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  • Travel expenses

    You can claim travel expenses you incur when you travel and stay away from home overnight for a work purpose (performing your employment duties). You can't claim travel expenses if you don't stay away from your home overnight.

    For a summary of this content in poster format, see Travel expenses (PDF, 705KB)This link will download a file.

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    Overnight travel for work

    You can claim a deduction for travel expenses (accommodation, meals and incidental expenses) if you travel and stay away from your home overnight in the course of performing your employment duties.

    You will be travelling overnight for work in the course of performing your employment duties, if:

    • there is no change to your regular place of work (the usual or normal place where you start and finish your work duties for your employer)
    • you're away from home for short periods of time
    • you stay in short term accommodation such as a hotel.

    For example, you would be travelling and staying overnight for work, where you need to travel interstate for a number of days to meet with clients.

    An employee travelling away from their home overnight for work usually isn't, or can't be, accompanied by family or have family or friends visit them.

    You won't be travelling away from home overnight for work if:

    • because of your personal circumstances, you live a long way from where you work
    • you're living at a location where you are working
    • you choose to sleep at or near your workplace rather than returning home.

    Expenses you incur in these circumstances are not deductible because you incur them to start earning employment income and they are private or domestic in nature.

    Example: Not away from home overnight

    Mal lives in Hobart and works for an engineering firm. On occasion, Mal flies to Melbourne for meetings with clients. When Mal's work requires him to attend these meetings, Mal catches an early flight to Melbourne and returns to Hobart on the same day.

    Mal's employer pays him an allowance to cover the cost of his food and drink while he is in Melbourne. The allowance amount is shown on his income statement at the end of the income year.

    Mal must include the allowance he receives as income in his tax return.

    Mal can't claim a deduction for the amount he spends on food and drink when he travels to Melbourne. Mal is not travelling overnight in the course of performing his employment duties and the expenses are private.

    End of example

    If you receive a travel allowance

    Certain rules and exceptions to keeping records may apply where your employer pays you a travel allowance for travel expenses. Your allowance may cover costs for accommodation, meals (food and drink) or incidental expenses when you travel overnight for work purposes.

    Receiving a travel allowance from your employer doesn't automatically mean you can claim a deduction. If you receive a travel allowance you will also need to consider if your deductible travel allowance expenses are within the reasonable amounts. The Commissioner publishes the reasonable amounts each income year for your location and circumstances.

    Travel expenses you can claim

    You can claim travel expenses if you incur them when travelling away from your home overnight in the course of performing your employment duties. For example, if you go interstate for a work conference.

    Travel expenses include:

    • accommodation expenses – for example, the cost of staying in a hotel, motel, serviced apartment, caravan, a property booked through a digital platform etc
    • meals (food and drink) expenses
    • incidental expenses which are minor, but necessary expenses associated with your work-related travel – for example, a car parking fee, bus ticket or a charge for using the phone or internet for work-related purposes at your overnight accommodation
    • transport expenses to get to and from the location you are travelling to overnight for work – for example the cost of flights.

    If your travel is for both work and private purposes you can only claim the amount of expenses that relate to the work purpose (see Apportioning travel expenses).

    You need to keep records such as receipts or other written evidence for your travel expenses. In some circumstances, you also need to keep travel records, such as a travel diary.

    There are some Exceptions for keeping travel expense records that apply for accommodation, meals and incidental expenses and from providing a travel diary.

    You claim your deduction for these expenses at Work-related travel expenses in your tax return.

    Example: travel expenses are deductible

    Beth is an executive in a large banking company. She travels from her regular workplace in Melbourne to Sydney for a 3 day meeting with some clients.

    Beth pays for her flights between Melbourne and Sydney, her hotel and all of the meals she has while she is in Sydney. She also incurs some incidental expenses which include the cost of taxi fares from her hotel to the offices of her clients. Beth has receipts for all of these expenses and her employer doesn't reimburse her.

