Reviewed by Shaun Micallef-Green, RIFT's Head of Armed Forces Liaison Officer

If you’re in the Armed Forces community, you’re likely entitled to an armed forces tax refund on your travel expenses. And you can claim for other expenses too. Now, sometimes when you hear the words “tax rebate” or “tax refund”, it might feel like you’re cheating the system or doing something dodgy. However, this is tax you’re owed. It’s yours, so you may as well claim it. Let’s take a look at what a military tax refund is and how you can claim for one.

Military tax refund explained

The armed forces or Ministry of Defence (MOD) lets military personnel claim an armed forces tax refund on travel expenses, whether you’re using your own vehicle or public transport. You can claim tax back on military postings that are for 24 months or under, both in and outside the UK.

First of all, you’ll need to have completed your phase 1 training. If you’re driving to your base or getting there by public transport (or for training purposes), you can make a claim for the tax on your travel costs.

You may be eligible for an armed forces tax refund if:

  • You’re located at a base for 24 months or less.
  • Your assignment order states that you’re intended to be located at your base for 24 months or less. If you stay for longer, you can still claim for the first 24 months.
  • You use your own car to travel for training purposes – this is still possible even if you’re paid duty mileage.

And it's not just travel. To get the most out of your possible refund, you can also claim for:

  • Mess dress.
  • Food costs.
  • Time spent on secondments or a temporary place of duty, including in support of MACA (Military Aid to the Civil Authorities), such as at Covid-19 testing stations.
  • Career courses and trade training, including CMT or even resettlement courses.
  • Training conducted at civilian locations such as universities, if it’s part of your career development.
  • Pre and Post Deployment training.
  • Regular assignments of under 2 years, both in the UK and overseas.

On average, members of the armed forces can claim back around £3k, so it’s something you can’t afford to ignore.

The law says that when you make a tax refund claim, you can backdate it up to four years from your claim date. Right now, you can claim for:

  • Year ended 5th April 2020
  • Year ended 5th April 2021
  • Year ended 5th April 2022
  • Year ended 5th April 2023

However, you’ll need to get your claim in before the end of the current tax year.

Armed forces tax refund process

There are two ways to submit your MOD refund claim to HMRC:

  • If your claim is worth £2500 or more in any one tax year, you’ll have to complete a self assessment tax return. You can do this either online or by post. If you already do a tax return, you’ll need to detail your MOD tax rebate claim in the employment section of the return.
  • If your claim is less than £2500, you need to submit a P87 form for each tax year of your claim. HMRC will normally ask for further evidence to back up your claim once they’ve processed your P87.

If it sounds like a lot of hard work and a little confusing, let us take the hassle off your hands. With RIFT Refunds, you can find out for free in under four minutes if you’re due a tax refund. We have bags of experience dealing with HMRC and can handle all elements of the claim for you. We do it every day!

The information you’ll usually need for your claim includes:

  • A list of bases you've attended: Copies of assignment orders are a big help, but you can get it from JPA (but they will be deleted after 60 days).
  • Monthly payslips.
  • Supporting documents: You need evidence for the money you spend. This could be receipts for mess dress, travel expenses, MOT certificates etc.
  • Proof of ID: Passport or driving licence is ideal.
  • Proof of address: Just a utility bill will work.

When we handle the claim for you at RIFT, we’ll also gather some more info. We’ll need to know if you have a private pension or are paying off a Student Loan – HMRC definitely want to know about this. There are some complicated rules around accommodation too, so we’ll run through your living arrangements before we submit your claim.

Maximising military tax rebates

When making a claim, you’ll want to get as much back as possible. That’s a no-brainer. Doing the following will help:

Keep records

We can’t state just how important this is. The taxman isn’t in the business of giving free money away, so they’ll need to see evidence of your expenses. Always keep and file away your receipts for every expense on your journey. This could be fuel to get to a base in the UK, or the cost of the ferry when travelling to Europe. Fuel prices fluctuate, so even if you can detail your journeys to the last mile, you won’t be able to claim without any valid receipts.

Always file your assignment orders

Assignment orders are the central tenet of your military tax refund claim. You should keep a record of your Assignment Orders for every base you’ve travelled to. For any gaps, you can print them off from JPA but you’ll need to be quick and get it done within 60 days.

Log everything

Not only do you need your receipts and assignment orders, it’s key to log all your expenses too. These could be travel expenses or costs for mess dress. A log book is a good idea, or you can track everything quickly and easily with your MyRIFT account.

RIFT’s Head of Armed Forces Liaison Officer, Shaun Micallef-Green, says:

At RIFT, many of our Armed Forces teams come from military backgrounds, myself included. We understand the unique challenges of the Armed Forces life, and know the demands it places on you. The rules around Armed Forces tax refund claims are complex in places, but our specialist understanding of them is always up to date and to the letter. We know your time is valuable, so we’re here for you all year round, whenever you need us.

If you’ve been shelling out travelling to your base or for other military expenses, you’re entitled to make a military tax refund claim. And at RIFT, we’re here to help you every step of the way to maximise your tax rebate. Get in touch with us today to find out more.