Employee Christmas Parties & Tax

Employee Christmas Parties & Tax

Beware of the taxman and make sure you keep employee Christmas party costs below a certain amount in order to reclaim VAT.

An employee Christmas party, which is paid for by the employer is technically a taxable benefit, but there is an exception.

When is your event exempt from tax and national insurance?

In the UK all employers have certain reporting obligations when it comes to tax and national insurance, however there are circumstances where an event is exempt from reporting, and that is when ALL the following criteria are met: 

  • The event must cost less than £150 per head
  • The event must be an annual occurrence, and not just a one off
  • The event must be open to all employees

If all the above criteria are met, then the cost will be exempt for reporting for tax and national insurance.

If you are a very generous employer, who provides more than one annual event (for example, a Christmas party and a summer barbeque), then for both events to be exempt, the sum of both, must be no more than £150 per head.

Any event, which does not meet the criteria will be taxable.

VAT on my employee party

What if my event is not exempt?

Perhaps your event costs more than £150 per head? Or you have more than one employee party in the year? Or maybe on top of your employee party, you hold a second party which is only for Directors (i.e. not available to all staff)?

Under these circumstances, your event would not be exempt from reporting obligations. In the instance of more than one party, if the combined total is over £150, only one event could be exempt, and full tax must be paid on the second.

This would need to be done on each employee’s P11D form, and Class 1A insurance contributions would need to be paid.

Can I reclaim the VAT on my employee party?

According to HMRC, if an event is held for employees (to reward them for hard work), then this is classed as wholly for business purposes, and therefore the VAT paid can be reclaimed.

The two exceptions to this rule are:

  • For parties solely held for directors
  • Employees acting as hosts for non-employees

So, to ensure that you can get the most out of your employee party without tax obligations, make sure the cost is kept below £150, and if you are reimbursing expenses for travel etc, consider the benefits of automating your processes to save valuable time at this busy period!

Whatever you do, enjoy yourselves and have a Happy Christmas.

Keep track of employee expenses

If you’re looking for a more efficient way of keeping track of employee expenses, from mileage and travel expenses to incidentals, MyExpenses provides an effective solution. Find out more about our staff expense tracking software.