    As Beth's regular place of work remains her workplace in Melbourne, she is in Sydney for a short period of time and she stays in a hotel, Beth is travelling away from her home overnight in the course of performing her employment duties. As such, Beth can claim a deduction for the cost of her flights, accommodation, meals and incidental expenses

    End of example

    When you can't claim travel expenses

    You can't claim travel expenses if:

    • you don't incur any expenses; for example  
      • you slept in accommodation your employer provides
      • you eat meals your employer provides
      • your employer or a third party reimburses you for any costs
    • due to your personal circumstances, you live a long way from where you work
    • you're living at a location where you are working
    • you choose to sleep at or near your workplace rather than returning to your home between your work shifts.

    You must reduce your claim to exclude any travel expenses that relate to any private portion of your trip (see Apportioning travel expenses).

    Example: living a long way from work – travel expenses aren't deductible

    Ainsley lives in Brisbane with his family. He accepts a job on a long-term project that is being carried out in Sydney. His employment contract indicates that his place of work is the office located on the project site in Sydney.

    As Ainsley lives in Brisbane and doesn't need to be physically on site all the time, he has an informal agreement with his employer to work from home whenever he is not required on site. When it is necessary for Ainsley to be on site, he is generally there for no longer than 2 weeks at a time. As Ainsley's regular place of work is located in Sydney, his employer does not cover the cost of his flights to Sydney or his accommodation, meal and incidental expenses when Ainsley stays near the site.

    Ainsley can't claim a deduction for the accommodation, meal and incidental expenses he incurs when he travels and stays in Sydney to work at the project site. The expenses are private expenses. Ainsley incurs the expenses as a consequence of his personal circumstances, that is, it is his decision to live in Brisbane and work in Sydney.

    Ainsley can't claim the cost of his flights between Brisbane and Sydney for the same reasons.

    End of example

     

    Example: choosing to sleep near workplace - travel expenses aren't deductible

    Max and Doris have retired from full-time work and spend their time travelling around Australia. They use their caravan as accommodation while they are travelling. When Max and Doris need some extra money, they work as fruit pickers for a couple of weeks at a time.

    During the income year, Max and Doris spend 42 weeks travelling around Australia and ten weeks working at several different farms.

    Max and Doris can't claim a deduction for the decline in value of their caravan or for any amounts they spend on meals, caravan park rental and incidentals during the 10 week period they spent working. The caravan isn't used for a taxable purpose (for the purpose of gaining or producing their assessable income) and the meal, caravan park rental and incidental expenses are private in nature.

    End of example

     

    Example: travel expenses aren't deductible

    Omar is a sales manager. Under the terms of his employment agreement, Omar is based in his employer's Perth office. He is also responsible for the offices in Albany and Broome.

    When Omar travels to the Albany and Broome offices for meetings and staff performance appraisals he is away overnight. His employer books and pays for his flights and his accommodation when he travels. Omar uses his employers credit card to pay for meal and incidental expenses when he travels.

    Although Omar is travelling away from his home overnight for work, he can't claim a deduction for his flights, accommodation, meals or incidental expenses. This is because his employer pays for all of these expenses directly.

    End of example

    Living at a location

    You will generally be living at a location where:

    • there is a change in your regular place of work
    • the length of the overall period you are away from your home is relatively long
    • you stay in longer term or settled accommodation, such as a unit or house.

    An employee living at a location usually is, or can be, accompanied by family or visited or have family and friends visit them.

    Example: travel expenses not deductible

    Maria works at her employer's office in Adelaide. She lives close to the office with her family. Maria's employer is setting up a new office in Perth and assigns Maria to the Perth office for 6 months to assist in setting it up.

    During the period she is in Perth, Maria lives in a 2 bedroom unit close to the new office which would be big enough to accommodate her family if they travelled to Perth with her. Maria's family remain in the family home in Adelaide rather than join her in Perth.

    Maria is living in Perth for the 6 month period rather than travelling to Perth because:

    • she is staying away from her home for a relatively long period
    • she is staying in longer term accommodation
    • her regular place of work has become the Perth office.

