Employees who work in an environment where their own clothes are not appropriate may receive a uniform or protective clothing from their employer. This can range from something as simple as a polo shirt with a company logo to hospital scrubs or fireproof coveralls. In some cases, an employer may simply issue clothing to employees; in other cases, the employer may provide a uniform allowance. Although this allowance is considered income and has to be reported, it is usually tax-free.
When most people think of income, the first thought that comes to mind is the wage paid to an employee by her employer. In fact, HMRC recognises that employers may provide many benefits to their employers, several of which -- such as company cars, accommodation, health insurance and more -- may be taxable even if no money actually changes hands. Different types of benefit are taxed differently, but all must be reported.
Forms P9D and P11D
Every year, employers prepare statements of the benefits their employees receive. These benefits are set out, together with reimbursed employee expenses, on two different tax forms. Form P9D applies to employees who earn less than £8,500 per year, while form P11D applies to employees who earn over this threshold. Employers submit these forms to HMRC and usually send copies to the relevant employees. Forms P9D and P11D establish the cash value of any benefits received. However, the fact that a benefit is reported on these forms does not necessarily mean it is taxable.
Each different type of benefit is taxed differently, but a helpful generalisation might be that taxable ones are usually those that benefit the employee outside the workplace. For example, company cars are usually taxable because they are used by employees outside of their job duties, as is private health insurance. However, if an employer pays for overseas health care costs incurred while an employee was working in another country, this benefit is not taxable. The same logic applies to uniform allowances.
Like other specifically work-related expenses, uniform allowances are generally not taxed. As long as the clothing being provided is either protective clothing necessary for the job or a uniform that can only be worn at work, the employee is not required to pay tax on a uniform allowance. However, the allowance must still be reported on form P9D or P11D. Employers may receive a dispensation from HMRC which means they do not have to report non-taxable benefits such as uniform allowances. As a result, some employees who receive uniform allowances will not even see them on their copies of form P11D.