As a foreign teacher working in the UK, it took me a couple of years to work out the tax system and how to make the most of it.
You mean I don’t have to submit a tax return each year?
The tax year starts from April 1st?
Once this is all said and done though it is a pretty simple system, so most people are happy to just let each year pass without much thought as to whether they are paying the correct amount of tax.
Now, where I’m from in Australia, teachers have the opportunity to claim many expenses as tax deductible. Here are some of my personal favourites; as hats are compulsory for students and teachers in Australia’s sunny climate, you can claim for a wide brimmed hat; you can also claim for a personal library as long as you don’t sell your books for at least two years (hooray for tax deductible textbooks!); and as teachers need a workspace in their home, you can claim a percentage of the expenses used to set up a home office.
Sadly these same items are not available to claim for teachers here in England, but there is one that you can claim which is almost always overlooked: union fees. But before you say, “Why would I join a Union in the UK?”, you need to understand why not joining a union is a terrible mistake.
Why be in a union?
First, unions help protect you in the event that you require legal support regarding an allegation that occurs within your role as a teacher.
Second, unions work on your behalf to petition the government for change to legislation and challenge proposed legislation that could adversely affect you at work.
Third, unions provide a forum from which you can meet a entire network of teachers; the NUT in particular has an excellent presence on Twitter and runs many events for young and beginning teachers.
Fourth, unions are able to provide members with a variety of financial benefits, including discounted shopping, insurance, and holidays.
Then there’s this little chestnut; the entirely of your union fees can be claimed as professional fees and subscriptions, and therefore you can get a percentage of those fees back!
Not in a Union yet? Visit the following pages to see what each of the major unions have to offer:
National Union of Teachers (NUT)
Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL)
Getting your Tax Rebate
It is this simple (make sure you have your P60 form from your employer and your bank details with you before you start):
1. Go to the p87 form page on HMRC website.
2. Fill in your details – you are asked whether you are claiming a number of expenses, but the only one you will need to fill in is professional fees and subscriptions. (Please note: if you are a PE teacher, you can also claim some of your clothing items).
3. Submit the form and open the preview option.
4. Print, sign, and post to the following address:
Pay As You Earn and Self Assessment
HM Revenue and Customs
Best of all, you can claim for the past four years, so if you haven’t done so yet, but have been in the country longer than a year, you can fill in a form for each year back to 2012. You may need to claim these for different employers if you worked at more than one school.
What if I work for an agency?
If you work for a teaching agency, you are already able to claim these items and others (because you are self-employed according to HMRC), so you are not able to use this feature. However, if you did not claim union fees from your agency, you can register for Self-Assessment Online Services, and this will allow you to add expenses to previous year’s tax records (and more importantly, to this year’s records as well).
Happy unexpected payday!