UK Director Travelling to Northern Spain, Can I Drive Instead of Fly? (and claim mileage)

Feb 21, 2016
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United Kingdom
I'm heading to Northern Spain for a 3 day conference. I'd rather drive than fly for various reasons, including wanting to spend a few days driving back for a short break. I'm considering the consequences of this and would love input from someone wiser and with more tax experience than I!
  • I'm wondering if HMRC would deem a road journey to Spain as unreasonable (for a mileage claim). If this is the case, would it mean not being able to claim ANY travel costs back, or is there some rule or other about only being able to claim up to what the cost of budge airfare would be?
  • As on the way back I'll be spending a couple of days break (it will be the weekend), will this mean the entire trip is deemed as not 'exclusively' for business use?
  • If so, what is the best way to handle this? Would it be best to just not claim for the travel back at all, or only claim the mileage that I'd have claimed without the personal/weekend break part of the trip? (Of course I won't be claiming for ANY expenses such as accommodation for the personal break (I've zero interest on trying to claim anything above business costs) I just wonder what implications the personal couple of days or so after the business trip will have on claiming back the business expenses.
By way of an example, as I'll be driving to Dover, hoverspead to Calais, then drive to Northern Spain, attend a 3 day conference, then spend, say, 3 days on a short break before driving back, would the following be possible?
  1. Claim mileage to Dover as business expense
  2. Claim Hoverspeed crossing as business expense
  3. Claim mileage to Northern Spain as business expense
  4. Claim conference ticket as business expense
  5. Claim accommodation whilst at conference as business expense
  6. Claim food whilst at conference as business expense
Then, after leaving accommodation after conference:
  1. Do not claim any personal mileage for the 3 or so days on short break
  2. Do not claim ANY expenses during this time either (food/accommodation)
  3. Do not claim mileage back from Norther Spain to Calais
  4. Do (repeat, DO) claim hoverspeed fee back (it'll be a return ticket)
  5. Do not claim mileage back from Dover to city of residence.
Do people thing the above would be deemed as fair?
Last edited:


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Aug 26, 2011
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Welcome to the forum, Mike :)

Adding in personal time to a business trip doesn't necessarily mean that none of the costs are valid expenses. See this example given by HMRC:

An employee has to travel to New York on business for two weeks. While she is there she has a free weekend and spends it taking a break in Boston. The cost of her flight to New York and any other necessary travelling expenses are deductible. They have been necessarily incurred in travelling to a temporary workplace. The fact that the break in Boston means that the travelling expenses have not been incurred wholly and exclusively for business does not matter.

The costs of the break in Boston, such as travelling to Boston from New York and the cost of staying in Boston, are not deductible. These expenses are not attributable to attendance at the temporary workplace.

However, HMRC can be quite strict about travel & subsistence expenses relating to conferences. Attendance at the conference must be necessary in order to carry out the duties of the employment for the expenses to be deductible. Check out the guidance here, and be sure to follow the link at the bottom and read the three examples.

Assuming you're happy the trip is necessary for your employment, then we must consider how you are getting there. Travel and subsistence expenses are deductible for employees where they are incurred wholly and exclusively in the performance of the duties of employment. It doesn't matter if there is a cheaper alternative available, provided that the amounts are reasonable. If, for example, you have a fear of flying, and the only way you can attend the conference is to drive there, then all the travel costs will be deductible (excluding any costs relating to your break), both for the outward and return journey. Alternatively, if you would normally fly there but are choosing to drive because of the break you have planned, then HMRC are unlikely to accept that any of the travel expenses have been 'wholly and exclusively' incurred for the purposes of your employment.

So in answer to your question, it isn't so much about what is fair - more about what HMRC will accept!

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