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9 most outrageous tax return claims revealed

Mark Chapman
·Director Of Tax Communications, H&R Block
Pictured here... martial arts, dog, cosmetic surgery, woman lounging in pool. Source: Getty Images
Martial arts, dog, cosmetic surgery. Outrageous tax return claims revealed.

As we tick over into the new financial year, taxes are at the forefront of mind for many Australians.

Depending on your area of employment, there are a range of tax deductions that could be available.

The basic rule is that if you’ve incurred an expense as part of your job, you can claim it.

For instance, if you’re a taxi driver, you can claim fuel for your car, while if you’re a tradie, you can likely claim a deduction for an array of essential tools.

Such examples are relatively straightforward and obvious, but with tax being something of a grey area for many, it is inevitable that some of the claims tax specialists encounter aren’t always of the typical variety.

With this in mind, I’ve been speaking to our network of skilled tax consultant at H&R Block who have pointed out some of the more outlandish claims taxpayers they’ve ever seen.

Here are the strangest 10.

Tax claim 1: Multiple new suits to maintain a personal brand

Each time this high-profile television personality graced our screens, he bought a new suit. Once he’d worn it, he gave it away to a charity shop.

Not only did he want to claim a tax deduction for the cost of each new suit (which he claimed he was obliged to wear to maintain his personal brand), he also wanted to claim a further tax deduction for the donation to charity.

Sadly for him, the ATO doesn’t allow deductions for the cost of conventional clothing, a category that includes business suits, even those purchased by TV stars.

As for the donations – well, in theory a donation to a charity is tax deductible, but what is the value of a second hand suit?

Our dapper star couldn’t say because he didn’t have receipts from the charity, and without a receipt, there is no possible deduction.

Tax claim 2: Cosmetic work to maintain a career

A well-known fashion model had undertaken various cosmetic procedures to maintain her appearance.

She argued that the work done was to maintain her career past the point that it would otherwise have faded out if she hadn’t had the work done.

As such, she argued there was a clear link between the cosmetic surgery and deriving her income.

It’s an argument that seems superficially compelling but it’s not one the ATO would agree with; so far as they are concerned, medical procedures are rarely if ever tax deductible, no matter what the reason.

Tax claim 3: Holiday as a research trip

A tradie left Australia for a European trip. On his return, he tried to claim back expenses from his holiday as ‘researching his craft’.

Sure, he’d taken a few nice photos and brushed up his French but his craftsman skills weren’t noticeably advanced so the deduction wasn’t allowable.

Tax claim 4: Cigarettes as stress relief

We all know smoking is bad for you but those who indulge have been known to argue that it reduces their stress levels.

On that basis, one taxpayer argued for a tax deduction for his habit as a form of ‘stress relief’. We sent that one up in smoke….

Tax claim 5: Sunscreen, and an umbrella, for cigarette breaks

It’s well established that you can claim sunscreen if you work outdoors and clothes to protect you from the elements can also be deductible where you work in a harsh climate.

But we drew the line with the client who wanted to claim sunscreen and an umbrella because his office forced him to go to the park across the road to have a smoke, where he was occasionally exposed to either sun or rain….

Tax claim 6: Breast enhancements for work

Taxpayers in the adult entertainment industry can claim all manner of interesting deductions.

Taxpayers in the US – but not here – have even claimed that breast enhancements could be tax deductible as a “tool of the trade”.

So, it’s a controversial claim even for adult performers but even more so for one lady - with no known connection to the adult industry – who tried to claim that her enhancements were necessary for work.

We didn’t allow the claim.

Tax claim 7: Tax return for the dog

Can you claim a tax deduction for your dog?

In very limited circumstances, yes you can, both for the cost of acquiring the animal (the cost is depreciated over several years) and for the costs of keeping it (food, vet bills, etc).

The two most common scenarios where the cost of a dog is tax deductible are farming (where an animal might be used to round up sheep, for instance) and security (where the cost of a guard dog to patrol business premises might be allowable).

Other than that, forget it.

So, for the client who “occasionally” took his dog to work to guard his tools and equipment and on that basis tried to claim for the dog’s food, the claim was politely declined.

How he guarded his tools and equipment on the days he didn’t take his dog to work, we never found out.

Tax claim 8: Travel for hairdressing scissors

Lots of people try to claim for the cost of traveling from home to work and back again.

Usually, they are unsuccessful because the daily commute is regarded as private - not work-related – travel and hence not claimable.

The only exception is where you’re required to carry bulky tools and equipment and you have nowhere secure at work to store them.

That exception didn’t apply to the hairdresser who tried to claim the daily commute because she had to transport her scissors and clippers, which might have been sharp but certainly weren’t bulky.

Tax claim 9: Martial arts courses as essential gym membership

A very limited number of taxpayers can claim gym memberships.

Amongst those who can are professional sportspersons, some police officers and some defence force personnel.

Bouncers aren’t on the list so the bouncer who wanted to claim his martial arts course fees was politely declined.

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