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Last year approximately 7.3 million people claimed work-related expenses, making them one of the most commonly claimed deductions. The most commonly claimed expenses in 2009 included car, travel, uniform and self-education expenses, and on average people claimed $2,008 in work-related expenses.
The ATO pays particular attention to these claims, often identifying mistakes and sometimes finding claims that are false, not work-related or can’t be substantiated through good record keeping or receipts.
The ATO looks closely at returns and identifies particular occupations where:
- average amounts of claims are high
- there is an increase in the number of people making claims
- there are a lot of people making claims for the first time
The ATO will write to approximately 200,000 employees in the following occupations outlining common mistakes and providing advice on how to avoid these mistakes in this year’s tax return:
CPA Australia advise that teachers, mechanics and engineers should make every effort to ensure that they have supporting documents for their 2009-2010 tax claims.
CPA Australia, general manager, policy and research, Paul Drum said the ATO had made it clear this year that they would be looking at these professions due to claim patterns that 'were often unsubstantiated by supporting documentation'.
The most common mistakes made by people in these occupations include:
- insufficient documentation available to support claims made for motor vehicle and travel expenses
- incorrectly claiming motor vehicle expenses including claiming when they travel from home to work more than once per day
- incorrectly claiming home office, mobile phone and internet expenses
How to ensure you get it right the first time
There are some simple rules to help you work out your work-related expense claims.
- You must have incurred the expense in the year you are claiming it.
- The expense must be work-related and not private and if the expense has been reimbursed by your employer it can’t be claimed.
- Receiving an allowance from your employer does not automatically entitle you to a deduction.
- If your claims total more than $300 you need to keep written evidence.
- You can also use records other than paper receipts. A full list of accepted records is available on the ATO website
The ATO has a range of guides available which explain in more detail the specific claims you can and can’t make.
These include guides for employees in the building industry, truck drivers, university lecturers and tutors, sales and marketing managers, and sales representatives.