The Money You Never Even Knew You Had


With the COVID-19 crisis changing life for everyone in the UK in one way or another, we’re all putting off our spending and booting our plans a little further down the road for now. When we talk to our customers at RIFT, we love to hear what they’ll be putting their tax refunds toward. Holidays, smartphones, big-screen TVs and high-tech gadgets are always high up on the lists – but right now, those plans are all hitting the back burners while we wait for the danger to pass.

The government, businesses and banks have all been doing quite a lot to help families through the lockdown, and are even doing a pretty good job of telling them about it. Depending on your situation, you might already be looking at anything from loan and mortgage payment holidays to getting 80% of your wages covered while you’re on furlough. Companies are offering refunds on train tickets and cancelled events, while overdraft freezes are easing the financial pressure for many without damaging their credit ratings.

The thing is, while the whole country’s holding fire on those major purchases, there are still far too many of us shooting ourselves in the foot by letting the taxman hold onto money that should be back in our own pockets.

Every year, PAYE construction workers are leaving as much as £300 million in unclaimed tax refunds in HMRC’s hands. Given the 4-year time limit allowed for refund claims, that’s £1.2 billion of UK construction workers’ cash left owing at any time. Claiming your yearly tax refund is one of the biggest boosts you can give to your finances, but so many people either think it’s too difficult or never even realise they qualify.

When you work in construction, you tend to spend a lot of time trekking to and from temporary workplaces (generally, somewhere you work for under 24 months on the trot). Maybe you use public transport; maybe you drive your own car or van. Either way, you’ve putting miles under your wheels as a necessary part of doing your job. If you’re spending your own cash to do it, you can claim a tax refund based on your costs each year. In practice, that means:

  • 45p per mile for the first 10,000 miles by car or van, then 25p per mile after that.
  • 24p per mile travelled on a motorcycle.
  • 20p per mile for travel by bicycle.

It might not look like much on paper, but it mounts up fast. For example, travelling 15,000 miles for work by car in a single tax year would net you a tax-free payment of up to £5,750. If you’re using public transport, your refund will be based on your ticket costs, so hang onto those receipts.

There are lots of other essential costs that can add toward your refund claim, and it’s easy to check what you’re owed using free online tools from experts like RIFT, such as this online tax rebate calculator. 76% of us are delaying splashing out on something big because of COVID-19. Just think what you could do with a refund in your pocket today.

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