The Tax Rules You Need to Know for Domestic UK Employee Relocation Costs

Here we will try to make the subject of tax on relocation expenses a little clearer to understand if you are relocating employees within the UK.

If your organisation contributes towards employee relocation costs, the organisation has certain tax, National Insurance and reporting obligations, so you need to be aware of which relocation costs incur tax and what needs to be reported to HMRC. 

On top of that, if your relocation policy does not include "gross-up" on relocation expenses the employee will be responsible for any tax liability. In such circumstances, your employee will want to know what that tax liability is and how it can be reduced or managed effectively. If you do gross up, the budget holder will want to know what their tax liability is going to be.

If you are not familiar with the concept of grossing up, it is essentially the business paying the employee's tax liability.

It all sounds very nasty indeed but you don't need to be a tax expert - you just need to know the basics, or at least know where to find them so you can build and administer your employee relocation policy with confidence.

HMRC website contains a staggering amount of pages, so it can be tricky trying to find anything you need from there. Nil desperandum. All of the information you need to know about tax for UK domestic relocation is here, courtesy of HMRC.

Qualifying Expenses

HMRC grants an £8,000 (including VAT) allowance that exempts some employee relocation costs from reporting and paying tax and National Insurance. These are called "qualifying" costs (i.e. they qualify for the exemption) and include:

  • The costs of acquiring or disposing of a residence (rented and owned)

  • Moving costs

  • Buying certain items for a new home

  • Bridging loans

However, note that these costs only qualify for the exemption when all of the following criteria are met:

  • A new employee is moving area to start a job with your organisation; or

  • An existing employee is changing their place of work within the organisation

  • The costs are paid before the end of the tax year after the one in which the move took place (see examples below)

  • The employee’s new home is reasonably* close to the workplace and their old home isn’t

If any of the above do not apply, the £8,000 exemption will not apply and all relocation costs are subject to tax and National Insurance.

For qualifying costs over £8,000, you may have to report and pay tax and National Insurance.

* There is no precise definition of what is or what isn't a reasonable distance. It is for your organisation to decide and you may find that what constitutes sensible a travelling distance may be covered in the organisation's Health & Safety Policy. 

Examples

The UK tax year ends on 5th April.

The move date is usually taken as the date the employee starts work in their new role.

So if an employee starts their new role on 2nd April 2018, the relocation costs must be incurred by 5th April 2019.

If an employee starts their new role on 2nd May 2018, the relocation costs must be incurred by 5th April 2020.

 
 

Qualifying cost categories

Those expenses and benefits which qualify for tax exemption are grouped into 6 categories by HMRC:

  1. Disposal or intended disposal of old residence

  2. Acquisition or intended acquisition of new residence

  3. Transporting belongings

  4. Travelling and subsistence

  5. Domestic goods for the new residence

  6. Bridging loans

1. Disposal of old residence

  • Legal fees or services connected with the disposal

  • Fees or services connected with the redemption of a loan (e.g. mortgage) relating to the property (i.e. if the loan was raised to acquire the property or if it was secured on the property)

  • Penalties for redeeming a loan relating to the property – e.g. mortgage redemption penalties

  • Estate agent’s or auctioneer’s fees or services

  • Advertising for the property

  • Any eligible expenses of a sale that falls through as long as an employee does still change his or her residence

  • Disconnection of electricity, gas, water or phone services

  • If the property is left empty awaiting disposal:

    • Any rent paid for the period when the property is vacant

    • Insurance paid for the vacant period

    • Maintenance of the property during the vacant period

    • Preserving the security of the property during the vacant period

2. Acquisition of new residence

  • Legal expenses and services connected with the acquisition, e.g. solicitor's fees

  • Fees and services connected with any loan raised to acquire the interest in the property or any loan secured on the property (e.g. mortgage)

  • Procurement or arrangement fees connected with such a loan

  • Mortgage indemnity premiums

  • Survey or inspection of the property – both structural surveys and building society valuations

  • Land Registry fees

  • Stamp Duty

  • Connection of electricity, gas, water and telephone services

  • Eligible acquisition costs in relation to an intended purchase that falls through

3. Transport of belongings

  • Packing and unpacking

  • Temporary storage, where there is not a direct move from the old to the new residence (NB temporary storage is always taxable if the employee has no intention of moving the belongings to the new residence)

  • Taking down domestic fittings in the old residence if they are to be taken to the new residence and reattaching them on arrival there

  • Transportation costs incurred in moving domestic belongings from the old residence to the new residence

  • Any costs of insuring the domestic belongings in transit

4. Travelling and subsistence

Employee

  • Travel and subsistence costs incurred in respect of preliminary visits to the new location

  • Travel and subsistence costs incurred in respect of travelling between the old home and the new work location (where the house move takes place before the job transfer)

  • Temporary living accommodation where the employee intends to move to permanent accommodation to complete the relocation

  • Travelling between the old home and the temporary living accommodation

  • Travelling between the new home and the temporary living accommodation (where the house move takes place before the job transfer)

  • Travelling from the old home to the new home when the move takes place

Employee’s family or household

  • Travel and subsistence for preliminary visits to the new location

  • Travelling from the old home to the new home when the move takes place

  • Where a child aged 18 or under (who ordinarily lives with the employee) stays behind at the old location or is sent ahead to the new location in order to ensure continuity of education, relief is available for the cost of subsistence in the area where the child stays and for the costs of travel between that area and the employee’s old or new home

5. Bridging loans

Relief is available where bridging loan interest is reimbursed to the relocating employee or the employer "makes" a cheap or interest-free loan to the employee, as long as the employee or member of employee’s household abide by the following:

  • Disposes of an interest in the old home and acquires an interest in the new home

  • Has to take out a loan to bridge the gap between the date when the interest in the new property is acquired and the date when the sale proceeds of the old property are available

  • Uses the loan only to redeem loans relating to the old home or to acquire the new home. A loan relates to the old home if it was raised to acquire the property, or if it was secured on the property

  • The loan does not exceed the market value of the old home at the time the new home is acquired

Where the bridging loan is not provided or facilitated by the organisation, and all the conditions above are satisfied, the interest on the loan is an expense that qualifies for exemption. If either or both of the last two conditions are not met the eligible interest is restricted to the amount that would be payable if the loan met both conditions.

Where the organisation makes a loan to the employee or to a member of the employee’s family or household, and all conditions above are met, relief may be available if the total of all other qualifying expenses and benefits is less than £8,000.

Non-qualifying costs

That's the qualifying expenses out of the way, but what about relocation expenses that don't fall into the above categories? Well, that's the easy bit.

All you need to know is that if an expense is "non-qualifying" it does not fall within the above categories and is taxable regardless of the £8,000 limit.

Conclusion

Domestic employee relocation involves many different services and hence many different relocation expense types. You're not expected to know all of these categories off the top of your head - in fact, you don't need to, you just need to be aware of it and have access to it. 

Contact us today to see how we can help simplify taxation matters arising from employee relocation costs.

 

Image by Alan Cleaver

Stuart Beaty

Celsium, Birmingham, UK