The end of the financial year is looming so it's time to start thinking about what you can claim to maximise your return. Obviously, there's the standard deductions - phone, car and laundry expenses (if you wear a uniform) - but this year there's also tax deductions you may have never even thought of, possibly because they sound almost too good (and ridiculous) to be true. But they are 100 per cent legal, so thanks Australian Government.
"The commissioner delighted women last year when he said handbags might be claimable as a tax deduction," says money expert and accountant Melissa Browne.
And delighted we were - if men can claim for briefcases, why shouldn't we be able to do the same? Now, obviously, this doesn't mean you can go out and splash a few thousands on that Gucci you've had your eye on and expect the Government to foot the bill. However the ATO will allow you to deduct the cost of a bag you use for work purposes - such as one to carry a laptop, work phone or work documents.
"The handbag needs to be fit for work purposes and actually used for work purposes," says Mark Chapman, Director of Tax Communications at H&R Block.
Yes, the Government wants to help you on your anti-ageing quest by putting more cash back in your pocket, but only if you work outdoors or on a plane.
"If you're working outside, chances are you're affected by UV which means you can claim for sun protection," explains Melissa. "This includes sunglasses and sunscreen, remembering that your moisturiser and foundation may be sunscreen if they include an SPF factor."
That's right ladies, you can claim your SPF makeup but only if your job requires you to be out in the fresh air (sorry office workers).
Some specific types of make-up - such as re-hydrating moisturisers - can also be claimed by flight attendants.
If you work from home either full-time or some of the time, then you no doubt knew you could claim for electricity to power your computer and run your overhead lights, but did you also know you claim for your temperature control? That's because your home is essentially your office, so you should factor in all electricity running costs. Cha-ching!
"You can either claim actual costs based on a diary kept for a representative four-week period or claim a flat rate deduction of 45 cents per hour," says Mark.
Side note: If your home if your regular place of work you can also claim for the depreciation of office equipment and furniture (such as you computer chair and printer), as well as the cost of a cleaner who keeps the place tidy.
Sick of starring at blank walls while you work? Buy yourself a piece of art and the Government will chip in for it, anything with a price-tag of $20K or less. Naturally there's a catch, and it has to do with owning your business. So if you don't, you're fresh out of luck and will just have to get the kids to draw pictures for you to hang instead.
"If you own a business where an ambience is necessary, claiming works of art could be possible and you might even be able to claim an instant deduction if you're a small business (aggregate turnover less than $10 million) and the artwork costs less than $20,000," explains Mark. "That can help you to tax-effectively decorate public-facing areas like office receptions, as well as meeting rooms, boardrooms and staff social rooms. Just don't think you can claim a deduction if that work of art finds its way into your living room."
Tax time is a good time to be magician or circus performer because props used by professional performance artists are 100 per cent tax deductible - they're a 'work item' after all.
"People in the performing arts can claim all sorts of unusual deductions that most of us wouldn't be able to claim," explains Mark. "So, if you want to claim a tax deduction for a ceremonial sword, you'd better join the circus and become a professional sword swallower!"
You'd be forgiven for thinking the Government had missed something in the fine print but like artwork, these items can be bought and written off if you own a business and they're for staff use.
"Many offices have recreation areas for staff to frequent during breaks and lunch hours. So, although it might seem off that small businesses can claim for items like these, you can typically make a claim if they are provided for staff use," explains Mark. "TVs can also be claimed if they reside in reception areas (for waiting customers to watch perhaps) or in meeting rooms, where they might be combined with video conferencing systems."
Sorry, you can't claim back your pup's food and vet bills unless pup is a working dog who helps you do your job (think police officer, security guard, farmer).
"If you require a security dog to patrol your premises or if you use a dog in farming - rounding up sheep, for instance - you'll be able to claim a deduction for depreciation on the animal plus an immediate deduction for maintenance costs such as food and vet bills," says Mark.
Good time to consider moving out to the country!
"The animal needs to be appropriate for the purposes; if you try to argue that your pet poodle is deductible as a guard dog, the taxman might push back."
The thing to remember with deductions is if it's a a tool of your trade, you can claim it. So if you work in the adult industry as a stripper or prostitute, and use sex toys to do your job then they're a legitimate deduction, just as a much as a new stapler is for an office worker.
"The basic rule is that if you use a tool or a piece of equipment as part of your trade or profession, it's tax deductible, either straight away or over a few years," says Mark. "If the sex toy is for your own personal amusement however, a deduction isn't available."
Good to know.
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Australian Women's WeeklyToday 11:00am