2019 Expenses Statistics

GoSimpleTax has analysed a number of databases and trends to compile a comprehensive offering of UK expenses statistics, revealing information like ‘what are the top things people claim on expenses’ ‘MPs expenses statistics’ and ‘expense cases’. There were some noteworthy insights about expenses.

Here, we break down exactly what they showed.


Key Statistics​

The five key takeaways from our UK expense statistics are:

  • The most commonly offset expenses were in the vehicle and home categories
  • Some of the most dubious claims, made by both MPs and ordinary people, were for travel and clothing-related expenses
  • Smaller mainstream political parties claimed more than the larger parties
  • MPs in Scotland and the North of England were some of the highest claimers
  • From 2010/11 to 2018/19, the number of claims and the amount offset had risen significantly


General Public Expenses Statistics


What Do People Claim On Expenses?

The most popular expenses that the British public claimed for fell under the following categories:

  • Vehicle (including car insurance and parking tickets)
  • Home (especially rent)
  • Travel
  • Food
  • Childcare
  • Telecommunication devices
  • Loans and overdrafts (specifically the interest on overdrawn business accounts and loans)
  • Pension contributions
  • Office decorations
  • Staff parties
  • Work uniforms


Less commonly claimed expenses

  • Other devices (like laptops)
  • Eyecare (specifically glasses)
  • Language lessons
  • Headphones


How Many People Don’t Claim Expenses?

Research was also conducted by Barclays in 2018 revealing that a collective £962m was not offset by UK employees, averaging out at approximately £123 per person. 60% of people did not file any expenses, giving the following as reasons:

  • The value was deemed too low to go through the process of claiming them (37%)
  • The required receipt was lost (33%)

So, of the population who can claim on expenses, it’s estimated around 60% did not file. Averaging out at a £123 loss in claimable expenses for each person.


Weird Expenses Claims

Some claims were not approved by HMRC because they were considered to not be solely for business purposes. HMRC has listed the ones they deem most dubious:

  • 55-inch TV and sound bar (£900) – to help a carpenter price his jobs
  • Extra-woolly underwear (£40)
  • Pet insurance for a dog (£756)
  • A music subscription – for listening to music at work
  • A family holiday to Nigeria

Our expenses statistics have also revealed some other expenses believed to be questionable in previous years. Some bizarre claims include:

  • Holiday flights to the Caribbean
  • Luxury watches – claimed as staff Christmas gifts from a business without employees
  • International flights – to receive dental treatment prior to business meetings
  • Food for a Shih Tzu – stated as a “guard dog”
  • Armani jeans – the protective work uniform for a painter and decorator
  • Regular Friday night asserted “bonding sessions” (totalling thousands of pounds)
  • Underwear for personal use
  • A garden shed for private use (and the cost of the space it occupies)
  • Betting slips
  • Caravan rental for the Easter weekend


Appealed Expenses Claims Statistics

Exclusive business use can have personal purposes too. This has resulted in some cases going to court. In 2018, an exotic dancer at Stringfellows successfully appealed against HMRC’s order that she pay tax totalling over £8,600. The Tax Chamber in London ruled all the following as deductible:

  • Stage clothing – because it wouldn’t be used other than for business reasons
  • Cosmetics and perfume – whilst this ‘stage make-up’ could have been worn outside her workplace, she claimed they were purchased solely for it
  • Hairdressing, extensions and beauty treatment – as the purpose of these was to enhance her appearance for performances

In 2010, there was the ‘Parsons v HMRC Commissioners’ case: a film stuntman appealed against HMRC’s decision to disallow health-related claims. The verdicts reached were:

  • Medical expenses – those connected to the occupation were accepted, like a knee operation
  • Health and fitness, chiropractor and dentist expenditure – expenses relating to general health were rejected

MPs Expenses Statistics


How Much Is Claimed By MPs?

Our 2019 UK expense statistics showed that more than 130,000 items were claimed by MPs, bringing in a total of £22.5m’s worth of expenses claimed by MPs.

MPs Expense Claims By Area

Our UK MP expense statistics can also reveal that the highest expense claims were from MPs in Scotland (constituencies like Gordon CC offset more costs for office and accommodation than travel) and the North of England.

What Are The Weirdest Things Claimed By MPs?

Our UK MP expense statistics have also revealed that MPs have made some pretty dubious claims in the past, including:

  • A chocolate Santa (59p)
  • Fox’s Ginger Crinkle biscuits (67p)
  • Jellied eels (£1.31)
  • Maintenance for a toilet seat (£112.52)
  • Moat cleaning (£2,115)
  • Hedge trimming around a helipad (£609)
  • A leather rocking chair (£1,200)
  • Two Kenyan carpets (£200)
  • A toilet roll holder (£35)
  • Tea lights (£1.19) –
  • A floating duck island (£1,645)
  • An ice cube tray (£1.50)
  • Ride-on lawnmower overhaul (£598)
  • Hanging baskets (£600)
  • Dog food (£4.47)
  • Halogen lightbulbs (£185)
  • Lightbulbs as part of maintenance costs (£135)
  • Trouser press (£119)
  • Elephant lamps (£134.30)
  • Horse manure (70p a bag)

