You've got to eat well to keep your strength up in construction. Be sure to keep good records of what you're spending on food though. You might be missing out on some valuable tax relief. Just a few good habits can keep HMRC from taking too big a bite, and put more money back in your pocket.

Depending on where you work and what you eat, your daily costs are going to vary. According to recent research on average, you're probably looking at about a staggering £90,000 spent on food over your working life – that’s enough to pay off an average mortgage 6 years early!

Take a moment to think about what you're paying out each day on food. The good news is that you're actually entitled to claim tax relief on those costs as part of your tax refund. If you're not doing this already, you're practically letting HMRC take food right off your plate!

Here's what you need to know:

Suppose you're spending £10 per day on food at work. When it comes to your tax rebate, you could be missing out on £480 of refund money a year and that’s on top of your travel tax refund. Even if you're only spending a fiver a day, that's still £240 of your money getting needlessly forked over to the taxman!

Here's an example:

Let's picture Bill, a builder working on a construction site in London.

  • He arrives in the chilly early hours and grabs a quick cuppa to warm up before work on his way in (£1.20).
  • After a few hard hours, he gets a tea break at 10am. He only had a light breakfast, so he buys a bacon roll from the local shop to keep him going until lunch (£2.49).
  • Lunch today turns out for be a burger with chips and a soft drink from the on-site canteen (£4.50).
  • In the mid-afternoon, he gets another break. There's a food van handy, so he buys himself a quick snack and a drink there (£1.75) before finishing up his day's work.

Were you keeping track? Bill’s spent £9.94 already – and he’s probably a bit dehydrated at that!

All pretty simple so far, right? Only, Bill had to trek down from his home in Scotland for this job and travel home at weekends. He claims his tax refunds for the food he buys during his work day, but he's still missing out badly.

  • He grabs a sandwich and a beer (£8.80 – and that’s if he has just one drink) on the train for his dinner on the way south which he should be claiming for.
  • When he arrives he has to stay overnight, which means bills for his evening meals (£7.50 in a local pub), because he doesn’t get a subsistence allowance from his employer.
  • Then he forks over the price of next morning's breakfast (£5.95) before he leaves for the site.

If he's not claiming for those too, he's paying much more tax than he's supposed to.

If you’re already a RIFT customer we sort all this out as part of your refund calculations. What you get back is covered by our RIFT Guarantee, same as everything else so what we need you to do is make sure that you’ve got evidence saved of what you’ve spent.

This doesn’t mean you need to keep loads of paperwork to send to us - just taking a quick picture of your menu board, order ticket or receipt is fine. If you’ve got these saved on your computer and show us examples we can then put a claim for your meal costs in full confidence that we can prove what you’ve sent to HMRC.

When you're thinking through your food costs, here are a few questions to ask yourself:

  • Are you buying your meals on-site, from local shops, food vans, a takeaway or packing your own lunch
  • Are you getting a meal allowance from your employer already?
  • How much is your food costing you each day?
  • Where are you buying it and how are you paying (cash/card)?
  • Are you keeping your receipts?

It's all about keeping a tally of the money going out, but it doesn't have to be a huge headache. Maybe you're already posting photos of your food on the internet (everyone else is). Now's your chance to use them to claim back the cash you're owed. Anything that helps you remember what you spent and prove how you spent it is worth hanging on to. You wouldn't throw a fiver in the bin, but that's what you're doing every time you throw a receipt away.

The original inspiration to found RIFT Refunds came when MD Jan Post spotted an elderly construction worker struggling on-site, he’d travelled down from Scotland to work on building site in Kent. On a frosty morning, she watched him trekking across a muddy field to microwave a jacket potato to take back to his caravan. Construction is hard, demanding work, but keeping good records can help keep your wallet stuffed. Eat well, keep your receipts and get in touch with RIFT to find out more.

Read more about how to claim food expenses in your tax refund.

Read the meals claims FAQ