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  • Meal expenses

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    Short-haul or local drivers

    Short-haul or local drivers usually return home at the end of a day's work. Common expenses for short-haul or local drivers are overtime meal expenses.

    If you work overtime, you can claim a deduction for overtime meal expenses if you:

    • purchased and consumed a meal when you worked overtime
    • received an overtime meal allowance under an industrial award for working overtime.

    You can claim up to the reasonable amount we have set without getting and keeping written evidence. If you claim more than the reasonable amount you need to get and keep written evidence for all your expenses.

    Meal expenses you can't claim as a short-haul or local driver

    Generally, meals, snacks and drinks you buy and consume while on the job are considered to be a private expense for which you cannot claim a deduction.

    Most industrial awards roll the overtime meal allowance into the normal salary or wage and it is not included as a separate allowance on your payment summary. In this situation, you cannot claim a deduction for overtime meals.

    See also:

    Long-haul drivers

    A long-haul driver usually sleeps away from home in the course of their employment. Common expenses for long-haul drivers are:

    When you are required to sleep away from home overnight, or for a long or night rest break in the course of doing your job, you may be able to claim a deduction for your:

    • meal expenses
    • incidental expenses.

    See also:

    Example: away from home overnight

    Joe does an intercity haul. He travels to a sleepover point where he hands the truck over to another driver and takes his required break at the company-paid accommodation. He then collects a truck going back home. Joe receives a meal allowance to cover his meals while on the road and for the sleepover.

    Joe can claim the costs of his meals and incidental expenses because he incurred them as a result of having to sleep away from home overnight when travelling for work.

    End of example

    Example: overnight accommodation and meals

    Meredith is a truck driver. She regularly has to drive her truck to a distant country depot. Because the depot is so far away, she sleeps in the cab of the truck overnight and she also incurs meal expenses while on the road. Because Meredith slept in the cab of her truck, she cannot claim a deduction for her accommodation expenses because she didn't incur any. Meredith can claim a deduction for the cost of buying her meals while on the road.

    End of example

    Meal expenses you can't claim as a long-haul driver

    You can't claim a deduction for:

    • your meals or expenses incidental to your travel if you were not required to sleep away from home overnight, or take your long or night rest break when travelling, even if you received a travel allowance
    • more than one meal of each type in a 24-hour period, even though you may eat your meals at unconventional times. For example, you can't claim for two dinners in a row.

    Generally, you will not incur accommodation expenses when working because you sleep in your truck or in accommodation provided by your employer. This means you cannot claim a deduction for your accommodation because you did not incur an expense.

    Example: when you cannot claim a meal expense

    Matthew is a truck driver who transports a load of cement from Sydney to Canberra and then returns to his base in Sydney the same day. He buys food and drink during the course of the trip. Because Matthew will return home to sleep, he cannot claim a deduction for the food and drink he bought while on the road, even if his employer paid him a travel allowance.

    End of example

    Reasonable amounts for meals

    We set out the reasonable amounts for meals for truck drivers each year in TD 2017/19 Income tax: what are the reasonable travel and overtime meal allowance expense amounts for the 2017–18 income year?

    The amount for each meal is separate and cannot be combined into a single daily amount or moved from one meal to another.

    See also:

    Car expenses

    You can claim a deduction for the cost of transporting bulky tools and equipment between home and work if:

    • you need to use them at work
    • there is no secure area for storing them at your workplace.

    You can claim a deduction when you:

    • drive between separate jobs on the same day – for example, you drive for two separate employers
    • drive to and from an alternate workplace for the same employer on the same day – for example, travelling between depots.

    The Work-related car expenses calculator helps calculate the amount you can claim as a deduction for car expenses.

    Example: claiming for travel between work and home

    Amy does an intercity haul. She collects her loaded truck in the evening and travels overnight to another city which she reaches before her mandatory long break. She unhitches the trailer, takes the truck to a place where she can sleep in it, and then returns to collect the reloaded trailer for the return trip that night.

    Amy takes a portable fridge, two screwdrivers, food for the road, a sleeping bag, a blanket, a change of clothing, toiletry gear and a GPS with her. She keeps these items at home and transports them to and from her depot because there is no storage at the depot. The items she uses for work are considered bulky.

    Amy is entitled to a deduction for her costs of travelling between her home and depot.

    End of example

    See also:

    Car expenses you can't claim

    You generally can't claim the cost of trips between home and work, even if you live a long way from your usual workplace or have to work outside normal business hours.

    There are limited circumstances where you can claim the cost of trips between home and work, such as where you carry bulky tools or equipment for work. The cost of these trips is deductible only if:

    • your employer requires you to transport the equipment for work
    • the equipment was essential to earning your income
    • there was no secure area to store the equipment at the work location
    • the equipment is bulky – at least 20kg.

    Overnight travel expenses

    You can claim a deduction for meal, accommodation and incidental expenses you incur for overnight travel if all the following apply:

    • your employer requires you to work away from your usual workplace for a short period
    • you are required to sleep away from home for one or more nights while you are doing that work
    • it's unreasonable to expect you to return home each day, requiring you to stay away from home
    • you are only working away from home for relatively short periods of time (you are not living away from home)
    • you did not incur the expenses because of a choice you made to maintain your residence in a different location to your workplace
    • you have a permanent home at a location away from the workplace to which you are travelling
    • you pay for the overnight travel expenses yourself and are not reimbursed for the costs you incur.

    Generally, meals, snacks and drinks you buy and consume when not travelling away from home are a private expense you can't claim as a deduction.

    You can't claim accommodation expenses if you sleep in your truck or your employer provides you with accommodation.

    Receiving a travel allowance from your employer does not automatically entitle you to a deduction. You still need to show that you were away overnight, you spent the money yourself and the travel was directly related to earning your income.

