Analysis

Momentum building over possible tax rebates for nurses

Nurses are increasingly becoming aware of how to claim back significant tax and national insurance rebates from money they overpaid while training.

Nurses are increasingly becoming aware of how to claim back significant tax and national insurance rebates from money they overpaid while training

Tax rebate
Many nurses could be eligible for tax rebates. Picture: iStock

Last week Nursing Standard reported on how potentially thousands of nurses and other healthcare staff could be in line for rebates if they overpaid contributions while studying on Widening Access Training (WAT) scheme courses.

The issue is being widely discussed by nurses on social media, advice is being provided by unions, and some trusts are starting to provide information on their websites on how to make a claim.

Website MoneySavingExpert.com says it has been contacted by a ‘constant stream’ of NHS staff who want to find out if they are eligible.

Successful claims

Now one NHS payroll department has told Nursing Standard that in a 6-month period it has successfully reclaimed almost £100,000 for staff.

Launched by the NHS in 1999, WAT courses were aimed at broadening the professional knowledge of nurses and other health service staff. 

On a full-time training course at a college or university, staff should receive tax and national insurance exemptions.

But some people have been wrongly taxed or they have paid too much national insurance as the courses have been treated as paid work.

To be eligible for a rebate, nurses must have been an NHS employee during the time they were training and:

  • Enrolled on a full-time course for at least 1 academic year.
  • Attended a course run by an education establishment, such as a university, for at least 20 weeks.
  • Any payments received must have been only for studying or training, not working (so payments received for working during the holidays or bank shifts do not count).
  • Income received was less than £15,480. But some staff who earned more have had successful claims.

HMRC says nurses should contact the payroll department of the trust they worked for during this time to make an application, rather than calling the HMRC helpline.

Bradford NHS Payroll Services, which looks after the pay of two NHS trusts and two clinical commissioning groups, says that it has automatically applied for rebates for eligible staff where it has the relevant information. 

Between September 2015 and March 2016, it recouped £99,000 for just over 100 people, according to director of finance, contracting and facilities Liz Romaniak.

In the past 3 months alone the trust has received more than 100 queries from staff about making an application.

'We have proactively supported staff to reclaim tax via a number of internal and external communication channels,' Ms Romaniak adds.

'This has included regular notifications in internal staff channels, such as weekly staff bulletins and the intranet and a dedicated webpage has also been developed which provides key information around eligibility and further information required to initiate a query.'

The organisation suggests that employees who feel they may have overpaid to get in touch with information including full name, the title of their training course, start and end dates, the name of their employer and their national insurance number.

Paperwork

A HMRC spokesperson says that nurses should gather any correspondence or contracts confirming they were in full-time training and copies of any certificates they received.

They should check with their NHS payroll department to make sure that the payments they received were for training only, and find out how much they received for attending the course and how much for any other work they carried out for their employer during the academic year.

However, for those who have made claims, there are warnings that the process can be slow.

Health union Unite has raised concerns there are ‘inconsistencies’ in the way HMRC is dealing with some queries.

‘We get a mixed response from our members,’ says Unite national officer for health Colenzo Jarrett-Thorpe.

‘Some members are successful in applying, and other members with the same criteria are not successful,’ he said.

A HMRC spokesperson says he was 'not aware' of any inconsistences, but since 2015, all refunds are subject to the same guidance which has been made available by HMRC to relevant trusts.

Tax credits

Nurses also need to be aware that receiving successful repayments can affect tax credits they got at the time and their state pension. To receive a full state pension, nurses need to pay NI for 30 or 35 qualifying years, depending on when they are due to retire. As most people work for 40 years, this is often not an issue.

Julie Cunliffe, a health visitor from Bolton, has successfully received £1,600 national insurance rebate and is waiting to hear if she will receive any tax back. 

Ms Cunliffe made her application after studying for a degree in community health and well-being before qualifying as a nurse, and her health visiting qualification, which she started in 2014. 

However, she waited almost 18 months to hear about her national insurance refund, and has been told it will take up to 6 months to hear if she will receive any tax back.

Her application stalled when she told HMRC that the trust who employed her when she was doing her first degree no longer existed, and she had to get her MP to support her case to gain a response. ‘I am hoping to get some tax back as well but when they review your tax they also review your tax credits,’ she says.

‘A lot of assistant practitioners, nurses and health visitors will be entitled under the scheme, but won’t be aware. ’

 

Other forms of tax relief for nurses

Uniform

Nurses who wear a uniform to work for an employer which doesn’t provide laundry facilities can claim a £100 annual tax allowance to cover cleaning. No evidence for the cost of laundry is required.

Unions and professional body fees

Nurses can claim tax relief on registration fees for the Nursing and Midwifery Council and unions including the RCN, Unison and Unite. About 20% of the cost can be claimed.

Shoes and tights

Nurses, midwives, healthcare assistants and nursing students can claim £12 a year for shoes and £6 for tights, where the style or colour is prescribed by a uniform policy.

To claim for the first time, fill in the HMRC’s P87 form on paper or online. Nurses will need to fill in a form for each year they are claiming for.

Further information

Income Tax: tax relief for expenses of employment (P87)

Erin Dean is a freelance journalist

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