This year, the ATO has launched its biggest ever education campaign to help taxpayers get their tax returns right. The ATO says the campaign, which is running throughout tax time, includes direct contact with over three million selected taxpayers, as well as specialised guides and toolkits for taxpayers, agents, employers and industry bodies. A key component of the campaign is simple, plain English guidance for the most common occupations, like teachers, nurses, police officers and hospitality workers.
ATO Assistant Commissioner Kath Anderson said that last year work-related expenses totalled a record $21.3 billion, "and we have already flagged that over-claiming of deductions is a big issue". The most popular topics this year include car, clothing, travel, working from home and self-education expenses, and the guides for tradies, doctors, teachers, office workers and IT professionals have been a big hit, Ms Anderson said.
The ATO reminds taxpayers that a number of expense types cannot be claimed as work-related deductions, including:
- Teachers cannot claim the costs of home-to-work travel, costs of gifts or prizes they buy for students, or costs of attending functions.
- Police cannot claim the costs of haircuts, grooming, weight-loss programs or supplies, even though they may be covered by specific occupational regulations. They also cannot claim costs associated with attending social functions or fitness expenses unless their employment depends on maintaining a level of fitness well above ordinary police standards, such as special operations.
- Hospitality workers cannot claim the costs of ordinary clothes, like black pants or a white shirt, even if their employer told them to wear those clothes, and even if they only wear them for work. They can, however, claim the cost of uniforms that are unique and distinct to their employer or occupation-specific (like chef's pants). They cannot generally claim the cost of trips between home and work, even if they live a long way from their usual workplace or have to work outside normal business hours (eg public holidays or night shifts).
- Truck drivers who receive a travel allowance from their employer are not automatically entitled to a deduction. They still need to show that they were away overnight, that they spent the relevant money themselves and that the travel was directly related to earning their income.
- Retail workers cannot claim a deduction for ordinary clothes or makeup that their employer tells them to wear (eg clothing from the latest fashion line), even if they work in a store that sells those items. They also cannot generally claim the cost of home-to-work travel, even if they have to work outside of normal business hours (eg late-night shopping shifts).
- Nurses and carers cannot claim the costs of home-to-work travel, ordinary clothes they wear to work (like closed-toe shoes or black pants), or of study that is not directly related to their current job.
- Building and construction workers usually cannot claim the costs of home-to-work travel, nor costs of clothes or shoes that are not uniforms or are not designed to provide them with sufficient protection from the risk of injury at their worksite, even where items are called "workwear" or "tradie wear" by the supplier.
- Flight attendants cannot claim a deduction for costs like hairdressing, cosmetics, hair and skincare products, even though they may be paid an allowance for grooming and be expected to be well groomed. Grooming product costs are considered by the ATO to be private expenses.