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HMRC internal manual

Employment Income Manual

Employment income: scale rate expenses payments: accommodation and subsistence payments to employees travelling outside the UK: tables of overseas scale rates: what the tables contain: what is not covered

HMRC has published tables of overseas scale rates that employers can use to pay or reimburse accommodation and subsistence expenses incurred by employees who have to travel outside the UK. The tables cover a wide range of countries and regions.

What the tables contain

For the periods prior to 6 April 2019, most countries have benchmark rates for the larger cities as well as an “elsewhere” rate. Employers wishing to use the published rates must ensure that they refer to the table entry for the city where the employee stayed, or the elsewhere rate, as appropriate. Rates are quoted in the relevant foreign currency, US$ or Euros.

For periods after 5 April 2019, the table of overseas scale rates has been amended to remove the “elsewhere rates”. Employers with employees travelling to places not listed in the table of overseas scale rates can pay or reimburse their employee’s accommodation and subsistence expenses using the rates applicable to the closest city listed for that country. See example 8 in EIM05280. If the country that the employee is visiting is not listed in the table of overseas scale rates the employer can pay or reimburse their employees expenses using the rates applicable to the closest city geographically that is listed. See example 9 in EIM05280.

The tables provide:

  • a “room rate” per night
  • a “total residual rate” and individual rates for breakfast where it is not included in the room rate, lunch, dinner etc. The “total residual rate” figure is intended to cover the total cost of meals in a period of 24 hours, plus the cost of daily travel between the employee’s hotel and office
  • a “24-hour rate” - this is the sum of the “room rate” and the “total residual rate”
  • an “over 10-hour rate”, which is intended to cover subsistence expenses for any period of more than 10 but less than 24 hours
  • an “over 5-hour rate”, which is intended to cover subsistence expenses for any period of more than 5 but less than 10 hours
  • separate amounts for individual meals and other expenses incurred during the day - employers who wish to do so may use these rates instead of the “over 5”, “over 10” and “24-hour” rates (see EIM05260)

Whilst most rates are published in the local currency, or are consistently in either US$ or Euro(€), there are a number of countries where the room rate is published in either US$ or € and the total 5-hour, 10-hour and residual rates are in the local currency. In these cases, the 24-hour rate will show both currencies.

For periods prior to 6 April 2019, the appropriate table of rates has some destinations for which the table simply shows “ACTUALS + £4 PER DAY”. These are destinations for which no benchmark information is available. In such cases, employers may reimburse their employees’ actual accommodation and subsistence expenses, plus £4 per day to cover hotel-to-office travelling expenses.

For periods after 5 April 2019 the appropriate table of overseas scale rates no longer refers to “elsewhere rates” or “ACTUALS + £4 PER DAY”. Employers with employees visiting places not listed in the table can pay or reimburse employee accommodation and subsistence expenses using the rate for the nearest city that is listed within the country the employee is visiting. See example 8 in EIM05280.

Where, for periods after 5 April 2019, the appropriate table of overseas scale rates does not list the country which an employee is visiting, the employer can pay or reimburse their employees accommodation and subsistence expenses using the overseas scale rates published for the nearest city geographically that is listed in the table of overseas scale rates. See example 9 in EIM05280.

Employers cannot choose to use rates from destinations to which their employees have not travelled as a substitute for destinations for which no overseas scale rate is available. The rates can only be used as published.

There’s guidance on and examples of using the tables.

What is not covered

The overseas scale rates are intended to represent the accommodation and subsistence expenses that employees incur during a period spent in a foreign country. That is why the “24-hour”, “over 10 hours” and “over 5 hours” periods are measured by reference to the times of arrival at and departure from the foreign country. The overseas scale rates do not cover incidental, allowable expenses that employees may incur en-route - for example, the cost of a taxi to the airport in the UK, or necessary refreshments taken at the airport. Employers who wish to use the overseas scale rates may reimburse those other expenses separately, in addition to paying the overseas scale rates.

(This content has been withheld because of exemptions in the Freedom of Information Act 2000)