People could be missing out on hundreds or thousands of dollars when it comes to tax time with some professionals failing to claim for perks specific to their industries.
Accountant Coco Hou has identified four careers where people can cash in on some unusual parts of their jobs.
“The shocking thing is that far too many people who work in these unusual tax return industries do not know even the gold pot they’re sitting on. A number of these industries allow workers to claim tax on niche and industry-specific things that aren’t commonly discussed across the board,” she said.
“The general rule is that if you incur an expense as part of your job and aren’t reimbursed by your employer, you are entitled to make a claim on those work-related items.”
If you’re a tradie, teacher, retail worker or office-based employee, then these tips could give you a huge windfall at tax time – but there are tips for other industries as well.
Here’s what you should be doing when it comes time to lodge your tax return.
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Construction and manufacturing workers can hit the absolute jackpot with tax perks if they are sure to keep track of all of their expenses throughout the year, according to Ms Hou.
“When it comes to their tools, or other industry-specific equipment, that are required to complete their job, they can claim an immediate deduction costing up to $300. It is not widely known either, that trades can claim a deduction on the interest charged on financing equipment, as well as on the cost of insuring them,” she said.
Grabbing a bite to eat can also be a win for tradies, along with filling up the car with petrol.
“Another extraordinarily under-celebrated tax perk in an industry that is notorious for overtime hours, is that trades can claim for overtime meal expenses when they receive an overtime meal allowance,” she said.
Other fees like being a member of a trade union, renewing professional licences, registrations and subscriptions, and self-education courses that are related to the career at university or TAFE can also be included in a tax return.
Keep track of home office expenses too, like if you need to organise paperwork from time to time.
Tradies are missing out on between $2000 and $5000 overall, according to Ms Hou, with the loss of receipts a huge issue.
“For tradespeople, when they do a tax return, especially for the first time when I see them, I will give them an envelope and tell them to put it in their car and whenever you get petrol or go to McDonald’s for a quick meal – put all receipts in one spot,” she said. “At the end of the year tax time is much easier as tradespeople always lose receipts so this would make a huge difference.”
Educators often miss out on a really easy one – the depreciation on technology like computers, laptops, printers, mobile phones and tablets that are more than $300 – as long as they are used for work purposes, said Ms Hou.
“Most teachers prepare lessons and mark homework while at home, so I would urge them to claim home office expenses, such as utility bills and internet costs,” she said.
“Any stationery, pens, printer cartridges or art materials that they are not reimbursed by the school for are all tax deductible as well.”
Don’t forget to claim for things like conferences, excursions and courses linked to your teaching career, as well as travel, textbook, meal and accommodation costs that come out of your own pocket.
If you work in retail and are required to travel between different stores, then the cost of travel can be claimed – but make sure you keep track of the trips on your phone.
“It is pretty common for retail staff to be required to take trips between stores to deliver stock or provide a shift cover, so I would encourage them to keep a log of all of the trips they take between these venues in order to claim a deduction,” Ms Hou said.
Uniforms required by an employer are also an expense.
“If staff are required to wear a uniform that has the businesses logo on it, you are also able to deduct the expenses from buying and maintaining those pieces,” she said.
“While a plain shirt would not qualify, a plain white shirt embroidered with the workplace name absolutely would. Any protective equipment associated with the role can also be claimed under the same guise, including sunscreen, helmets and safety goggles.”
She added that retail workers are missing out on a few hundred dollars at tax time. “It’s still quite meaningful for them given their income is not as high,” she said.
Like most Aussies, if you spent some of the year in lockdown and working from home then that’s an easy claim. It’s calculated either on a proportion of home office running expenses based on actual costs or at 52 cents per hour.
“Think 40 hours a week at 52 cents per hour, so if you do the maths that’s $300 or $400 in work from home expenses is very possible,” she said.
Make sure to form a good habit to record these hours – create a spreadsheet that shows the time, date and number of hours and log these before signing off for the day.
If hot-desking, bags can also be part of your claim.
“If a handbag or briefcase is required for work practices like carrying paperwork or a laptop, the cost of it is absolutely claimable for office workers,” said Ms Hou. “It is important that I note here however, the Australian Taxation Office may not be as receptive to a $2000 Louis Vuitton bag as a $200 classic leather piece.”
The cost of parking and tolls for cars on work-related journeys or taking public transport is another tax perk that should be utilised by office workers.
The most important thing for any worker looking for tax deductions is simply keep records for their tax agent. It doesn’t matter what you have spent over the last 12 months on work-related expenses – if you can’t prove it with receipts and invoices, then the money is gone.
There are a number of other industries that can generate a high tax return, added Ms Hou. “Surgeons can claim deductions on self-education, insurances and licences that are often a personal expense. Real estate agents claim higher travel and car expenses, as well as licences,” she said.
“Lawyers often need to continue to study to remain ahead in their industry and pay for licences that enable them to practise, which all qualify for deductions.”