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What’s the HMRC pilot tax relief?

  • 4 min read
  • Last updated 11 Sep 2023

Whether you work onboard airlines travelling overseas for commercial flights, or onboard a private jet for short-haul charters, there’s no doubt that being a pilot is one of the best-paid jobs out there. 

Unfortunately, being a high-flying, high-earning pilot doesn’t mean that you can escape the world of taxes! HMRC requires you to pay your fair share – just like everyone else. 

But you’ll be glad to hear that there is a silver lining in the form of the ‘HMRC pilot tax relief. Essentially this allows you to claim tax relief from HMRC on many of your job-related work expenses and capital allowances. 

We’ve put together a quick guide on everything you need to know about HMRC’s tax relief for pilots, and how you can claim.

I’m a pilot, what tax relief can I claim from HMRC?

There are two ways that pilots can claim tax relief from HRMC:

  1. Through a tax rebate claim based on the actual amounts you’ve spent
  2. Through Flat Rate Expenses (FRE)

The main difference is that for a standard tax rebate claim, you need to have kept invoices and receipts of the actual amounts you’ve spent to show HMRC. With FREs you don’t need any.

Flat Rate Expenses explained

Flat Rate Expenses are a type of expenses allowance, similar to simplified expenses. Only pilots that are employed under PAYE can claim for FREs. You also can’t claim if your employer has already fully reimbursed you for your costs. 

The way FREs work is that a set amount of tax relief is pre-agreed between HMRC and an industry body for their workers to claim expenses on. For pilots this was negotiated by the British Airline Pilots Association (BAPA)

Since 2013/14, the biggest FRE uniformed pilots and co-pilots can claim is £1,022 per year. The actual sum of money varies, as each pilot can claim tax relief on FREs at the highest rate of tax they pay (40% for high earners). 

What expenses can you claim on through FREs?

You can claim pilot tax relief through FREs on any of the following work expenses and capital allowances:

  • Cleaning your work uniform
  • Duplicate passport
  • Navigation flight computer 
  • Sunglasses
  • Calculator
  • Pens & clipboards
  • Flight case
  • Travel Iron
  • Stopwatch
  • Currency commission 
  • Atlas
  • Mileage scale rule
  • Chart plotters

Pilots can also claim an additional £110 on FREs to use for travel to certain events, which include:

  • Relevant training courses
  • Medical examinations
  • Flight simulator training
  • Refresher courses

In addition to these expenses, pilots can claim capital allowances for their noise-cancelling headphones if they have not been provided by their employer.

What about self employed pilots and high earners?

If you are self-employed or paid outside of PAYE, then you can only claim the HRMC pilot tax relief by submitting a tax rebate claim via Self Assessment. Be as organised as you can. Keep proof of your work expenses to show as evidence to HMRC.

If in the UK, you’re self-employed or earn £150,000 or more from employment in any given tax year, you’re legally required by HMRC to file for Self Assessment and complete a tax return.

For example, you’d need to file a tax return if your annual pilot salary was £120,000 and you also made £30,000 in that tax year from personal investments.

How can I claim my pilot tax relief from HMRC?

If you are claiming your expenses through FREs, then the allowance will be added automatically and incorporated through your tax code. However, if it’s your first time claiming for FRE, you need to contact HMRC or include the allowance on your tax return. If your employment situation changes, it is your responsibility to tell HMRC so they can amend your tax code accordingly.

If you’re self-employed or want to claim the full amount of your expenses, you must file a self assessment tax return and fill out the relevant expenses section on the form. 

Can I claim back tax from a previous year?

Yes! Pilots and other airline staff can claim tax back for up to four previous tax years if they think they have expenses they’re eligible to claim for. 

Are you a high earning pilot that needs tax advice?

Still confused by the tax relief? Wondering what expenses you can and can’t claim for as a pilot? Don’t hesitate to get in touch with us for some simple, one-off tax advice from one of our accredited accountants. 

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