    The expenses Maria incurs for her accommodation and meals while she is working in Perth are private expenses and they are not deductible.

    Even if Maria travelled home each weekend, she would still be living in Perth for the 6 month period.

    End of example

    Records and evidence of travel expenses

    You need to keep travel expense records (receipts or other written evidence).

    You may also need to keep travel records (such as a Travel diary) if you are away from home for 6 or more nights in a row. This is in addition to keeping receipts for your expenses.

    If you receive a travel allowance for your overnight work-related travel, you may be able to rely on the exceptions for keeping travel expenses records. However, there is no exception from keeping:

    • written evidence for overseas accommodation
    • travel records when you travel overseas for 6 or more nights in a row.

    For more guidance, see TD 2021/6 Income tax: what are the reasonable travel and overtime meal allowance expense amounts for the 2021-22 income year?

    Apportioning travel expenses

    If your expenses are for both work and a private purpose, you can only claim the work-related expenses.

    For example, if you add a holiday to the end of work-related travel, family or friends travel and stay with you when you travel overnight for work or you attend a work-related activity while you happen to be on holiday you need to apportion your travel expenses.

    If the private part of your travel is incidental to your travel away from your home overnight on a work trip, you may not be required to apportion your costs..

    Example: travelling with a partner or family member

    Juan is an employee accountant in Adelaide. His employer requires him to travel to Melbourne for a week to visit clients and attend a number of meetings in the Melbourne office. Juan's partner and 2 small children go with him so they can have a holiday in Melbourne while Juan is working. To accommodate his family, Juan books a 2 bedroom apartment.

    As Juan is travelling overnight for work purposes, he can claim a deduction for the cost of his accommodation. However, Juan can only claim a deduction for the amount the accommodation would cost if he was travelling alone. For example, Juan would incur the cost of a 1 bedroom apartment when travelling alone.

    The cost of accommodation for Juan's family while they are on holiday in Melbourne is private and he can't claim that part of the cost as a deduction.

    End of example

     

    Example: travel to another destination from a work location

    Nitin travels from Melbourne to Perth for a 5 day work conference and adds on a return trip to Broome for 2 days for private purposes.

    Nitin can claim a deduction for his flights to and from Perth and the accommodation, meals and incidental expenses that he incurs during the 5 days he spent at the work conference in Perth.

    Nitin can't claim a deduction for the cost of travelling between Perth and Broome or for any of his accommodation, meal or incidental expenses while he is in Broome. These expenses are private.

    End of example

     

    Example: combined personal and work-related trip to same destination

    Andrea is in the process of booking a holiday to Sydney to see an art exhibit when her employer asks her if she would attend a 3 day work-related conference. The conference coincidently is to be held from the Monday following the holiday Andrea is planning.

    Andrea changes her travel arrangements to include the additional time in Sydney. In total, she spends 3 days in Sydney for private purposes then an additional 3 days at the conference.

    Andrea must apportion the cost of her flights for the private part of her trip (50%). Andrea can only claim the accommodation, meals and incidental expenses she incurs while attending the 3 day work-related conference.

    End of example

     

    Example: personal travel incidental to work-related travel

    Norma is an employee architect. She travels to an 8 day work conference in Hawaii on trends in modern architecture. One day of the conference involves a sight-seeing tour of the island and a game of golf is held on the final afternoon of the conference.

    Norma can claim the cost of her flights to Hawaii and her accommodation, meals and incidental expenses as a deduction. The private activities, the island tour and golf game are incidental to the main purpose of her travel which is the work conference.

    End of example

     

    Example: attending work-related events during personal travel

    Pablo is holidaying in Cairns when he becomes aware of a work-related seminar which runs for half a day. Pablo pays the seminar fee and attends.

    Pablo can claim the cost of attending the seminar. Pablo can't claim his airfares to and from Cairns or accommodation and meals whilst in Cairns, as the primary purpose of the travel is private.

    End of example
    Last modified: 21 Mar 2022QC 31982