Can I claim for a Christmas party (and the bacon sarnies next day?)
It’s the most wonderful time of the year, except perhaps for HMRC. From your works Christmas bash to the bacon butties the morning after, there’s a load of festive expenses you can write off against tax as a small business. What more excuse do you need to celebrate?
- In this article
- So, what expenses can I claim?
- Cool! Can I book some fire-eating stilt walkers?
- Can I have more than one party?
- Can I claim alcohol as a business expense?
- I’ll need to book a babysitter, can I expense it?
- Can you claim clothes as a business expense?
- How do I show the party costs in my accounts?
- Can I claim the VAT?
So, what expenses can I claim?
The HMRC allowance is a surprisingly un-Scrooge like £150 per head. However, there are a few rules. The party must be open to all employees, and most people going must be staff. If a few clients are invited along that’s fine, but HMRC will take a dim view of events that appear to be centered around entertaining clients. The party should also be an annual event and not just a one-off jolly. You’re allowed £150 for plus ones, like partners or family members. Note this only applies to businesses with employees - if you don’t have staff, you’ll have to subsidise your own celebrations. Bah humbug.
Cool! Can I book some fire-eating stilt walkers?
Can you claim entertainment expenses? Sure. Unlike perhaps your employees, HMRC will not judge you on how you spend your allowance. Food, drink, taxis, hotels, giant swan ice sculptures - all are valid expenses. Just don’t go over that £150 limit. Your Christmas party allowance is classed as an exemption rather than an expense, so even if you exceed it by 10p a head you won’t get anything back.
Can I have more than one party?
Yes, but they must be annual events, like a summer party or a Christmas party, and your £150 per head allowance has to cover all events for the whole year - it’s not for each individual event.
Can I claim alcohol as a business expense?
Of course, as long as you’re sharing it with the team. Pre-party drinks are allowable as a staff welfare cost, and any booze served up at the party is fine if it’s within your £150 limit. As a rule of thumb, expenses need to be within reason - so keep the magnums of vintage Champagne for another occasion.
I’ll need to book a babysitter, can I expense it?
Unfortunately not, as child care is not considered to be wholly and exclusively for your business or profession. Many people want to know how to claim babysitting expenses on taxes, but these must be covered by childcare vouchers or tax-free childcare allowance, if you’re eligible for them.
Can you claim clothes as a business expense?
Sorry, those party pants are going to have to come out of your own budget. You can only claim allowable business expenses for uniforms, protective work clothing, or costumes for actors and entertainers.
How do I show the party costs in my accounts?
Parties for employees should be treated as staff welfare in your accounts. Don’t forget, it’s this part that’s not taxable. If you’re inviting along clients too, calculate the cost per head and classify the portion attributable to clients separately as client entertaining.
Can I claim the VAT?
Yes, you can claim all of the VAT on the cost of the event provided it’s for staff and not client entertaining. The £150 a head limit includes VAT. Just don’t go over it, as HMRC can impose penalties if you’ve blown the limit and they think tax is due.
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About the author
Suzanne is a freelance writer at ANNA Money. She started her career as a business accounts analyst at Barclays Bank before moving into digital marketing. She’s written for many major financial brands, including Barclaycard, NatWest and Metro Bank, and has even been a hand model in a NatWest in-store ad.Read more of Suzanne's writing