UK Expenses Statistics 2019-2020

Including MP Expenses, Political Party Expenses, Common Expenses, Weird Expense Claims and More.

At GoSimpleTax, we have experienced a wide range of strange expenses claims over the years, which prompted us to conduct some research into UK expenses statistics. In this 2019-2020 report, we reveal the most common UK expenses; uncover statistics on MPs’ expenses and highlight some recent expense cases. We have also analysed small business expenses statistics and employee expense statistics.

Contents:

  1. The most common UK expense claims
  2. How many people don’t claim expenses
  3. Strange expense claims
  4. How much do MPs claim in expenses?
  5. Strange expenses claimed by MPs
  6. Which political parties claim the most expenses?
  7. Cabinet Ministers’ Expenses

Key Findings

  1. The highest MP expenses figure for 2019-2020 was more than £98,000 by a Scottish National Party MP
  2. The total cost of MPs was up 6.47% in 2020 to £127.6 million
  3. The Scottish National Party (SNP) is the highest expense-claiming political party, followed by The Green Party.
  4. Strange MPs expenses claims include onion rings, horse manure, dog food, Moat cleaning and the ‘overhaul’ of a ride-on lawnmower.

What Are the Most Common Expense Claims?

 

Expenses for travel and subsistence claims cost the taxpayer a total of £5,584,790 in 2019-20, an average of £6,903 for each member of parliament.

 

Other common expenses include:

  • Vehicles
  • Home
  • Travel
  • Food
  • Childcare
  • Telecommunications
  • Loans & Overdrafts
  • Pension contribution
  • Office decorations
  • Staff parties
  • Work uniform

Less Commonly Claimed Expenses

  • Other devices, like laptops
  • Eye-care, specifically glasses
  • Language lessons
  • Headphones

How Many People Don’t Claim Expenses?

  • £123.00 worth of expenses per individual is left unclaimed every year
  • £962m of unclaimed expenses every year
  • 60% do not claim their expenses properly, or at all

Research was also conducted by Barclays in 2018 revealing how many people don’t claim their expenses amongst other things. It was revealed unclaimed expenses totalled £962m, averaging out at approximately £123 per person. That’s a lot of people that individuals could be saving each year if they filed all of their applicable expenses.

The same set of research also found that around 60% of people did not file any expenses, (so it’s no wonder that so much isn’t claimed) giving the following as reasons:

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

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

What Are The Weirdest Expense Claims?

Though there’s a lot of expenses you can claim for, there are also some claims that are rejected. 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 as:

  • 55-inch TV and soundbar (£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

Can Disallowed Expenses Be Appealed?

From looking at previous cases, the answer is yes. Exclusive business use can have personal purposes too, and this has resulted in some expenses 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

How Much Do MP’s Claim in Expenses?

Our 2019-2020 UK expense statistics showed that more than 166,000 items were claimed by MPs, bringing in a total of £28.1m’s worth of expenses claimed by MPs.

Which MP’s Claim the Most in Expenses by Location?

Our UK MP expense statistics can also reveal that the highest expense claims were from MPs in Scotland and the North of England.

What Are the Weirdest Things Claimed by MP’s on Expenses?

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

  • A chocolate Santa (59p)
  • An iPhone 11 and data plan (£1,074)
  • Office furniture from MADE.com (£479)
  • “Constituency” bible (£450)
  • 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:

  • Lighting for video conferences (£179.98)
  • 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)

What Political Party Claims the Least in Expenses?

Whilst each party offset similar amounts, MP speakers of the Alliance Party and Sinn Féin claimed the least on expenses.

Lowest claiming MP’s

Includes claims made between 1 Apr 2019 and 31 Mar 2020, excluding repayments.

NameConstituencyClaimsTotal Claimed
Jacob Rees-MoggNorth East Somerset00
Zac GoldsmithRichmond Park00
Suella FernandesFareham00
Jared O'MaraSheffield, Hallam00
Kenneth ClarkeRushcliffe00
Thomas BrakeCarshalton and Wallington00
Michael FallonSevenoaks22£501.04
Fiona OnasanyaPeterborough30£3,096.98
Dennis SkinnerBolsover41£3,106.47
Rishi SunakRichmond (Yorks)1£3,142.00

Those claiming the least were around the £5,000 mark and under, with 6 MPs offsetting no expenses whatsoever. 

4 of those who claimed zero expenses were from the Conservative party, with 1 Independent and one Liberal Democrat.

What Political Party Claims the Most in Expenses?

Prominent but smaller parties, The Scottish National Party (SNP) and The Green Party have been revealed to claim the most in expenses:

  • The Scottish National Party (SNP): £193,574.86
  • The Green Party: £186,113.10
  • This was more than Labour (£171,217) and the Conservatives.

The Scottish National Party also claims the most expenses on average per MP, with an average of £57,639 spent per MP. This is closely followed by the Plaid Cymru party, with MP’s spending an average of £46,736 per year.

Which MP’s claim the most in expenses?

Includes claims made between 1 Apr 2019 and 31 Mar 2020, excluding repayments.

