Be careful of your work claims

While most of us tax payers do the right thing, sometimes there is always a handful of tax payers that will try to cheat the system as much as they can. One of the ways which some tax payers may try to get a better return is to claim certain items as work related expense claims.

The Australian Taxation Office has noticed that in the past financial year of 2017, over 6.7 million tax payers have claimed “other” for work related expense claims, summing the total amount up to a record of $7.9 million Australian dollars.

The Australian Taxation Office has since then cracked down into investigating these “other” work related expense claims. They have so far contacted over one million tax payers as of June 2018, with adjustments reaching over $100 million Australian dollars to date.

This crackdown however, isn’t only due to the increase cost of work-related expense claims, but it also shows the advancement of the taxation office’s development in technological advances and data matching software. Due to such technological advances, it has now become more cost effective to investigate smaller cases where areas previously it would have taken a lot more resources to do so.

So, what can be claimed and considered as a work-related expense? The guidelines that have been set by the Australian Taxation Office in regard to what can and cannot be considered a work-related expense states that in order to be considered a work-related expense, you must have spent the money yourself for work purposes but was not reimbursed by your employer or company. You will also need to keep a record to prove that this is true in case the taxation office asks you to provide evidence of work-related expense claims.

Work related expenses can be broken down into the following categories: travel expenses, clothing expenses, home office expenses, mobile and internet expenses, meal expenses, self-education expenses, equipment and tools and other work-related expenses.

Travel expenses includes vehicles and other forms of transport traveling between one work location to another. You cannot claim trips for normal home to work / office trips as this is considered private / personal. In order to claim a travel expense as a work-related claim, you will usually be required to provide evidence in the form of a logbook or diary and any receipts in necessary.

Clothing and laundry expenses can only be claimed for purchase and cleaning of work specific attire, such as distinctive uniforms or protective clothing. You cannot claim generic clothing bought for work, for example a business jacket or black office pants. Non-compulsory work uniforms also cannot be claimed.

Home office expenses are a bit of a trickier claim and can generally be claimed if you are an employee who regularly works from home. These expenses will generally include things that cost you money to run an office from home such as internet and phone expenses. A log book or diary is required however, if you would like to claim such expenses as you cannot claim all internet and phone as work related, only the percentage it was used for work.

If you get paid an overtime meal allowance under an industrial instrument (such as an award), then you may be entitled to claim over time meal work related expenses. You can only, however, claim the actual amount you have spent.


Self-education expenses can only be claimed if the self-education is directly related to your current work or if you receive a taxable bonded scholarship. There are certain courses that have been recognised by the Australian Taxation Office that is considered as eligible for self-education claims and there are courses that are also considered as non-eligible self-education claims.

If you purchase tools, equipment or other assets which will help you earn your income, you can claim a deduction for some or all of the costs. If the tools are used for work and private purposes, then you will need to record down the percentage that is used for work and the percentage that is used for personal.

The other work-related expenses category gets a bit complicated as technically speaking, what you spend money on to earn an income, you can usually claim that as a work-related expense. Other expenses can include categories such as income protection insurance, books, seminars or workshops, working with children checks, etc.

The general rule of thumb to take into consideration when claiming work related expenses is that if you require it to help you earn and income, then you may be able to possibly claim it back, however, written evidence needs to be documented in forms of either tax receipts or log books and diaries.

Our advice would be to play it safe and not try to guess on your own of what can and cannot be claimed. It is best to speak with your tax professional to gain a better understanding of your deductions and returns. Don’t have a tax professional? Book a consultation with us today!

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