Small business expenses - what can you claim for?

July 11, 2023

If you’re just starting out running a small business – or even if you’ve been operating one for a while – learning about all the financial ins and outs can be extremely complex. And the world of small business expenses is certainly no exception to that.

High costs can quickly eat into your profit margin and limit the success and potential viability of your business. However, there are many different small business expenses for which you can claim the tax back from the Government, and it can make a big difference to your bottom line.

In this guide, we’ll explore a wide range of the most common small business expenses you’ll be able to claim for. You’ll also learn that while you may incur substantial costs running your enterprise, there are certain things where you shouldn’t cut corners to make a saving.

Why is it so important to claim business expenses?

If you aren’t claiming business expenses, then you’re doing the metaphorical equivalent of flushing hundreds or even thousands of pounds down the toilet every year.

Most reasonable costs that you incur running your business are considered ‘allowable expenses’ by the Government and His Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC). For a limited company, it works like this: when your accounts are calculated at the end of your financial year, your overall profit figure is your total income for the year, minus these expenses.

It is your profit figure from which Corporation Tax (CT) is calculated, so the more expenses you claim for, the lower your profit figure and therefore the lower your CT bill will be. Given the current rate of CT is anywhere between 19% and 26.5%, depending on the amount of profit you make, every £1000 of expenses you claim for can reduce your CT bill by between £190 and £265.

If you’re working as a sole trader rather than as a limited company, then a similar principle applies. However, in your case, the expenses will be claimed for as part of your Income Tax Self-Assessment, and your Income Tax bill will be reduced accordingly.

A word of caution, though: you shouldn’t try to claim for anything that isn’t related to your business operations – this is illegal. If you are investigated by HMRC and you are found to have claimed for expenses that were personal rather than business in nature, then the penalties can be extremely severe.

Types of allowable business expenses?

The range of allowable business expenses is simply vast – hence the reason that many small businesses avail themselves of a professional accountant to ensure that they’re leaving no stone unturned! Many of them are specific to certain types of business, so it’s worth doing your own research to find out those that apply to your enterprise.

Here, we’ll take a look at eight of the most common types of allowable business expense that most small businesses will generally be able to claim for:

Office equipment, property and utilities

All the costs of running an office are considered reasonable to claim for. This includes rent paid on premises; bills for heating, electricity, water, telephone and Internet access; stationery and related functions such as printing and postage; plus any property insurance that is specific to your company. If you need to use any software, then this can also be claimed for, as long as you regularly renew the licence or use it for less than two years.

If you run your business from home, then there are also certain levels of expenses you can claim, such as for a room that is dedicated as a home office.

Clothing and footwear

Anything that you need to wear as part of the job – or that your employees need to wear – can be claimed for. This includes uniforms if they’re required, as well as smart business attire for more formal settings like meetings. All personal protective equipment (PPE) is also allowable, from face masks and safety goggles to gloves and steel-capped boots. At the slightly more fun end of the scale, if you run a more creative business where costumes and make-up are used, then you can claim for these, too!

Staffing costs

If you employ people to work for you in your business – even if it’s only one person – then everything involved with them can be claimed for. After all, there wouldn’t be much incentive to grow a business if you were taxed for hiring staff!

The list in this area is comprehensive: salaries, benefits, pension contributions, Employer’s National Insurance contributions (you still have to pay them but they don’t count as profit), and equipment and clothing costs as mentioned above. Given the substantial outlay involved in hiring employees, ensuring that everything is appropriately claimed for can really relieve the financial burden of doing so.

Training and development

Whether you want to develop your own skills, or you want to ensure that a new recruit gets fully up to speed with the job, all training courses and qualifications that are paid for by your business are also allowable. In a similar vein, you can also claim for any exhibitions or conferences that you attend in a professional capacity and that you’re required to pay to attend. If you bring in a trainer or expert to run a course on your premises for you and/or your staff, then the cost of hiring their services can also be claimed for.

Transport and travel

If you have to get out and about as part of your work, from making deliveries to travelling overseas for meetings, then every single cost involved in that travel can be claimed for. If using a car, then you can claim for fuel, parking, insurance, tolls like the London Congestion Charge, and potentially the costs of maintaining the vehicle, too. You can also claim for train and flight tickets, taxi rides, any accommodation you need, and food and drink while you’re away.

Do bear in mind, however, that you would need to justify the purpose of a claimed trip if HMRC asks you to – with evidence, if necessary. It is not advisable to claim for travel and accommodation costs for your next summer holiday!


Trading in goods rather than services brings a whole new world of costs with it – but the good news is that these costs are generally considered allowable business expenses. Buying in stock and procuring the materials to make goods are allowable, as are all the costs you incur in producing items for sale (for example, the running costs of machinery).

Finance, legal and admin

As this guide demonstrates, even small businesses can be complicated to administer. There can be lots of functions – and therefore costs – involved, most of which you’re able to claim for. Accountancy fees, for example, are considered allowable, as are the fees of any legal or other professional services that you might have to use. Bank charges and credit card fees are also claimable, as well as the interest that you pay on any business loans or credit facilities that you have. It’s also possible to claim for any bad debts within your business, but you should seek the advice of a professional accountant to check your eligibility in this area.

Advertising and marketing

Last but by no means least, you can claim for anything you spend on promoting your business to your customers and the wider public. This starts small with costs like website hosting and domain names and runs all the way up to large-scale advertising and marketing campaigns (including any fees you pay to professional agencies to run these for you). Stands at exhibitions and all related expenses can also be claimed for, as well as any subscriptions you take out for trade-related journals, and memberships of professional organisations.

Get small business insurance with Protectivity

You may feel like there are lots of expenses here to get your head around, and that they could be a serious drain on your potential profitability. Whilst it might be tempting to cut corners and make savings in some places, this is definitely not advisable. Particularly so, for insurance.

Every business is vulnerable to claims for compensation when something goes wrong, but for small businesses, these claims can be especially damaging. The costs can easily run into the thousands, and can cause substantial long-term effects to your business’s viability – and in the worst-case scenario, to your own personal finances.

At Protectivity, we can make sure that these financial shocks can’t affect you through comprehensive insurance cover for a range of small businesses, from pet businesses and dog groomers to personal trainers and hairdressers. Not only do our policies give you peace of mind to grow your enterprise with confidence, but they’re also available through flexible monthly payment plans, meaning they don’t put too much pressure on your balance sheet.

To find small business insurance cover that’s right for the specifics of your operation, get in touch with our team today.