The first thing to understand about healthcare tax refunds is that not every mile you travel or pound you spend will count toward your claim. A daily commute to a permanent workplace, for example, won’t earn you any tax relief. To qualify for a refund, your work travel needs to be to and from what HMRC calls “temporary workplaces”. In practice, this generally means anywhere you work for less than 24 months. So, for example, a nursing job that requires you to travel out to patients’ homes could end up making you eligible for a pretty decent tax refund. Meanwhile, travel expenses can also include some subsistence costs while you're on the move. Things like accommodation and food can all contribute toward your claim.
There are also a few tricky points to consider. If you're travelling to a number of hospitals or clinics within the same general area, with your mileage and travel times not changing much, HMRC might consider the entire region your “permanent workplace”. It's always best to get professional advice in situations like these.
Rotational contracts, where you're working full-time at a series of hospitals over a period of years usually won't qualify. However, if your training takes place under, for example, a single 5-year contract, then things changes. In that case, each hospital you work at will count as temporary because it's a single employment with multiple temporary workplaces. The regulations are easy to trip over here, so it's often a good idea to get professional help.
If you're already getting some of your costs reimbursed by your employer, you may still be owed tax back. HMRC has set rates for Approved Mileage Allowance Payments (AMAP), and if you're not getting the full amount you can claim back the difference. The NHS has its own rates as well, if you're employed by them.
Beyond travel, there are several more ways a job in healthcare can cost you money. If you’re paying out of your own pocket for repair, replacement or even laundry of your work uniform, for instance, you could make a claim for those costs. The same goes for union dues and professional body fees to organisations like the Nursing and Midwifery Council.
The key points to remember are that the costs you’re claiming tax relief for need to be essential to your work, and you need to be paying them yourself. In addition, to get back everything you’re owed you’ll need to show proof of what you’re spending. That means records and receipts – although the simplified Flat Rate Expenses system can offer an easier way if you don’t mind sticking to HMRC’s figures.
If you find yourself buying things like laptops or office equipment for work use, you might have a claim under HMRC’s capital allowances system. This is generally for items that you’ll be using for a couple of years or more – and again, you’ll need to be footing the bill yourself for them to qualify for tax relief.