What expenses can I claim on my tax return? What expenses can I claim in my accounts? What specific rules apply to different trades and categories of expense? 

This is a freeview 'at a glance' guide to: What expenses can I claim for tax purposes? 

At a glance

An expense or part of an expense (when you can identify a suitable proportion) can be claimed as a deduction from taxable income for tax when it is incurred for the purposes of your business. 

Specific rules in statute and almost 100 years of tax case law have made this topic complicated.

In this section, we cover what you can claim for tax and we provide worked examples, FAQs, planning points and tips.

These guides are for sole traders and partners. Click here for guides for Employers/employees.


For a quick run through adjusting the accounts for tax try our Accounts: tax health check (self-employed)

More checklists under Self-employed > Tax planning & compliance.

What expenses can you claim if you work in a certain type of business?

This new section contains Subscriber guides that build up to summarise the key tax treatments for different types of sole trader or partnership.

Step 1

Work out if there are any special rules for your particular trade, profession and vocation. 

Trade, profession or vocation

Accountants & tax advisers


Antique dealers




Construction Industry Contractors and Sub-contractors

Dancers & Physical Performers

Doctors & Dentists

Farmers: expenses

Farming: tax overview



Lorry drivers

Market Traders

Market Gardeners

Pubs & bars

Pop-up bars and cafes




Step 2

Having worked out what you can claim relative to your trade, profession or vocation, the next step is to choose the way to keep your records and report your business.

There are two different ways to prepare a set of accounts in order to arrive at your taxable profits for tax purposes:

  1. 'Simpler accounting' or cash accounting.
  2. Accruals basis accounting. This accounting follows Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP).

Which system for me? From 6 April 2024, cash accounting is the default method for unincorporated business, there are exceptions. See Cash or accruals accounting toolkit

Step 3

There are three different methods of claiming tax relief for expenses. Some of these rules become mandatory if you are adopting a cash basis. Some may be adopted voluntarily so you can in certain circumstances be free to 'mix and match'.

Each business is different and so the right combination of claims and reliefs depends on you.

Top tips:

  • If you are adopting the cash basis there are some special rules which define and restrict what expenses may be claimed
  • A system of fixed-rate deductions may be used instead of claiming actual expenses. This system can be used whether cash or accruals accounting. Some expenses are restricted if you are using the cash basis or have claimed capital allowances
  • If a business has not claimed fixed rate deductions, the rules governing deduction follow general principles: expenses must be incurred Wholly and Exclusively for business purposes.

Which expenses for me? See Flat rate expenses or actual cost toolkit

Squirrel ad

Are you enjoying our content? 

Thousands of accountants and advisers and their clients use rossmartin.co.uk as their primary TAX resource.

Register now to receive our FREE weekly SME Tax News update