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Your route to a tax refund starts here

Can teachers expect fat rebate cheques from the Inland Revenue now that a Buckinghamshire teacher has been granted tax relief on the cost of preparing lessons and marking pupils' work at home?

As ever, it is never simple to wring money out of the tax office. Here are the answers to key questions that teachers may be asking after learning that "home study" can be tax-deductible.

Will I definitely get a refund on expenses such as computers or desks and using a room at home?

No. As the teaching unions have not made an agreement with the Inland Revenue over what teachers can claim, it is up to individual tax officials to decide. But the Revenue's general policy is that "the teacher has to be able to show that the duties have to be carried out at home, rather than as a matter of personal choice or individual circumstance".

You must explain why you need a computer, desk, filing cabinet and other equipment, and that your school does not provide them. If they are only used 50 per cent of the time for work, you should only claim half the costs.

How should I claim for using a room at home for work?

When applying, quote the relevant tax law (ICTA s.198) and The Teachers' Pay and Conditions Act 1987, which says that teachers' duties involve "planning and preparing courses and lessons (including) the setting and marking of work to be carried out "in school and elsewhere".

This is reinforced by the then Department of Education and Science's Pay and Conditions Document (1987). It makes clear teachers have a statutory duty to work outside school, and should therefore be entitled to tax relief on the relevant costs.

How do I work out the cost of using a study?

The claim can include heating, lighting, telephone, decoration, council tax and water rates. The rule-of-thumb method is to divide the total cost by the number of rooms in the house. Also do not forget to claim for your desk, chair and other office equipment, the value of which depreciates by 25 per cent a year.

Will I be liable for capital gains tax if I claim for a study?

No. The Inland Revenue has said that teachers on PAYE will not be liable, providing the study is in their "principal residence".

And can I also claim for expenses incurred in training?

If you pay the costs and do not get reimbursed then course fees, the costs of essential books and travel expenses may all be tax deductible, if you can show that your employer is encouraging you to take the course to improve your skills.

Can I claim for other expenses?

As reported in the last two issues of The TES, teachers can claim tax relief on union subscriptions and other costs that are "wholly, exclusively and necessarily" incurred in the course of their duties. This covers items such as academic gowns, PE equipment and books used with sixth-formers.

Who can I ask for advice?

You can telephone your local tax office; the Inland Revenue is trying to be approachable and to give guidance. Some accountants will also submit claims on a "no rebate, no fee" basis. Some unions have helpful leaflets about tax relief.

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