Disallowable Expenses Explained

Understand which types of costs are disallowable expenses, the rules set out by HMRC as to what can and can’t be expensed in a business and how to handle them when filling in self-assessment tax returns (SA100 form).

Updated 22 August 2021

This advice in this guide is for This guide is individuals registered as self-employed. Different rules apply if you have a Limited Company and pay corporation tax.

1. What are HMRC Disallowable Expenses?

Disallowable expenses are things that you pay for but cannot be claimed as a tax deduction, even though you may feel they were paid for as part of running your business.

2. Examples of Disallowable Expenses

Here are some common HMRC disallowable expenses:

2.1 Travel from Home to Your Office

If you have chosen to rent an office or space from which to base yourself from then any travel between your home to your office is not an allowable business expense. Read this separate guide to find out more about claiming business travel when you’re self-employed.

2.2 Client Entertainment

It may be entirely work-related but client entertainment is a disallowable expense.  There are circumstances where you can buy a gift for your clients and can claim this as an allowable expense. But if you take them out for a meal, even if it is to win a new contract or secure a business relationship, these costs cannot be claimed as an expense against your taxes.

2.3 Fine and Penalties

Any fines and penalties that you pay are disallowable. That includes things like:

2.4 Clothing

There are certain circumstances where someone who is self-employed can claim clothing on their tax return clothing as an allowable expense. You can claim for clothing as an expense if it is:

  • a uniform;
  • protective clothing that you need for your work;
  • costumes because you are an actor or entertainer.

Anything other types of clothing will most likely be considered a disallowable expense, which includes everyday clothing or business suits. Read this separate guide to find out more about claiming for clothing when you’re self-employed.

2.5 Lunches

Everyday lunches cannot be claimed as an expense against your self-employment taxes. But if you are out and about, away from your normal place of work, then you may be able to claim for your lunches. Read this separate guide to find out more about claiming for food if you’re self-employed.

2.6 Training for New Skills

Whilst you can expense any training you do to improve your skills and keep you on top of your game. Training costs for learning new skills are a disallowable cost (although you may be able to claim these when you set up your new business).

2.7 Salary

For those that are registered as sole traders, any salary paid to themselves is a disallowable expense. That means any tax is calculated on business turnover minus allowable business expenses (excluding any money drawn as salary).

3. Disallowable Expenses Cheat Sheet

Subscribe for an allowable and disallowable cheatsheet with a list of things sole traders can and can’t claim against their taxes.


4. Handling Disallowable Expenses on Self-Assessment Tax Returns

Disallowable expenses cannot be claimed against self-employment taxes and incorrect claims can result in HMRC penalties. Disallowable expenses can simply be excluded when filling in a tax return, whether total expenses are being entered as a single figure in the short-form self-employment section or as a breakdown.


About Anita Forrest

Anita Forrest is a Chartered Accountant, spreadsheet geek, money nerd and creator of www.goselfemployed.co - the UK small business finance blog for the self-employed community. Here she shares simple, straight-forward guides to make self-employment topics like taxes, bookkeeping and banking easy to understand.