Tax implications of providing PPE to employees

The Covid-19 pandemic has seen many employees being required to wear personal protective equipment (PPE) at work. The way in which this is provided and the extent that it is needed to enable the employee to undertake the duties of their employment will determine the associated tax implications.

HMRC have published guidance on the treatment of certain expenses provided to employees during the Coronavirus pandemic. While this covers the provision of PPE, there are some gaps.

PPE is required and employer provides it

If an employee is working in a situation where transmission of Coronavirus is high and the employer’s risk assessment is that the employee needs PPE, the employer must provide this to their employees free of charge. In this situation, HMRC’s guidance confirms that the provision of PPE is not taxable. As such it does not need to be included on the employee’s P11D.

Employee provides PPE and employer reimburses the cost

In a situation where the employee requires PPE to do their job and the employer is unable to provide it, but the employee purchases it themselves and claims the cost back from their employer, HMRC confirm in their guidance that the reimbursement of the PPE is not taxable.

Employees meet cost of required PPE

Where the PPE is required for the employee to perform the duties of their employment, the employer should provide this. Consequently, the issue of the employee meeting the cost of necessary PPE should not arise. In their guidance, HMRC state that employees are not entitled to tax relief on the expense of providing PPE needed to undertake their role. However, this conflicts with statutory position which allows tax relief for expenses wholly, necessarily and exclusively incurred in the performance of the duties of the employment. HMRC also confirm in their Employment Income Manual (at EIM 32480) that where the duties require protective clothing to be worn, a deduction is permitted.

Nice but not necessary

However, where the duties do not require the employee to wear PPE and the employer provides it as a gesture of goodwill (for example, the provision of facemasks where the law does not require these to be worn), a taxable benefit will arise. However, if the cost is less than £50, the trivial benefits exemption will prevent the employee being taxed on the provision.

Likewise, if an employee meets the cost of PPE that is not required for them to perform the duties of their employment, they will not be entitled to tax relief for the costs. Any reimbursement by the employer will similarly be taxable.