    Clothing expenses

    You can claim a deduction for the costs you incur when you buy, rent, repair or clean your work clothing. Work clothing includes:

    • compulsory uniforms and corporate wardrobes
    • single items of distinctive clothing such as a jumper, shirt or tie with the employer's logo, if it is compulsory for you to wear it at work
    • a non-compulsory uniform your employer has registered with AusIndustry
    • protective clothing.

    You can claim a deduction for the cost of washing, drying and ironing your work clothing as laundry expenses. This also includes laundromat expenses and the actual cost of dry cleaning.

    Clothing expenses you can't claim

    You can’t claim a deduction for the cost of buying or cleaning plain clothing worn at work, even if your employer tells you to wear it – for example, standard jeans, drill shirts and trousers.

    See also:

    Phone and internet expenses

    You can claim a deduction for the cost of work-related phone calls you make, including calls from mobile phones. You can also claim a deduction for your phone and internet rental if you can show your employer needs you to use your personal devices for work or you were on call or you had to call your employer or clients regularly while you were away from your workplace. If you also used your phone for private purposes, you can only claim that portion of your phone rental costs and calls that relate to your work-related use of the phone.

    If you are reimbursed for part or all of your phone and internet expenses, you can't claim a deduction for that portion.

    See also:

    Other expenses

    You may be able to claim the following expenses:

    • Restraining ropes – you can claim the cost of restraining ropes that are required for performing work-related activities.
    • Sunglasses, sunhats and sunscreens – you can claim a deduction for the cost of sunglasses, sunhats and sunscreen lotions if the nature of your work requires you to work in the sun for all or part of the day and you use these items to protect yourself from the sun while at work.
    • Union and professional association fees – you can claim a deduction for these fees. If the amount you paid is shown on your payment summary, you can use it to prove your claim. You can claim a deduction for a levy paid in certain circumstances, for example, to protect the interests of members and their jobs. 

    Record keeping

    You can claim a deduction without keeping all your records if:

    • you receive a travel allowance that could reasonably be expected to cover your meals when travelling (a token amount you receive as a travel allowance is not accepted as reasonably covering such costs)
    • you claim up to the reasonable allowance amount.

    If we ask you to explain how you worked out amounts you claimed or if you claim more than the reasonable amount per meal when travelling, you need to keep the following records:

    • payment summary or payslips to show the travel allowances you received
    • work diary, or other fatigue documentation which shows the days you travelled for work including start and finish times, where you travelled to, and when you stopped for meals
    • all receipts or invoices for every meal showing the name of the supplier, the amount you spent, the nature of the good or service, the day you spent the money, and the date the receipt or other written evidence was made
    • written evidence to show that you were the one who spent the money. If you travel the same route regularly, and have a regular pattern of expenditure, we accept written evidence for a three-month representative period.

    Example: records for claiming the reasonable amount or below

    Dave is an employee truck driver who always travels from Tamworth to Cairns and back again. He keeps receipts and bank statements for three months to show that he usually spent $20 on breakfast (usually stopping at truck stop A), $25 for lunch (usually stopping at truck stop B), and $45 for dinner (usually stopping at truck stop C).

    As all of his expenses for each meal are below the reasonable amount, Dave does not need as many records as he would if his meal expenses had exceeded the reasonable amount. When he completes his tax return, he uses his work diary to work out that he had 200 breakfasts, 210 lunches and 150 dinners when travelling for work.

    Dave uses the evidence he has for the three months to calculate his claim for $16,000 for meals. He includes the $40 per day allowance that he received when travelling as assessable income.

    End of example

    Example: records for claiming over the reasonable amount

    Lea is an employee truck driver who always travels from Geraldton to Port Hedland and back again.

    Lea spends more than the reasonable amounts for breakfast, lunch and dinner, so she is required to keep all of her receipts or invoices for every meal (and not just the amount over the reasonable amount). When she completes her tax return she uses her work diary and receipts to calculate her claim for meals, which is the amount she actually spent and has a record for.

    Lea can’t use an ATM withdrawal or bank statement as they don’t have the details required. But these can assist if she is asked to show that she was the one that spent the money. Lea includes the $40 per day allowance that she received when travelling as assessable income.

    End of example

    Example: records when an allowance is not received

    Andrew receives an allowance to cover his meals and incidentals for a three-night trip. Due to bad weather, the roads are flooded and Andrew is away for a total of five nights. His employer does not pay an allowance or reimburse him for the extra two nights he is away for work.

    Because Andrew does not receive an allowance for the extra two nights he was out on the job, he can only claim a deduction for the extra expenses he incurs if he keeps records of the expenses for the additional days that were not covered by his allowance.

    End of example

    Reimbursements

    If your employer or any other person reimburses you for expenses you have actually incurred, the payment is called a reimbursement. A reimbursement is not considered to be an allowance.

    You cannot claim a deduction for expenses you incur if those expenses are reimbursed to you by your employer and you do not need to include reimbursements on your tax return.

    Example – allowance or reimbursement

    Troy had to use his car to meet another truck driver who had to stop driving his truck 20 km away from the depot due to a mandatory long break. The driver returned Troy's car to the depot while Troy drove the truck.

    Troy was paid for the 20 km he used his car, based on the cents per kilometre rate plus the bridge toll he incurred. Even though Troy received a payment for using his car, the payment is not a reimbursement but an allowance, because it is only an estimate of the cost of using the car. As a result, Troy must show the amount he received in his tax return.

    The amount Troy receives from his employer to cover the cost of the bridge toll is a reimbursement, and does not have to be included in Troy's tax return.

    Troy can claim a deduction for these car expenses in his tax return.

    End of example
      Last modified: 22 Jun 2018QC 21635