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Big tax mistake costing millions of Aussies $341: 'Regret'

Aussies are missing out on $7 billion in unclaimed deductions due to lost or damaged receipts.

Tax return and people
Half of Aussies say they end up losing their receipts by tax time and it could be costing them billions. (Source: AAP/Getty)

Aussies are missing out on billions of dollars in tax deductions because of lost or damaged receipts. But a tax expert said there are still ways to claim if you find yourself in a sticky situation.

Millions of Aussies will have experienced this “receipt regret”, with the vast majority of taxpayers still collecting physical receipts to claim back at tax time. But this also means receipts can easily go unclaimed.

Tax Invest Accounting director and tax agent Belinda Raso told Yahoo Finance people not keeping their receipts was the “biggest mistake” she saw at tax time.

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More than half (59 per cent) of Aussies have ended up losing receipts completely, new research by Intuit QuickBooks found, with 42 per cent ended up forgetting where they stored them.

Around half said they often had faded, torn or illegible receipts by the time tax time rolled around, while a fifth said they ended up losing receipts in the wash. According to the research, this is costing Aussies $7 billion in unclaimed deductions or around $341 for each taxpayer.

“Say to yourself, ‘If I didn’t have this job or this business, would I have gone and bought this?’ And in most cases it will be a claimable deduction,” Raso said.

“So when you get home, take a photo of that receipt and save it in a file in your phone for tax 2024 or now tax 2025. At the end of the year, your account can say yes or no.”

Do you have a story to share? Contact tamika.seeto@yahooinc.com

If you’ve purchased a work-related item and have lost the receipt, Raso recommends first contacting the supplier to see if they have a copy of it. Places like Bunnings and Officeworks will often email copies of receipts.

If you can’t get a copy, you may be able to use your bank statement as proof of purchase but you’ll need to include some extra information.

“Take a photocopy or a photo of that bank statement. But on top of that, you need to have a note of what item you purchased, how it was used in your job and why you purchased it,” Raso told Yahoo Finance.

“Then for bonus points, take a photo of the actual item to prove that you've got it and then you can even go to the supplier's website and just take a screenshot.”

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) allows you to claim total work expenses of $300 or less without receipts. However, this doesn’t include claims for car expenses, meal allowances, award transport payments allowance or travel allowance expenses.

Raso stressed this wasn’t an “automatic deduction” and warned the tax office would be closely looking at this deduction this year.

“You must have still purchased the items and be able to explain what you’ve purchased, why and how you use it in your job,” Raso explained.

The ATO also allows you to claim laundry expenses of $150 or less without receipts. However, this is included within the $300 limit.

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