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HMRC internal manual

Employment Income Manual

The general rule for employees: expenses: in the performance of the duties: Fitzpatrick v CIR

The case of Fitzpatrick v CIR (66TC407) contains a recent restatement by the House of Lords of the traditionally stringent and restrictive approach of the courts to defining the duties of the employment.

The case concerned journalists and other employees in the newspaper industry who received an allowance from their employer to pay for the purchase of other newspapers that they mostly read at home. It was not disputed that the allowance was a taxable emolument but they argued for a deduction for the amount spent because reading other newspapers was part of the duties of their employment.

It was accepted by the courts that the purpose of the journalists in reading other newspapers was to perform their duties more efficiently. It was also accepted that the reading of other newspapers was encouraged or even required by their employers. Nevertheless, no deduction was allowed.

Lord Templeman commented on page 521 that:

“a journalist does not purchase and read newspapers in the performance of his duties but for the purpose of ensuring that he will carry out his duties efficiently. If deductions of this kind were allowed in one case every journalist or other similar employee would claim to be entitled to deduct the payment made by him for every newspaper and periodical which he chose to purchase “…and there would be no end to it”.A sports reporter is employed to report sport, not to read newspapers, a photographer is employed to produce pictures for his newspaper not to study the pictures of others. An editor is employed to select, draft and arrange items in his newspaper, not to read other newspapers. A journalist who reads newspapers does so in order to be able to perform his duties to the highest possible standard but he does not read “in the performance of his duties”.”