9 outrageous tax return claims revealed
As we count down to the end of the financial year, taxes are at the forefront of mind for many Australians.
Depending on your area of employment, there is a huge range of tax deductions that you could claim on this year’s tax return.
The basic rule is that if you’ve incurred an expense as part of your job, you can claim it.
And you’d be surprised how much that includes.
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.
These examples are relatively straightforward and obvious, but with tax being something of a grey area for many, it is inevitable that there are some claims that are a little outside the box.
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And then there are the weird and wacky claims you wouldn’t believe are true.
Here are 10 of the strangest and most outrageous taxpayer claims we’ve come across at H&R block.
1. Cosmetic work
A well-known fashion model had various cosmetic procedures to maintain her appearance and argued that the work done was to maintain her career past the point it would otherwise have lasted. Or in other words, that 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 Australian Taxation Office (ATO) would agree with; so far as they are concerned, medical procedures are rarely if ever tax deductible, no matter what the reason.
2. Dog food
A client occasionally took his dog to work to guard his tools and equipment. On that basis the claimant 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.
So, can you claim a tax deduction for your dog?
You might be surprised to hear that, in very limited circumstances, yes you can.
You may be able to claim for 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.
3. New suits
A high-profile television personality bought a new suit for each tv appearance, and gave it to charity afterwards.
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.
4. Breast enhancements
One client tried claiming her breast enhancements were necessary for work.
While this client had no known connection to the adult entertainment industry, it's possible to see why she thought the claim might have been approved (it wasn’t).
Some taxpayers in the adult entertainment industry can claim all manner of interesting deductions. For example, taxpayers in the US – but not here – have even claimed that breast enhancements could be tax deductible as a “tool of the trade”.
Breast enhancements might be a tax no-no here in Australia, but adult performers can look at successfully making claims for items as diverse as dance lessons, hair care, oils, lingerie, costumes and “toys”.
5. Clown costume
This is a very strange tax claim, made even stranger by the fact this one was approved.
We once had a client who was a professional clown who managed to successfully make a claim for his clown costume.
The whole costume was allowable, including the red nose, as a work-related clothing claim.
Similarly, as a professional sword swallower, he was also able to claim the ceremonial swords used in his act.
6. Scissor travel
One hairdresser client tried to claim travel from home to work because she had to transport her scissors and clippers - the claim was denied.
These sorts of travel claims, where workers are required to carry bulky tools and equipment with nowhere at work to store them, are usually successful.
The issue is, while sharp, scissors and clippers are not bulky and don’t require specialist travel arrangements.
Caravanning is a popular leisure pursuit amongst the “young at heart” but is it possible to claim your caravan as a tax deduction? Surprisingly, the answer might be yes.
One taxpayer, who travelled extensively for work, decided to buy a caravan to provide overnight accommodation whilst working away, rather than paying for a hotel room every night.
From a tax point of view, that stacks up to be deductible and his claim was approved.
The tricky part is, if you are in the same situation and also use the caravan for holidays, you’ll need to apportion the deduction between work use and private use.
8. Martial arts
One client, who was a bouncer, wanted to claim his martial arts course fees claiming that he needs the skills to do his job.
The deduction wasn’t allowed.
However, it's not so outrageous for some taxpayers to claim gym memberships.
Amongst those who can are professional sportspersons, some police officers and some defence force personnel.
We have had several clients successfully claim garden gnomes on their tax returns.
Well, if you own a rental property, did you know that amongst the usual deductions - mortgage interest, rates, repairs, etc - you can claim for items that improve your property’s ‘street appeal’?
And yes, that includes garden gnomes.
Here’s a tip – make sure the gnomes are actually for your rental property; if they turn up in the garden of your family home, they are not deductible.
Mark Chapman is director of tax communications at H&R Block.
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