect to divide the married couple’s allowance between them equally or to allocate it wholly to either one.

Individuals who claim the remittance basis of taxation do not qualify for a personal allowance (see The remittance basis of taxation in the Taxes on personal income section for more information).

Married couples allowance

Since April 2015, an individual who is not liable to income tax or not liable above the basic rate for a tax year is entitled to transfer GBP 1,000 of their personal allowance to their spouse or civil partner, provided that the recipient of the transfer is also not a higher rate income taxpayer.

Business deductions

A wider range of expenses can be claimed by self-employed individuals as long as they are 'wholly and exclusively for the purposes of the trade'. Expenses incurred when entertaining clients or potential clients are not tax deductible. Capital items will not get an immediate deduction in the year they are purchased, but certain items may qualify for deductions spread over a number of years under the capital allowances regime. Depreciation recorded in the accounts is not tax deductible. Bad debts incurred in the course of business are allowable for tax purposes. Loans to employees that have been written off are specifically not allowable.

The accruals and prepayment basis of calculating expenses for accounting purposes (i.e. preparation of the business profit and loss account) is generally accepted for tax purposes. Exceptions include accrued emoluments to employees, which must be paid within nine months of the year end. In addition, pension contributions are only tax deductible on a paid basis. The rules for accounting for contingent liabilities and provisions have been tightened up by Financial Reporting Standard 12. Consequently, a tax deduction is only allowable for provision for which there is a present obligation as a result of a past event which will probably be incurred in the future and can be reliably estimated. Specifically, this means that a tax deduction for future repairs is not permitted except where an asset is held under an operating lease. A tax deduction cannot be taken for future operating losses, and future restructuring costs are only permitted where at the balance sheet date the business has a detailed formal plan for the restructuring and expectations have been raised that changes will take place (e.g. by informing all employees).


Losses may be sustained by individuals carrying on a trade, profession, or vocation. These trading losses are generally computed according to the same rules that apply in computing taxable profits. The main ways of obtaining relief for trading losses are by setting losses off against general income of the same tax year or preceding year and by carrying the losses forward against subsequent profits of the same trade. There are also special rules for using losses in the first and last years of a business and against capital gains. Relief can also be claimed against income for losses on shares in unlisted trading companies.

Losses sustained in an employment or office (which would be unusual) can be set against general income (i) of the tax year in which the loss is incurred, (ii) of the tax year preceding that in which the loss is incurred, or (iii) of both those tax years.

Cap on income tax reliefs

Income tax reliefs not subject to a specific restriction are capped. The cap is GBP 50,000 or 25% of an individual’s income, whichever is greater.

Charitable donations are excluded from the cap to make sure that there is no impact on charities.

The reliefs affected by the cap include income loss reliefs that can be claimed sideways against general income, and qualifying loan interest relief.

The cap is (i) not extended to those reliefs that are already subject to their own cap and (ii) only applied to those reliefs that are used to reduce the amount of general income liable to tax. Reliefs that do not meet both these criteria are not affected by the cap.

The legislation states that share loss relief on EIS shares and seed EIS shares are not capped.


  • Buy to let mortgages do not come under the cap; qualifying loan interest relief is a deduction against rental income.
  • Losses on unincorporated property development businesses that have previously been available to offset against other income are subject to the cap. These changes may mean incorporating the business is an attractive prospect although there may be other reasons not to do so.
  • Pension contributions are already capped and so are not affected by this measure.

Transactions with related parties

Transactions between connected persons, or made not at arm's length, are generally regarded as made for a consideration equal to open market value (subject to special treatment for transfers between spouses or civil partners living together). Where an asset is disposed of to a connected person (other than the individual's spouse or civil partner) and a capital loss arises, the loss may not be set against general gains but only against a later gain on a transaction with the same connected person. There are specific rules for disposals on different occasions within a period of six years to one or more connected persons.

Last Reviewed - 03 July 2017

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