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ATO extends tax ‘shortcut’ to Aussies working from home

Jessica Yun
·6-min read
Mid adult man using computer. Woman is working in foreground at desk. Business couple are in home office.
If the coronavirus has had you working from home lately, you can claim more back in your tax return this year. (Source: Getty)

Updated: 13 July 2020

The ATO has extended the work-from-home tax shortcut to the end of September, meaning Australians working from home will see a boost to their tax refunds next year, as well as this year.

Announced in early April, the ATO’s new tax shortcut – which allows Aussies to claim 80 cents per hour for all work-from-home running expenses – was confirmed only from the beginning of March until 30 June.

But the ATO has now revised this, extending it into the current financial year. You can now claim the tax shortcut until 30 September.

“Tracking these expenses can be challenging, so we have introduced a temporary shortcut method. It's a simple way to calculate these expenses with minimal record keeping requirements,” the ATO has stated on its website.

“The shortcut method initially applied from 1 March 2020 to 30 June 2020, however it can now be applied up until 30 September 2020.”

So that means, for the 2019-20 financial year, you’re able to claim hours worked from home for the period between 1 March 2020 to 30 June 2020, and from 1 July 2020 to 30 September 2020 in the 2020–21 income year.

And if Aussies continue to work from home beyond 30 September, the ATO is likely to revise the extension again.

7 April 2020

Millions of Australians who have been forced to work from home will be able to get more back in their tax returns this year thanks to new rules around expense claims.

With the coronavirus pandemic seeing Aussies shift to remote work, the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has announced it will allow people to claim a rate of 80 cents per hour for all work-from-home running expenses.

Typically, taxpayers wanting to claim work-from-home expenses could claim it in one of two ways: through a fixed rate of 52 cents per hour, or to calculate each actual expense.

Often called the ‘diary method’, this would mean keeping track of expenses such as home office equipment, lighting, heating, cooling, as well as phone and internet expenses.

The new rules slash the paperwork and record-keeping on much of this.

It also means that multiple people within one household can claim the new rate, so if you live as a couple or in a share-house with multiple people working from home, each person will be able to claim the 80 cents per hour rate.

You also don’t need to have a dedicated work-from-home area to be able to make the claim.

australian dollar with graph, home budget laptop and calculator
Thousands of Australians will be able to make work-from-home tax claims this financial year. (Source: Getty)

According to ATO Assistant Commissioner Karen Foat, the tax ‘shortcut’ means you’ll need to keep track of fewer expenses.

“The shortcut method provides a rate of 80 cents per hour and will only require you to keep a record of the number of hours worked from home,” she said.

“This recognises that many taxpayers are working from home for the first time and makes claiming a deduction much easier.

“If you choose to use this shortcut method, all you need to do is keep a record of the hours you worked from home as evidence of your claim.”

So, come tax time, all you need to do when doing your tax return is multiply $0.80 with the number of hours you worked from home, and file that under the category ‘Other work-related expenses’. Then you’ll get that amount back in your tax refund – it’s as easy as that.

Any claims for remote work expenses before 1 March will have to be made the old way.

Here’s how to calculate your work-from-home claims

According to the ATO, there are now three ways you can calculate your work-from-home expenses:

  • claim a rate of 80 cents per work hour for all additional running expenses (the new special arrangement); or

  • claim a rate of 52 cents per work hour for heating, cooling, lighting, cleaning and the decline in value of office furniture, plus calculate the work-related portion of your phone and internet expenses, computer consumables, stationery and the decline in value of a computer, laptop or similar device; or

  • claim the actual work-related portion of all your running expenses, which you need to calculate on a reasonable basis.

However, you’ll need to make a separate claim for the following:

  • phone and internet expenses

  • computer consumables and stationery

  • decline in value on your computers or other equipment.

All work-from-home claims will still have to follow these three ‘golden’ rules:

  1. Taxpayers have to spend the money themselves and not be reimbursed;

  2. The claim has to be directly related to earning income; and

  3. There has to be a record of the item or purchase to substantiate the claim.

Here’s an example of how it works

The ATO has provided an example of what the new rules might look like.

“Bianca is an employee who works as a copywriter and editor. Bianca starts working from home on 16 March as a result of COVID-19 and replaces her face-to-face meetings with online video conferencing.

“Bianca has just bought a new laptop, desk, chair and stationery. She also wants to claim some additional gas, electricity, phone and internet costs due to working from home.

“Under the shortcut method, Bianca can now claim all her expenses under a rate of 80 cents per hour. All she needs is her timesheets.

“Bianca can also decide to claim using existing working from home calculations. Under that method, Bianca can claim the desk, chair, gas and electricity under the 52 cents per hour, but would need to work out the decline in value of the laptop, and calculate the work-related portion of the laptop, stationery, phone and internet.”

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