Glasses for work and tax

  wids001 21:05 17 Dec 2010

My Grandson started work at a computer software company a couple of years ago and was told that because he works with a computer screen for many hours daily that the company would reimburse him for any charges incurred for eye tests and pay £50 towards any glasses he may need for "computer work" providing this was shown on the prescription/sales receipt.

He had a test last January and purchased a pair of spectacles for computer work. He took the reciept into his work and was then paid £69 (£19 for the test and £50 for the glasses)

Now he has received a new tax code from the inland revenue because he claimed £69 expenses. Surely as these are essential for work they should be classed as a taxable expense?

  Snec 21:27 17 Dec 2010

And it is, for the employer. For the employee, though, I think you will find the taxman regards this sort of thing as 'Benefit In Kind.'

  OTT_B 21:41 17 Dec 2010

The £19 for the test is not taxable, the £50 for the glasses is. The glasses are only not taxable if they are Safety Glasses, otherwise it is a benefit from the company.

  Woolwell 21:48 17 Dec 2010

My understanding is that the company should pay for the glasses if they are required only for work on the computer. It is a pity that the optician did not invoice the company for the test and glasses.

I would take this up with the company as they must have notified HMRC of the "benefit" paid.

  OTT_B 22:18 17 Dec 2010

The key here is Health and Safety and the relationship of glasses to 'normal' usage.

If you grandson normally requires glasses then he would be expected to pay for them regardless. If you work in front of a VDU (Visual Display Unit...i.e. Monitor) then HMRC accepts that it can potentially cause degradation to your eyes. However, they will only accept the eye test as tax deductible expense (for the employer). Because there are no abnormal safety related issues that would require him to wear anything but normal glasses (which he would wear anyway) then the glasses themselves are not tax deductible - and therefore a benefit and therefore taxable against his pay.

If he was required to wear safety glasses while using a computer (e.g. his office was based in an area at risk of eye hazards) then a pair of safety glasses would become a tax deductible expense.

Note though, for any expense that is tax deductible and terminally the employer is paying, then it is the employer that get s the tax relief, not the employee. In this case (when the employee has claimed back the costs from the employer), the employee does not need to declare the costs to HMRC.

  Woolwell 22:23 17 Dec 2010

Agree with almost all that you state but if you are prescribed glasses to work with a VDU then they should be provided and they are not safety glasses see click here

  OTT_B 22:33 17 Dec 2010

Oh dear, my last post really didn't read well. The upshot is this:

If your grandson regularly works in front of a computer, then he does not need to declare claiming back the cost of an eye test from his employer, to HMRC.

Your grandson DOES need to declare any contribution that his employer has made towards the cost of a pair of glasses if they are not Safety Glasses.

  OTT_B 22:38 17 Dec 2010

It's the 'especially for work' clause that counts.

If the person involved would need glasses for using a VDU outside of work (e.g. at home), which is almost inevitably the case, then they are not especially (i.e. uniquely) for work, and therefore not a tax deductible claim. That's why safety glasses are usually the exception.

  spuds 01:15 18 Dec 2010

In my last employment before I retired, I use to get 'safety glass' bifocals with a free pair of reading spectacles thrown into the deal. I was paid the full amount that the items cost, after I presented the vat covered receipt.Never had a query from the Inland Revenue at that time, but my boss did require a special 'green' form filling out.The safety glass part, was if I was hit in the face, which would or might cause further damage, should the spectacles became broken.

I was also able to claim for boots and laundry costs, again no problems making a claim.

I do believe the unions had an agreement about making claims for 'work related' items, and I believe the tax people then gave a fixed amount as allowable expenses, as a standard issue for most people in certain industries and trades. As far as I know, this arrangement still stands.

But some companies might have given a 'lump sum' to old employees as a replacement for certain items, and in new employees contract this arrangement ceased, so saving on administration.

Best to check with the employer or HMRC.

  wids001 05:22 18 Dec 2010

Thanks to all for the info. He will ask his pay office for clarification next week.

  morddwyd 09:19 18 Dec 2010

My knowledge may be out of date, but I recall that that the prescribing optician must certify that, like any other legitimate work related expense, they are specifically required for work, and only for work.

Of course, in reality any professional practitioner would find it difficult to certify any such thing in the circumstances described.

I signed many hundreds of refund certificates as an HSO, and in fact initiated them for employees on many occasions, but I have never seen, or even heard of, an example of these circumstances applying.

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