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Can witches claim tax allowances?

We are fond of a challenge in the ICAEW Library team and have certainly received some intriguing queries over the years.

One of the more unexpected of these has been ‘Can witches get tax allowances like Church of England ministers can?’ It's an interesting question – for instance, could Wicca practitioners claim tax deductions for herbs used to conjure up healing potions or texts such as Buckland's Complete Book of Witchcraft?

Did you know? As of 2015, Romania classifies witches, astrologers and fortune tellers as self-employed workers subject to tax.

Ministers of religion

HMRC use the term ‘Ministers of religion’ for individuals eligible for religious tax exemptions and allowances; see HMRC's Ministers of religion: Overview guidance.

To reflect their particular circumstances, there are some special rules that apply to ministers of religion – for example, relief for expenses such as robes worn when conducting church services and the supply of communion wine. The Churches' Legislation Advisory Service has a Taxation of Ministers of religion: A rough guide publication (2009) which provides an introduction to these.

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An image from the Library & Information Service's rare books collection.

Sources in the Library collection indicate that the term ‘Minister of religion’ has, so far, not been defined by legislation. However, there have been some relevant cases brought before the courts; for instance in the 1956 case Walsh v Lord Advocate [1956] 3 All ER 129, [1956] 1 WLR 1002, the courts decided that the appellant, a member of the Society of Jehovah's Witnesses, was not sufficiently ‘set apart’ in sacred spiritual matters from other members of his denomination and therefore could not be considered a minister of religion. We can supply a transcript of this case.

Similarly, it may well be that HMRC and the courts would not consider an individual coven member to be sufficiently spiritually distinguished from other members to qualify as a ‘Minister of religion’ – but the Library team is not currently aware of a legal precedent for it.

HMRC advise contacting their PAYE team if you are doubtful whether a claimant can be regarded as a minister.

We're here to help

If you have a tax question, whether every-day or supernatural in nature, please get in touch and we'll do our best to help. The Library subscribes to specialist tax and legal databases as well as having a wide range of regularly updated tax manuals in our collection.

To see other items in the rare books collection search the rare books catalogue.

Contact us by telephone on +44 (0)20 7920 8620, by fax on +44 (0)20 7920 8621 or by email at library@icaew.com.