The Australian Taxation Office has warned Australians against ‘copying and pasting’ last year’s tax claims to boost their tax returns.
Last year, roughly 8.5 million Australians claimed more than $19.4 million in work-related expenses.
And while many Australians were forced to work from home during the pandemic, circumstances have changed since last year – and people’s work habits and work expenses should reflect this change too, said Assistant Commissioner Tim Loh.
“We know many people started working from home during COVID-19, so a jump in these claims is expected,” Loh said.
“But, if you are working at home, we would not expect to see claims for travelling between worksites, laundering uniforms or business trips.”
ATO data analytics experts will be on high alert to spot any “unusually high” claims this tax time, he added, especially if someone’s deductions are far higher than someone else on a similar job and income.
Anyone who has significant work-from-home expenses that increases their claims for car, travel or closing expenses will also be scrutinised, he added.
In 2020, the total value of car and travel expenses fell by 5.5 per cent, but there was a 2.6 per cent rise in clothing expenses, driven by frontline workers’ need for items like hand sanitiser and face masks.
The ATO will show leniency to legitimate mistakes, but “firm action” awaits anyone who is caught deliberately claiming things they’re not entitled to, Loh said.
“You can’t simply copy and paste previous year’s claims without evidence.”
As long as you back up your expense claims with evidence such as receipts, you have no reason to worry, said Loh.
What you can claim
Work from home expenses
The temporary shortcut method, introduced during the pandemic, is available for the full 2020-21 financial year.
This lets you claim a rate of 80 cents per hour for every hour worked from home.
But don’t forget to keep a record of the hours worked from home, the ATO said.
Personal protective equipment
If your job demands that you have physical contact or close proximity to customers or cleaning, you might be able to claim things like gloves, face masks, sanitiser, and anti-bacterial spray.
This will be relevant for workers in the healthcare, cleaning, aviation, hair, beauty, retail and hospitality sectors.
To make this claim, you have to have purchased it with your own money; used the item at work; kept a receipt; and not have been reimbursed for the item.
Clothing, laundry, self-education, car and travel expenses
The total value of these work-related expenses fell in 2020 amid travel restrictions, and this trend is expected to continue in 2021, according to the ATO.
Don’t forget: if you’re working from home but need to travel occasionally to the office, you can’t claim this cost.