What could I claim at tax time – a handy checklist
Figuring out what you can claim at tax time – whether you’re an employee, a freelancer or own a business – can be tricky. Here's a checklist of possibilities.
In the back of your mind is a nagging thought: it’s time to book your annual appointment with the accountant.
However, getting organised, before lodging your return or carting your receipts to the accountant, is important. It ensures you can maximise the possibility of a refund.
Here’s a quick guide to get you started – whether you’re on staff, a sole trader or a small business owner.
Work bags and clothes
You’ve bought a gorgeous handbag that fits your laptop perfectly – but is it deductible? It is, but if you use it for work and play, you can only claim the work-related portion. Dry-cleaning costs on work clothing are also claimable, as are ‘occupation-specific’ clothing you need for work, such as chefs whites or a judge’s robe. The same goes for protective clothing you might need for work or compulsory uniforms you have to buy.
Lots of tools, equipment and assets you use to get your job done may be deductible in your tax return. These include computers, software and office equipment (especially if you're working from home and need to buy a desk, swivel chair, filing cabinet, etc). Lighting, microphones or headsets you’ve bought to use during work Zoom calls are tax deductible too.
Streaming services, magazine subscriptions, audio books, podcasts Sorry – these aren’t tax deductible for most people, even if you use them at work to stay motivated. They fall under private use. Of course, if books, ebooks magazines, digital subscriptions or periodicals are directly related to you earning an income, these are tax deductible (as long as they weren’t paid for by your employer, but out of your own pocket).
Professional associations If you pay fees to be part of trade, business or professional associations that are related to your industry, those are tax deductible. You can also claim up to $42 per income year for the cost of each subscription you take out for membership of an association that’s not directly related to your work. And if you pay union fees as an employee or freelancer, these are all tax deductible.
Operating expenses If you’re running a business, you can claim on expenses that relate to the day-to-day running of your business (or a portion of the expense, if it’s related to both your business and private use). Common operating expenses might include heating and lighting, especially if you work from home – but might also include advertising, public relations, legal expenses, insurances, bank fees and charges, stationery, costs for running your website, parking fees, software, internet fees and more. For info, ask your accountant.
If you work in an industry where you’re in close contact with other people (like healthcare, beauty, retail or hospitality), you can claim equipment you’ve purchased to protect yourself during the pandemic, such as hand sanitiser and face masks.
Consider whether you can claim the temporary ATO-approved ‘shortcut method’ (of 80 cents per hour for all additional running expenses) if you've been working from home for the period 1 July 2020 until 30 June 2021 for the 2020-21 income year, and from 1 July 2021 until 30 June 2022 for the 2021-22 income year.
Travel There are quite a few rules about travel expenses. For example, you can’t claim your train ticket between home and work, as these are considered private expenses, but you can claim transport costs if you were to take a taxi from work to a work-related meeting. And if you go on a trip for work and have out-of-pocket expenses, you can only claim it if your employer doesn’t reimburse you. It’s best to double-check with an accountant about what might apply to your specific circumstances.
The taxation position described is a general statement and should only be used as a guide. It does not constitute tax advice and is based on current tax laws and their interpretation.