There have also been some pretty surprising claims made on expenses by unnamed MPs for potentially irrelevant or extravagant spending:

  • A hotel “while on duty” (£700)
  • A one-night hotel stay for a “member of staff” (£600)
  • Chalk (£1.55)
  • Georgian to English dictionary app (£1.99)
  • Onion rings (£3.75)
  • Parking for a spouse’s trip to London (£28)
  • Window frosting (£636)
  • Equality and diversity training (£980)
  • A laptop (£1,153)
  • “Nigerian Alumni” (£1)
  • Gammon and an egg (£9.95)
  • HR support (£5,981.76)
  • 5* Hotel Eurostars Madrid stay (£536.73)
  • A dependant’s trip from London to Preston (£300)

Which Political Parties Claim The Most And Least?

Whilst each party offset similar amounts, MP speakers of the Parliament and Sinn Féin claimed the least on expenses. Prominent but smaller parties have been revealed to claim the most in:

  • The Scottish National Party (SNP): £193,574.86
  • The Green Party: £186,113.10

This was more than Labour (£171,217) and the Conservatives.

Lowest And Highest Amount Claimed By MPs Last Year

Those claiming the least were around the £5,000 mark and under, with three MPs offsetting no expenses whatsoever. Theresa May was also one of the lowest claimers (£4,376.56).

MPs in the highest bracket were generally between the amounts of £68,000 and £85,000. Shabana Mahmood of the Birmingham, Ladywood constituency was the highest claimer at £101,403.65.

More On MPs

MP expenses 2010-2019

Historically, from the 2010/11 to 2018/19 financial years, Labour and SNP MPs are collectively the highest claimers at 28.9% and 24.4%. Comparatively, Conservatives (who have had the most seats over this period) are at 8.9%. Some significant details over the years include:

  • 2016/17 and 2018/18: 9 out of the 10 top claimers belonged to the SNP
  • 2018/19: 8 out of the 10 lowest claiming MPs were in the Conservative Party
  • 2010/11: 6 out of the 10 lowest claiming MPs were Conservatives
  • 2016/17: travel and subsistence claims were at £5.3m, reducing to £3.07m in 2018/19

From 2010/11 to 2018/19, the total offset by MPs has risen by £71.3m, and the number of claims to over 10,000. Staffing has always been a key expenditure, and a substantial contributor to this increase. From 2010/11 to 2013/14, staffing rose from £53.95m to £80.51m.

The most-claimed MP expense was rent for accommodation (£6.2m), followed by rent for office constituency (£4.2m). Other significant categories were:

  • Telephone usage and rentals (£770k)
  • London hotels (£500k)
  • Travel – first class (£355,978.16) and economy (£392,852.68)
  • Congestion charges (£11.8k)

Google Trends And Interest Around Expenses

As well our research, search engines have also revealed information about expenses.

The following expense-related search queries have risen over the last year:

  • Expense brands and web portals (specifically “rydoo expense”, “sel expenses log in” and “selenity expenses”)
  • MPs in general – including Anna Soubry, David Lammy and Yvette Cooper

The reason for the increase in MP search queries was likely due to their claiming history. Both Soubry and Lammy offset significant staffing expenditure in 2017/18, but this trend has not continued in 2018/19. Cooper’s rise could be related to the fact that it has been 10 years since the revelation that she and her husband claimed on their second home’s designation three times, over just two years. They were later cleared of misusing expenses.

During the past five years, the MPs who have experienced the largest increase in search queries are:

  1. Jeremy Corbyn (+5,000%)
  2. Jim Murphy (+4,150%) – likely connected to his 2015 claim for two cans of Irn-Bru
  3. Priti Patel (+2,750%) – a social media post falsely attributed numerous expense claims to her
  4. Theresa May (+250%) – possibly relating to historical cases of claiming for her phone and SIM card

Company Director Statistics

The expense information revealed François Ortalo-Magné, the Dean of London Business School, claimed for a number of dubious expenditures. They included:

  • Luxury hotel suites
  • Spousal accompaniment on international flights
  • Crisps
  • Hand sanitiser
  • Chocolate almonds
  • “222 detox” drink

Some specific business expenses offset in the US were the following:

  • Human skull ($800) – approved
  • Helicopter travel to work ($6,500) – rejected
  • Hotel bill and flight changes ($10,000) – rejected
  • Llama rental ($150) – approved
  • Vehicle towing ($150) – approved
  • Separate hotel room for root vegetables ($85) – rejected
  • Cher concert tickets ($125) – approved
  • Boarding for pet snake ($30 per day) – approved
  • Men’s Rolex watch ($8,000) – approved

High-Profile Person Expense Statistics

Our UK expense statistics also detail the Lorraine Kelly case where she appealed against a £1.2m tax bill. She successfully won with the claim that her agent’s fees were tax deductible as she is a theatrical performer. Her evidence was that this categorisation applies to her because of comedy sketches, such as that with Aled Jones.

If you require any assistance with claiming expenses via tax return software, get in touch with the GoSimpleTax team.



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