Diver's fitness training an allowable expense - Robert John Osborne v HMRC  UKFTT 373 (TC)
Updated: Dec 12, 2020
In Robert John Osborne v HMRC  UKFTT 373 (TC), the First-tier Tribunal (FTT) held that expenditure on fitness training was allowed because it was wholly and exclusively incurred for the purpose of the taxpayer's occupation as a saturation diver.
The taxpayer worked as a saturation diver. As saturation diving is dangerous, and as fatalities can be attributable to insufficient diver fitness, the industry and contractors require minimum levels of fitness for divers. The method of achieving the required level of fitness is not standardised and testing is prescribed by the industry and contractors. As saturation diving can cause cartilage and bone damage, Mr Osborne was advised by his dive doctor to combine daily fitness training with running on loose soft hills in woodland. Mr Osborneʼs expenditure comprised his membership of a gym and motor expenses relating to his travel to and from the gym and his travel for the purposes of his outdoor exercise.
HMRC received Mr Osborne’s Self-Assessment Tax Return for the 2016/17 tax year on 13 September 2017. On 27 June 2018, HMRC advised Mr Osborne and his agent, that a check would be carried out into the 2016/17 return under section 9A Taxes Management Act 1970 (“TMA”).
Upon reviewing Mr Osbornes’s Tax Return, HMRC disallowed expenditure incurred on fitness training on the basis of duality purpose. It argued that fitness training also benefited Mr Osborne on a personal basis and therefore was not wholly and exclusively incurred for the purposes of his trade.
Mr Osborne objected made an appeal to the First Tier Tax Tribunal (FTT).
The FTT allowed Mr Osborneʼs appeal, finding that Mr Osborneʼs only purpose in undertaking his fitness training was to enable him to work as a saturation diver. Given the intensity and frequency of Mr Osborneʼs fitness regime, and that he suffered some cartilage/joint pain, the FTT did not think that Mr Osborne would have trained as he did had he not needed to do so for the purpose of working as a saturation diver.
The taxpayer's only purpose in undertaking his fitness training was to enable him to do his physically challenging job. The taxpayer would not train for two to three hours each day if he did not need to do so in order to enable him to do his job. His training regime was so far removed from his personal physical needs there could be no duality of purpose.
The decision can be viewed here.