Health check for your business

Some easy things for you to check

Whether you are just starting out in business or whether you’ve been around for sometime, it is always worth taking time out to make sure you are claiming all deductions for allowable business expenses. When trying to figure out if an expense is allowed as a business expense or not, remember the basic rule – in operating your business, you are entitled to claim a deduction for any business expense you have incurred in order to earn your profit. There are many items that are clearly regarded as a business expense and include such items as:

-Purchase of stock for re-sale
-Wages and salaries
-Rent and rates of business premises
-Repairs and maintenance
-Light and heat
-The running costs of vehicles used in the business (service costs, motor tax, insurance)
-Accountancy fees
-Legal and Professional fees
-Advertising and marketing costs
-Interest paid on any monies borrowed to finance business expenses/items,

This list is not exhaustive – so it is worth checking all your outgoings regularly to make sure you are including all relevant business expenses.

Expenses Not Allowed

Unfortunately, there are certain expenses that cannot be claimed as a business expense at any time. You cannot claim for any private expenses or any expense, not wholly and exclusively paid for the purposes of the trade or profession. Such items include:

– Any private or domestic expenditure, e.g. your own food and clothing (except protective clothing)
– Income Tax
– Business entertainment expenditure which includes the provision of accommodation, food, drink or any other form of hospitality. Staff Christmas parties are allowed.

Confusion often surrounds the area of Food and Meal Expenses. The rules relating to food and meals are actually quite clear – the cost of meals taken at the place of business are not allowable for tax purposes. Meals consumed away from the place of business are, in general, not regarded as being wholly and exclusively laid out for the purposes of the business. Revenue’s view point on this is that everyone must eat in order to live and so whether you are working or not, you would still have to eat. However, where the nature of a business involves travelling or where occasional business journeys outside the normal pattern are made, then the cost of meals maybe allowed as an expense.

The cost of work clothing such as business suits are not allowable business expenses either. Again, the view point has been taken by Revenue that an individual has to wear something for heat, warmth and decency and so it has been held that any expenditure on clothing is not wholly and exclusively for the purposes of the business. The cost of any protective clothing is fully deductible.

Pre Trading Expenses

If you have only recently set up in business, you may have spent quite a bit before you ever started trading. The good news is that whether you are a limited company, sole trader or partnership, you can claim for certain pre-trading expenses. A deduction is allowed for pre-trading expenses which are incurred
in the three years prior to commencement of the trade or profession and would not normally be allowable, but would have been allowable if they had been incurred after the date of commencement of the trade or profession.
Examples of pre-trading expenses might include accountancy fees, advertising costs, costs of feasibility studies, costs of preparing business plans, rent paid for the premises from which the business operates. The allowable amounts are treated as having been incurred at the time the business commences.

Expenses Part Business, Part Private

When an expense is incurred and it relates to both business and personal/private use, then only the amount that relates to the business portion is allowed as a deduction. An example of such an expense would be telephone costs or light and heat costs where a business is operated from a home office. The total costs should be split between business and private and only the business portion is allowed as a deduction. For light and heat, the easiest way to apportion the cost is as a percentage of the total floor area of the house. It is worth bearing in mind though that if you sell your home (the profit from which is normally exempt from capital gains tax) the portion that was used for business purposes will be subject to capital gains tax.

The above is an outline of the principles surrounding business expenses and is intended for general guidance only.