The COVID-19 pandemic means that employees are required to wear personal protective equipment (PPE) at work.
The tax implications of providing PPE to employees is determined by how the equipment is provided, and the extent that it is needed to enable the employee to undertake their working duties.
What happens when PPE is required, and the employer provides it?
If the employer carries out a coronavirus risk assessment and determines that the potential transmission of Coronavirus is high, then the employer MUST provide their employees with the necessary PPE, free of charge.
If this occurs then HMRC’s guidance that the provision of PPE is not taxable, meaning it does not need to be included on the employee’s P11D.
What happens if the employee purchases their own PPE before the employer reimburses the cost?
In this instance, the employee makes the initial purchase, with HMRC confirming that the reimbursement of the PPE is not taxable.
What happens when employees pay for the PPE, and are not reimbursed?
If PPE is required for the employee to perform their duties, then the employer should provide this free of charge.
As such, this should not be the case. HMRC state that employees are not entitled to tax relief on the expense of providing PPE needed to undertake their role.
However, this does conflict with the statutory position which allows tax relief for expenses wholly, necessarily, and exclusively incurred in the performance of the duties of the employment. HMRC have also confirmed that where duties require protective clothing to be worn, deductions are permitted.
What if PPE is not necessary, but preferred?
If employers provide PPE as a gesture of goodwill, a taxable benefit will arise. However, if the cost is less than £50, the trivial benefits exemption will prevent the employee from being taxed on the provision.
If an employee pays for their own PPE that is preferred, but not essential, then they will not be entitled to tax relief. Any reimbursement by the employer will be similarly taxable.
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