NameConstituencyClaimsTotal Claimed
Ian BlackfordRoss, Skye and Lochaber408£98,078
Alistair CarmichaelOrkney and Shetland505£97,398
Philippa WhitfordCentral Ayrshire475£96,503
Brendan O'HaraArgyll and Bute521£92,697
Hannah BardellLivingston488£90,654
Chris LawDundee West731£89,799
Lisa CameronEast Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow884£89,403
Drew HendryInverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey449£88,682
Martin Docherty-HughesWest Dunbartonshire436£87,859
Kevin HollinrakeThirsk and Malton381£84,698

MPs in the highest bracket were generally between the amounts of £68,000 and £85,000. 

 

The current speaker, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, is Britain’s most expensive sitting MP. In 2020, his total business costs were £259,057, including £21,431 on travel and subsistence. Outside the speaker, the most expensive sitting MP was Lisa Cameron, spending £256,040.

 

Matt Hancock was the most expensive MP in the cabinet, with total costs of £225,305. This was compared to £174,454 for prime minister Boris Johnson and £164,545 for Sir Keir Starmer.

MP Expense Statistics 2010 – 2019

Historically, from the 201/11 to 2018/19 financial years, Labour and SNP MP’s 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: 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 £71.1m, 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 (£355,978.17) and economy (£392,852.68)
  • Congestion charges (£11.8K)

Company Director Statistics – Interesting Facts

We also analysed information around company directors, and the expenses that they claim, as part of our expenses statistics research.

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

And overseas, 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.

Cabinet ministers’ expenses

We researched 15 of the top current cabinet and shadow cabinet ministers’ expenses, income and donations (Dec 2018 – Nov 2019).

The findings include total expenses claimed, number of expenses claimed, money spent on staff, salaries, other employment earnings and donations.

Conservative vs Labour expenses

 ConservativeLabour
Total expenses claimed£309,143£468,063 (+51%)
Average per MP£20,610
£31,204 (+51%)
Staff expenses
£2,167,008
£2,226,362 (+2.7%)
Average other employment earnings
£51,728 (+1325%)£3,629

Average other employment earnings (without party leaders)
£3,981 (+20%)
£3,305

When it comes to the two main political parties, it is clear that from the top 15 cabinet and shadow cabinet ministers, Conservative ministers claim 51% fewer (£309,143) expenses than Labour (£468,063). The average claimed per minister is also 51% less in the Conservative party (£20,610 compared to £31,204).

Labour ministers also spend more on paid staff support, an average of £148,424 per minister (compared to Conservative’s £144,467).

When it comes to donations, the Conservative party accepted a total of £1,338,142, an average of £89,209 per minister. On the other hand, the Labour party accepted £40,341 – an average of £2,689 per minister.

Taking party leaders out of the picture, the Conservative party accepted an average of £34,303 in donations, while the Labour party accepted an average of £2,689 per minister.

Boris Johnson vs Keir Starmer Expenses 2019-2020

When it comes to Boris Johnson vs Keir Starmer, Mr Johnson claimed £7,473 (55 claims), while Mr Starmer claimed £18,977 (89 claims). Boris spent £159,494 on support staff, while Keir spent £143,847.

Rishi Sunak vs Anneliese Dodds Expenses 2019-2020

When it comes to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, vs Shadow Chancellor, Anneliese Dodds, Mr Sunak claimed £0, while Ms Dodds claimed £26,740 (52 claims). Rishi spent £149,394 on staffing costs, while Anneliese spent £161,136. Rishi earned £79,467 from his MP salary, while Anneliese earned £79,467.  Neither accepted any donations.

Stand-out statistics

The highest-earning minister from their MP salary was Michael Gove, who earned £145,754 – £59,445 more than the Prime Minister.

11 other Conservative cabinet ministers also earned more than Boris Johnson.

Just Matt Hancock and Grant Shapps earned less than Boris Johnson in the Conservative party ministers who were researched.

Within the Labour party, there was just one shadow minister who earned more than the basic MP salary of £78,249; Rachel Reeves – the Shadow Chancellor of Duchy of Lancaster, who earned £93,932 – £7,600 more than Boris Johnson.

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

Sources of information

  • Buying Business Travel, the Barclays Study: https://buyingbusinesstravel.com/news/1729218-uk-workers-miss-out-%C2%A3962m-unclaimed-expenses/
  • IPSA: https://www.theipsa.org.uk/mp-staffing-business-costs
  • Certify, The Craziest Expenses Survey: The Best of 2013-2018: https://www.certify.com/
    2018-12-18-The-Craziest-Expenses-Survey-The-Best-of-2013-2018
  • ICAS, Revealed: the weirdest expense claims sent to HMRC, March 2019: https://www.icas.com/education-and-qualifications/weird-expense-claims-sent-to-hmrc-student-blog
  • MPs Expenses, 2019-2020: https://www.mpsexpenses.info/#!/all
  • The Telegraph, MPs’ expenses: 20 most bizarre claims: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/
    newstopics/mps-expenses/5318810/MPs-expenses-20-most-bizarre-claims.html?image=2
  • Taxation, The ‘kneed’ for an expense: https://www.taxation.co.uk/articles/2010-05-19-259881-kneed-expense
  • Whitefield Tax, Nothing exotic about this dancer’s tax return: https://www.whitefieldtax.co.uk/nothing-exotic-about-this-dancers-tax-return/
  • eFinancialCareers: The big mistake of my hedge fund career: taking my wife on a business trip:
  • https://news.efinancialcareers.com/uk-en/323720/take-wife-on-a-business-trip
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