What can I claim for tax relief when I attend a seminar overseas?

Many medical consultants, dental practice owners and dental associates attend educational courses overseas so this is a question often asked to the team at Figurit. There isn’t one clear-cut answer as some of you treat the visit purely as business, travelling solely to attend the seminar and then retreat home, whilst others combine the trip with the opportunity to travel. As with most things tax related, what can be claimed for tax relief all very much depends on whether the main purpose of the expense incurred was for business or personal benefit. Taking into account a visit overseas, the same applies. Additionally, whilst the examples in this article focus on overseas travel, the exact same rules apply for seminars within the UK.

So how does it work?

A trip mainly for business purposes

For example, if you attend a seminar in New York that lasts four days and decide to stay in the city for an extra day, arguably the main purpose of the visit is for business. In this case, typically, expenses that can be claimed for tax purposes include:
  • 100% of overseas flights
  • Seminar fee
  • Taxis, trains etc. to get to the seminar (*)
  • Hotel for the nights of the seminar (*)
  • Food for the days of the seminar (*)
(*) In this example, the incremental costs of the additional days in terms of food, accommodation and travel are not allowable.

A trip mainly for personal purposes

On the other hand, if you attend a seminar in New York for four days but time a two-week road trip following the educational experience, then it is clear that the main purpose of the visit is personal. In this case there are still expenses that can be claimed, however they are restricted to the costs directly related to the seminar. This would include:
  • Seminar fee
  • Taxis, trains etc. to get to the seminar
  • Hotel for the nights of the seminar
  • Food for the days of the seminar
Overseas flights would not be allowable for tax relief and similarly the costs relating to any days other than those of the conference would not be allowable either.

Travel expenses are high on HMRC radar

Clearly the first is the most advantageous option from a tax perspective. However, HMRC have the topic of Travel Expenses as high on their radar and if under an investigation it is relatively simple to conclude the main purpose of the visit by basic research into the dates of the seminar, conference or course. If you are planning a dual-purpose trip overseas please contact the team at Figurit to discuss the most tax effective way to maximise tax relief. Related article: Tax treatment of travel expenses for doctors and dentists