What Work Items You Can Claim on Tax This Year

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Tax time evokes all sorts of emotions for Australian workers. It can be stressful to realise you owe money to the ATO but it can also be a much-needed surprise when it’s given back to you. To get a better chance at the latter, here are the work items you can claim back on tax this year.

While many of us started working from home for the first time due to coronavirus restrictions, not all of us are in the know about what you can and can’t claim on tax. Multiple people have told me to invest in a real office chair over my right-angle shaped dining chair or to get a proper laptop stand instead of my ersatz stack of books.

Apparently, there exists a wonderful web of work-related items you can simply ‘claim back’ on tax. So, I did what no other would dare to do and checked the ATO’s website to find out what exactly it constitutes.

What items can I claim back on tax?

Essentially any items that are reasonably required for you to complete your work tasks can be included in your tax claim. You’ll just need to be able to prove it’s for work and that if you use it personally too, you don’t claim the full cost back.

For example, claiming sunscreen for an office job with plenty of night shifts just won’t cut it.

The ATO has supplied a handy list of examples if you’re failing to imagine what it might be for you.

  • Calculators
  • Computers and software
  • Desks, chairs and lamps
  • Filing cabinets and bookshelves
  • Hand tools, such as spanners, hammers and screwdrivers or power tools, such as grinders, sanders and hammer drills
  • Protective items, such as hard hats, safety glasses, sunglasses, sunscreens and cosmetics containing sun protection
  • Professional libraries
  • Safety equipment
  • Technical instruments

Really the main decider on whether you can claim something is proof it’s used for work. If you’re trying to claim a new work desk, you’ll have to show how much it was used for work-related tasks, and if you’re using it for personal purposes too. If it’s 40 per cent work and 60 per cent leisure, that needs to be taken into the equation.

Can I buy a work-related supply of chocolates?

The ATO is also pretty clear on what you can’t claim and sadly for many of us, that means our snack game. Offices are sometimes pretty good at supplying the bare necessities for getting its employees through the day — coffee, tea and snacks — but the ATO says it’s not something you can pop on your tax bill.

It points out claims are a no-go if they’re:

  • for coffee, tea, milk and other general household items your employer may otherwise have provided you with at work
  • related to children and their education including setting them up for online learning, teaching them at home or buying equipment such as iPads and desks
  • on items or costs you’re reimbursed for, paid directly by your employer or the decline in value of items provided by your employer – for example, a laptop or a phone.

It’s safe to say you won’t get money back for those chips and chocolates you bought for slow working from home days — even though many would argue they’re essential.

How do I choose how much to claim back?

Depending on what the item is and how much it costs, you can claim a full or partial amount back. If it’s an item under $300 and it’s not a part of a set, you claim the cost of it minus your non-work usage.

Let’s say it’s a nice office chair that you use for everyday work now. Once you clock off, however, it becomes your chair for browsing the web and gaming. You’ll need to calculate the time split between personal and work-related use and deduct that from what you claim. Say it’s a nice 60/40 split toward work then, with proof, you could claim $120 back on that new $200 office chair.

If the item’s $300 or over, however, you’ll need to claim the decline in value. This gets a bit trickier but you can refer to the ATO for your specific work-related item.

It’s also worth noting that different industries and jobs can claim different costs. It’s a good idea to search for your role on the list to see if there’s anything extra you might be forgetting.

Of course, there are a range of other non-work-related deductions you can claim too, including gifts and donations, personal super contributions and the previous financial year’s tax return fees. It’s best to give the ATO’s page on it some light reading to make sure you’re not missing out on more.

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