Capital Allowances are the deductions which allow businesses to secure tax relief for certain capital expenditure. Capital Allowances are available to sole traders, self-employed persons or partnerships, as well as companies and organisations liable to Corporation Tax.

The Capital Allowance legislation does not specifically define plant and machinery (P&M). However, there is legislation that makes it clear that most buildings, parts of buildings and structures are not P&M. 

An interesting case dating back to 1982 helps to confirm this point of view. The decided case concerns a company that spent money on décor items such as light fittings and wiring as well as decorative items such as wall plaques, tapestries, murals, prints and sculptures. It was accepted that electric wiring was part of the fabric of the building but not the other decorative assets. 

HMRC’s internal guidance states that inspectors should only accept that items of decor are plant if the taxpayer can show that:

  • the trade involves the creation of atmosphere/ambience and in effect the sale of that ambience to its customers; and
  • the items on which plant or machinery allowances are claimed were specially chosen to create the atmosphere that the taxpayer is trying to sell.

For example, a painting on an accountant’s office wall that is owned by the accountant is not plant because selling atmosphere is not part of an accountant’s business.