Locums spend a lot of time on the road, going wherever they are needed, sometimes working at multiple surgeries or clinics in any given week. All that travelling racks up plenty of expenses for fuel or public transport, not to mention subsistence costs for overnight stays.
Depending on the exact details of how you carry out your work as a locum GP, dental practitioner or optician, some or all of those travel expenses may be tax deductible.
Let's walk through a couple of examples:
Imagine two different locums – a doctor called Sara, and a dentist called Simon.
Simon works through an agency, primarily covering sickness absence. He lives in Wembley goes wherever he's sent across Greater London, often only finding out which surgery he'll be working at very short notice. If you were to ask Simon where he will be working next Wednesday, he may say, “No idea!”
Therefore, he will be classed as an 'itinerant worker' and his home would count as his primary place of work. That means that every journey to a surgery can be realistically claimed as an allowable business expense.
Sara, on the other hand, is a freelance locum with a handful of regular clients, covering sabbaticals and parental leave. She lives in Harrow.
For the last few months, she has been working at a surgery in Harrow every Monday, one in Watford every Tuesday and Wednesday, and a third, in Edgware, most Thursdays and Fridays.
Because her working pattern is regular, HMRC would consider those surgeries to be her primary workplaces. Therefore, journeys to those workplaces count as a standard commute to work and cannot be claimed as a business expense (a longstanding principle in tax law).
Remember to show your workings!
Of course, it is rarely ever that clear cut, and it can be all too tempting to either (a) claim everything and hope for the best; or (b) claim nothing and take the hit on your tax bill. It goes without saying that we would advise against doing either of those things.
Let's have a third hypothetical locum – an optician called Anna with a much more typical working pattern of two regular gigs (Monday to Wednesday) augmented with ad hoc work through an agency on Thursday and Friday. Anna could claim for her travel on Thursdays and Fridays, but not for the regular locum jobs.
To support her claim, she will need to keep the following:
- Fuel receipts or train tickets/oyster top ups etc.
- A diary showing where she worked and when (ideally electronically)
- Explanatory notes on unusually high travel expenses.
Food and drink
As a rule, what HMRC classifies as 'normal meals' cannot be claimed – breakfast before work and dinner at home in the evening being the obvious examples.
There are some exceptions, though – if you've had to set off unusually early to reach a practice you don't usually work at, or end up working late to cover an evening walk-in surgery. You might be able to make an argument for claiming the cost of lunch if a locum assignment takes you out of your usual routine, you can't do whatever you'd normally do, i.e popping out to get a bite to eat, or eating a packed lunch.
Get it right, get advice
If you would like to know more about what expenses you can claim, please visit our library and request your free copy of our 'Medical Professionals' checklist - it could save you £££s on your travel and subsistence costs the minute you press 'send'!
You can also find out much more about our accountancy service for medical professionals on our website too, so if you have any tax questions, why not get in touch and let's have a