In Robert John Osborne v HMRC [2020] TC7851, the First Tier Tax Tribunal (FTT) allowed a self-employed diver's claim tax relief for the cost of extreme fitness training. It was 'wholly and exclusively incurred,' such training is dictated by his occupation as a matter of physical necessity.

  • Mr Osborne is a saturation diver.
  • This diving technique allows deep-sea divers to reduce the risk of decompression by remaining in a pressurised environment in the diving support vessel for a period that can last for days or weeks.
  • Mr Osborne works at 150m depths, spending days or weeks in the compressed chamber of the vessel or working at depth. Such divers are only decompressed at the end of their deployment.  
  • The industry guidance and requirements for saturation divers dictate a high level of physical fitness is essential to maintain heart and lung function when diving.
  • Mr Osborne was a member of a gym and claimed tax relief for the cost of training, these included claims for motor and travel expenses and gym membership.
  • HMRC disallowed these claims for tax relief on the basis of duality purpose. It argued that fitness training also benefited Mr Osborne on a personal basis and therefore was not Wholly and exclusively incurred for the purposes of his trade.

Mr Osborne objected made an appeal to the First Tier Tax Tribunal (FTT).

The FTT allowed the claim, its conclusions were that:

  • His only purpose in undertaking his fitness training is to enable him to work as a saturation diver.
  • Fitness training is dictated by his occupation as a matter of physical necessity.
  • The physical necessities of saturation diving dictate Mr Osborne’s fitness training methods, their duration and location.
  • Mr Osborne would not fitness train for 2-3 hours per day if he did not need to do it for the purpose of working as a saturation diver. His fitness training regime is far removed from his personal physical needs because of its effects and is extreme by any measure, but if the training were reduced to ‘reasonable’ or less damaging levels it would not meet his needs as a saturation diver.
  • It is not reasonable to infer that in his circumstances, Mr Osborne undertakes this level of training because of a subconscious motive of keeping fit as human being. Any improvement in his fitness is incidental and entails unavoidable body stress. There is no duality of purpose in Mr Osbourne’s expenditure on fitness training.


'No pain no gain': relief was allowed due to the extreme nature of the trade and the evidence showed that there was no private benefit, in fact, such training was hard on the body.

Useful guides on this topic

Wholly and exclusively…toolkit
Revenue expenditure in a trader's or company's accounts is disallowed for tax if it is not 'wholly and exclusively' incurred for the purpose of the business.

Training and course fees
Can a self-employed trader claim tax relief on their costs of training and on-going development? Are training fees capital by nature?

Motor & travel
What expenses can you claim for motor and travel if you are self-employed? Why are there different versions of the rules?

External link

Robert John Osborne v HMRC [2020] TC7851