Sewage worker loses tax claim for his laundry bills

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A sewage worker has lost a tax rebate battle with the inland revenue over who should pay to have his work clothes cleaned.

Karl Higginbottom calculated he spent thousands removing hazardous waste from his uniform during his four years with Wigan-based Euro Environmental Group (EEG).

But his £8,800 claim, dismissed by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC), has now been rejected at a tax relief appeal heard at

Manchester’s First Tier Tribunal Tax Chamber.

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Mr Higginbottom’s job as a camera operator, which he left in February last year, required him go into the sewer system up to 13 times a day.

The court heard he worked across the country and his employers did not provide any facilities for him to wash his protective clothing.

The tribunal, which was heard by Judge Jonathan Cannan, heard Mr Higginbottom was provided with “protective clothing” to use during his role in which he was exposed to “a variety of harmful diseases” such as Weil’s disease and hepatitis B.

Bosses at EEG stressed to him the importance of keeping the clothing clean but he was left to scrub and clean his own uniform, often in the bathroom of the hotel or guestroom where he was staying. He would also buy all the disinfectant and cleaning products, the tribunal heard.

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After he left EEG, he lodged a claim with the taxman for that outlay, which included wear and tear to his washing machine and utility bills.

However, this was disputed by HMRC, who said that receipts must be provided to prove that this was the correct amount.

Due to the fact that Mr Higginbottom would often ask his wife to collect these items as part of a weekly household shop - none of the receipts were kept.

The court also heard how his employers made no contribution to any cleaning costs.

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Mr Higginbottom - who was appealing against accusations of “underpayments of tax” was told that there was “no supporting evidence” as to the weekly cost of these detergents and toiletries.

HMRC currently offers a “maximum” tax relief of £60 a year to cover cleaning costs.

Court documents state he was represented by Dr J Banks, who told the tribunal HMRC did not dispute the expenditure but were “seeking to impose an arbitrary maximum relief of £60 per tax year to cover cleaning costs”.

Dr Banks told the court: “HMRC do not dispute that expenditure has been incurred but they are seeking to impose an arbitrary maximum relief of £60 per tax year to cover cleaning costs.

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“Further, the figure of £60 was set in 2008-09 and has not been increased since to take into account inflation, in particular rising utility prices. On the balance of probabilities the appellants have incurred expenditure far in excess of the 25p per day allowed by HMRC.”

The HMRC argued the expenses were incurred “exclusively” through Mr Higginbottom’s employment.

But they admitted the limit for personal hygiene claims could be viewed as “somewhat out of date” but maintain they Mr Higginbottom was not entitled to anything above that sum.

EEG were unavailable for comment.

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