The tax refund figures are in, and things are looking up!

At RIFT, we love numbers. We use them for everything. We crunch them all day and dream about them all night. That's why we're always up to the challenge of squaring off against the taxman. Right now, for instance, we're seeing a significant rise in our customers' tax refunds for travel. That's great, but it's not enough for us. We don't just want to notice the numbers going up; we want to understand them, too. So let's take a look at what's actually going on here...

Did you know? There are millions travelling 2 hours plus to work!

An incredible 3 million of us are spending over 2 hours getting to work each day. That's over 70% more than 10 years ago!

The number commuting 3 hours or more is close 900,000. That's a 75% increase over the same period.

Tax refunds are on the rise. Here's why you might be losing out

Let's narrow it down to take a closer look. RIFT has been helping British workers claw back cash from the taxman since 1999. In the last 5 years, the average refund our customers have been getting has been going up. There are lots of possible reasons for this, and they're not all good news.

For one thing, the costs of work travel are on the rise. People are commuting further, and spending more cash to do it. If they aren't making the most of the tax relief they're entitled to, that's a lot of money wrongly vanishing into HMRC's pocket.

What's more, the construction industry's starting to feel the effects of a serious skills shortage. There aren't enough skilled workers coming into the trade, so the existing ones are travelling more to fill the gap. More travel means higher refunds, but it's not necessarily a healthy sign for the industry.

Did you know it might not be too late to get what you're owed?

You're not stuck claiming for just a single year at a time. If you've missed out on a tax refund in the last 4-years, you can still make a claim for it now.

An average 4-year refund claimed through RIFT comes to £2,500. It's your money, so you'd be crazy not to ask for it back!

The good news - and the bad news hiding behind it

One great thing about the leap in refund sizes over the last few years is that word is getting around. The more people get back the money HMRC owes them, the better, so we work hard to keep those numbers heading in the right direction.

A big part of that is helping people claim their refunds year on year. Your first claim can be a tricky one. You might not have stashed all the receipts and paperwork to back up your whole claim, for instance. Maybe you didn't keep exact records of all the places you worked. Once you've got your sea legs, though, your second claim's usually a lot easier. This time you're prepared, and your refund goes up as a result.

Long commutes aren't good for your health

There's another side to it, though. Spending more time travelling isn't necessarily much healthier for commuters than for the industries they work in. Long commutes can tax more than your bank account, and stress can be a real problem.

In fact, construction workers are 10 times as likely to commit suicide than they are to die in a work accident. It can be a tough trade, mentally as well as physically, so be sure you're not pushing yourself too hard. If you need help, or know someone that does, have a look at the Mates In Mind initiative set up by by the Health in Construction Leadership Group and the British Safety Council

Did you know? It's true - women do have it worse

Studies report that commuting too far to work can takes years off your life -particularly for women.

One Swedish study found that women travelling over 30 miles to work could expect to die sooner. Furthermore, there's been a 131% increase in the number of British women commuting 3 hours or more a day since 2004.

What's your travel refund story?

Not everyone faces the same challenges, just like not everyone makes the same trip to work. Are you a construction worker, trekking out to temporary worksites? Maybe your job takes you offshore and you're out of pocket on travel and accommodation costs.

Every tax refund tells a story, and RIFT is working hard to guide them all to a happy ending.