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  • Record keeping

    You need to get and keep records of your expenses for which you want to claim deductions. This is usually a receipt but can be another form of written evidence (such as an invoice).

    Records can be electronic (for example, you can take a photo of your receipt, or use an app). Using the myDeductions tool in the ATO app can help you to keep track of your work-related expenses. It’s an easy way to capture information on the go, making tax time quicker by uploading your deductions to your tax return.

    Records must show what you purchased, when, where and how much you spent. They must be in English where you incur the expense in Australia. However, if you incur the expense in a country outside Australia, the document can be in the language of that country.

    There are a few exceptions to this rule:

    Small expense receipts

    You don’t have to get and keep a receipt for work-related expenses that are $10 or less, as long as your total claim for small expenses is $200 or less.

    If you don’t get a receipt for small expenses you can still claim a deduction as long as you make a record of the small expenses. For example, you can make a record by writing in your work diary.

    Your record should show what you purchased, when, where, and how much you spent. It must be in English. You can use this to show how you calculated your deduction if we ask for this information from you.

    Hard to get receipts

    If you can’t get a receipt for a work-related expense, you can still claim a deduction as long as you make a record. For example, you can make a record by writing in your work diary.

    Your record should show what you purchased, when, where, and how much you spent. It must be in English. You can use this to show how you calculated your deduction if we ask for this information from you.

    Overtime meal expense receipts

    You can claim a deduction for your overtime meal expenses (food and drink) without keeping all your receipts if you:

    • undertake overtime
    • receive an overtime meal allowance paid under an industrial law or award
    • spent money on meals (food and drink) you consumed during your overtime meal break
    • are not claiming more than the reasonable amount we set.

    Even if you aren't required to get and keep receipts for your overtime meal expenses, we may check your tax return and ask you to show how you calculated your claim. If we ask, you will need to provide documents that show:

    • when you did overtime
    • you purchased a meal
    • you correctly declared the overtime meal allowance as income in your tax return.

    If you don’t receive an overtime meal allowance paid under an industrial law or an award or are claiming a deduction for more than the reasonable amount, you need to get and keep your receipts for your overtime meal expenses.

    You claim what you actually spent, not the reasonable amount.

    Example: overtime meal less than reasonable amount

    Raisa is employed as a hairdresser. After working her 8-hour shift, Raisa is asked to work another 3 hours overtime to cover an employee who has called in sick. Raisa receives an overtime meal allowance of $19.80 pursuant to her industrial award, which is shown on her income statement and included as income in her 2021–22 tax return.

    During her overtime duty, Raisa takes a rest break to have a meal and returns to continue her overtime. Raisa spends $20 on her meal.

    The reasonable amount for overtime meal expenses in the 2021–22 income year is $32.50.

    Raisa can claim a deduction for overtime meal expenses of $20 (the amount she spent) and she does not have to keep written evidence because, she:

    • received an overtime meal allowance under an industrial award
    • spent money on a meal she consumed during her overtime meal break
    • is not claiming more than reasonable amount.

    Although Raisa doesn't have to keep a receipt or other written evidence, she will need to be able to show how she calculates her claim if she is asked.

    End of example

    For more information, see:

    • TD 2021/6 Income tax: what are the reasonable travel and overtime meal allowance expense amounts for the 2021–22 income year?
    • TD 2022/10 Income tax: what are the reasonable travel and overtime meal allowance expense amounts for the 2022–23 income year?

    Travel and meal expense receipts

    You can claim a deduction for your accommodation, meal (food and drink) and incidental expenses without keeping all your receipts if your travel is for less than 6 nights and you:

    • receive a travel allowance that is expected to cover your accommodation, meals and incidental expenses when travelling (a token amount you receive as a travel allowance isn't accepted as covering such costs)
    • are required to travel for work and sleep away from home overnight
    • spent money on accommodation, meals (food and drink) and incidental expenses while travelling away from home overnight for work
    • are not claiming more than the reasonable amount.

    If you travel overseas, you must keep receipts for your accommodation expenses regardless of whether you meet all of the above points.

    Even if you aren't required to get and keep receipts for your accommodation, meals and incidental expenses when travelling for work, we may check your tax return and ask you to show how you calculated your claim. If we ask, you will need to provide documents that show:

    • when you were travelling for work (including start and finish times)
    • you paid for accommodation and purchased meals and incidentals and the amount you spent
    • you correctly declared the travel allowance as income in your tax return.

    The records you need to keep for accommodation, food, drink and incidentals depend on the length of your trip and if it is domestic or international and whether you travel is wholly for work purposes.

    If you travel for 6 or more nights in a row, you may need to keep a travel diary in which you record the dates, places, times and duration of your activities and travel.

    You don’t need to keep a travel diary if your travel away from home is less than 6 nights in a row. If you are required to maintain and keep records, the records you keep may include:

    • income statement, payment summary or payslips to show the travel allowances you receive
    • a travel diary, or documents that show the days you travelled for work, including        
      • start and finish times
      • where you travelled
      • when you stopped for meals
    • all receipts, invoices or documents for accommodation, meals and incidentals showing the        
      • name of the supplier
      • amount you spent
      • nature of the good or service
      • date you spent the money
      • creation date of the receipt or other written evidence
    • written evidence, such as a bank statement, to show that you were the one who spent the money.

    You claim what you actually spent, not the reasonable amount.

    Example: allowance more than reasonable amount, expenses less than reasonable amount

    Kylie is a hairdresser in Brisbane. She travels to Melbourne to attend a training course on advanced colouring and highlights. Her employer pays her a travel allowance of $250 for each night she is away to cover her accommodation costs. The allowance is included on her income statement.

    The reasonable amount for accommodation in Melbourne is $220 and Kylie spends $190 a night on accommodation. As the amount she incurs on accommodation is less than the reasonable amount, Kylie won't have to keep receipts or other written evidence of her accommodation expenses.

    At the end of the income year, Kylie declares the allowance as income in her tax return and claims a deduction for the amount she spent on accommodation, that is, $190 per night.

    If asked, Kylie will need to show that she was travelling for work, that she incurs the expenses she claims as a deduction.

    End of example

    For more information, see:

    • TD 2021/6 Income tax: what are the reasonable travel and overtime meal allowance expense amounts for the 2021–22 income year?
    • TD 2022/10 Income tax: what are the reasonable travel and overtime meal allowance expense amounts for the 2022–23 income year?

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      Last modified: 18 Aug 2022QC 51239