VAT Reclaims on Staff Expenses: A Guide

There’s a significant amount of money that goes unclaimed when it comes to VAT on staff expenses. The challenge with obtaining VAT reclaims on employee expenses and other types of VAT is that the process can be time-consuming. However, understanding how VAT works, the applicable VAT rates, and the eligibility criteria involved can help you recover it efficiently. This guide aims to provide you with the knowledge and steps necessary to reclaim VAT on staff expenses effectively.

Understanding VAT

VAT stands for Value-Added Tax. It’s a type of consumption tax that businesses collect on behalf of the government. This tax is assessed based on the price of the product or service at each stage of production and distribution until it reaches the final consumer. In some countries, it is also known as a Goods and Services Tax (GST).

In the UK, businesses collect VAT from their customers and pay it to HMRC. VAT collected is then used by the government as revenue for various initiatives and programmes. As a consumer, VAT is usually included in the price of the goods or services you purchase, so no additional payment is required.

HMRC provides comprehensive resources on VAT, explaining how it works and how businesses can reclaim it. This article will focus specifically on reclaiming VAT for staff expenses.

What Can You Reclaim on Staff Expenses?

To be eligible for VAT reclaims on staff expenses, the expenses must be incurred as part of the employee’s duties and paid for by the employee. Here are the key points to consider:

  1. Eligible Staff: Employees must be directly employed by you, including directors, partners, or managers. Self-employed individuals working in a similar capacity are also considered eligible. However, pensioners, former employees, shareholders, and job applicants are not eligible.
  2. Necessary Expenses: The expense must be necessary for the staff member to carry out their work duties. This includes travel expenses, meals, and accommodation during business trips.
  3. Travel Expenses: You can reclaim VAT on most business travel expenses, including accommodation and meals. For fuel used by staff for business travel, whether in their own car or a company car, VAT can be reclaimed for the business portion of the mileage. Private use is not eligible for VAT reclaim.
  4. Entertainment Expenses: VAT reclaims do not apply on expenses incurred for staff entertaining clients. However, other business-related entertainment expenses might be eligible under certain conditions.
  5. Foreign Travel Expenses: Many countries allow VAT reclaim on business travel expenses such as accommodation, meals, and transport. Non-EU companies can reclaim VAT on business expenses incurred within the EU, though the specifics may vary by country.
  6. Medical Expenses: In the UK, most medical services and insurance are exempt from VAT. However, certain cosmetic or aesthetic services might be VAT exempt, and businesses should check specific cases individually.

Tips for Efficient VAT Recovery

Efficient VAT recovery involves a few essential practices:

  • Keep All VAT Receipts: Store VAT receipts in an organized manner. Good bookkeeping practices are crucial for efficient VAT reclaims. In the UK, you need to retain VAT receipts for four years. Even if you missed claiming VAT in previous years, you can still reclaim it if you have the necessary documentation.
  • Understand VAT Policies: Make sure your travel policy clearly communicates the need for employees to keep their receipts. Without receipts, expenses cannot be reclaimed.
  • Use VAT Tools: Utilize tools like a VAT refund calculator to estimate potential savings on business travel expenses.
  • Regular Audits: Conduct regular audits of your expense claims to ensure all eligible VAT is being reclaimed and to spot any discrepancies.


At BSO FINTAX, we understand the complexities of VAT recovery and offer comprehensive services to assist you in reclaiming VAT efficiently. Our services include:

  • Comprehensive Financial Analysis: We provide detailed analyses of your expenses to identify all VAT reclaim opportunities.
  • Valuation Reports: We prepare detailed reports that explain the methodologies used in valuing your VAT claims.
  • Industry Analysis: We offer insights based on industry trends and standards to ensure your VAT recovery processes are aligned with best practices.
  • Financial Forecasting: We help project future VAT reclaim opportunities based on current and historical data.


Maintaining and reclaiming VAT on staff expenses is crucial for optimizing your business’s financial health. Implementing a detailed system and process for managing staff expenses can simplify the VAT reclaim process and ensure no money is left unclaimed. With this guide, you should have a clearer understanding of how to reclaim VAT on staff expenses efficiently.

For more detailed assistance and to maximize your VAT recovery, contact BSO FINTAX today. Our expertise can help you navigate the complexities of VAT reclaims and save significant amounts for your business.

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