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4 tips to maximise your tax return before June 30

There are a number of things you can claim as tax deductions that are completely allowed by the ATO.

A composite image of the ATO logo in exterior of the Australian Taxation Office and Australian money.
There are a number of things you can do to boost your tax return this year. (Source: AAP / Getty)

It’s that time of year again when we collect our receipts and either lodge our tax return online or use a licensed tax agent.

No matter which way you’re choosing to go you will need to provide details on what deductions you’d like to claim.

Here are some simple things you can do before June 30 to boost your tax return this year.

1. Make a charitable donation

Not only will making a charitable donation make you feel good, but you can also claim some of the money back at tax time.

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According to the ATO, to claim a tax deduction for a gift or donation you make, it must meet the following four conditions:

  • Must truly be a gift or donation – that is, you are voluntarily transferring money without receiving, or expecting to receive, any material benefit (that is anything that has a monetary value) or advantage in return

  • Must be of money or property, and can include financial assets such as shares

  • Must comply with any relevant gift conditions – for some authorised charitable organisations, the income tax law adds extra conditions affecting types of deductible gifts they can receive

The donation must be more than $2 in value and you must have proof of the donation.

Additionally, if you make “bucket donations”, that is putting money into a donation bucket from a reputable organisation, you can claim up to $10 of donations without needing a receipt.

However, the ATO warns that not all charities are among the accepted organisations. For example, crowdfunding websites like Kickstarter are not accepted.

2. Grow your mind, career prospects and tax return at the same time

You can also claim a deduction for self-education and study expenses if the education relates to your current job.

However, you generally can't claim the first $250 of expenses for your self-education, according to the ATO.

Again, there are certain criteria you must meet, and the course must have a “sufficient connection” to your current job, plus one of the following:

  • Maintains or improves the specific skills or knowledge you require in your current employment

  • Results in, or is likely to result in, an increase in your income from your current employment

However, the ATO warns you can't claim a deduction for self-education and study expenses for a course that doesn't have a sufficient connection to your current work activities or only relates in a general way to your current employment.

For example, you can’t claim a deduction for a full-time fashion-photography course if you’re working as a casual sales assistant on the weekends.

Additionally, you cannot claim for courses or study that will change your career path. This means if you’re a nurse, you can’t make a claim for study that will lead to you becoming a doctor.

3. Sign up for newsletters and subscriptions

Again, this has to be industry-specific but, if you work in a certain industry, you can sign up for access to industry-specific news.

The ATO said you could claim a deduction for books, periodicals and digital information you used as part of your job, if you were the one who incurred the expense.

Books and periodicals include library subscriptions, academic journals, technical journals and reference books.

Digital information services can include online subscriptions, electronic material - such as e-books or e-journals - and other digital materials you might buy.

The ATO said if the item cost $300 or less you could claim an immediate deduction, as long as the item:

  • Is mainly used for earning your employment income (not from carrying on a business)

  • Is not part of a set of assets you acquire in the same income year, where the total cost of the set is more than $300

  • Is not one of a number of identical or mostly identical items you acquire in the same income year that, together, cost more than $300 - that is, you can’t buy a round of subscriptions to a magazine for you and your mates and claim the whole thing

4. Sign up for a union or organisation

If you work in an industry that is part of a union but you haven't joined yet, now might be the time to do it.

The ATO outlined that for the industry you work in, you can claim a deduction for:

  • Union fees

  • Subscriptions to trade, business or professional associations

  • The payment of a bargaining agent’s fee to a union for negotiations in relation to a new enterprise agreement award with your existing employer

The ATO said you could also claim up to $42 per income year for the cost of each subscription you incurred for membership of a trade, business or professional association where it was not in direct relation to earning your employment income.

Most unions and associations send their members a statement of the fees or subscriptions they pay, so check these before you sign up.

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