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  • Common expenses T–W

    Details on claiming common lawyer expenses for:

    Technical or professional publications

    You can claim a deduction for the cost of journals, periodicals and magazines that have content sufficiently connected to your employment as a lawyer.

    Tools and equipment

    You can claim a deduction for tools and equipment if you use them to perform your duties as a lawyer.

    If a tool or item of equipment cost you $300 or less, and you use it for work only, you can claim a deduction for the whole cost in the year you purchased it. Otherwise, you can claim a deduction for the cost over the life of the item (that is, decline in value).

    If the item is part of a set that together cost more than $300, you can claim a deduction for the set over the life of the asset.

    If you also use the tool or item of equipment for private purposes, you can only claim the work-related portion.

    If you bought the tool or item of equipment part way through the year, you can only claim a deduction for the portion of the year that you owned it.

    You can also claim a deduction for the cost of repairs to tools and equipment.

    You can't claim a deduction for tools and equipment that are supplied by your employer or another person.

    Example – bag for a work laptop

    Marie is employed as a lawyer. Her job requires her to regularly attend meetings with clients. She has to take her work laptop, phone and the client's file with her to the meetings and keep them secure to protect sensitive information. She frequently works from home and sometimes travels directly to a client meeting before heading into the office.

    Marie buys a lockable laptop bag for $565 that she uses to carry her work laptop and phone, chargers and client briefs. She carries her cash and cards, personal phone and other personal items in her handbag.

    As Marie's bag is suitable to carry all the items that are necessary for her to transport, Maria can claim a deduction for the decline in value of the bag over its effective life.

    End of example

    Example: allowable deduction for decline in value

    Matthew purchases a laptop for $1,000 that he solely uses for work purposes. As the asset costs more than $300, he can only claim a deduction for its decline in value over the effective life of the asset.

    Matthew can calculate his claim under the prime cost or diminishing value method. He has also kept a four-week representative diary to demonstrate the 100% work-related use and a receipt for the purchase of the laptop.

    End of example

    Example – apportioned deduction for a handbag

    Theresa buys a large handbag for $280 to replace her current handbag. Theresa's employer has strict timeframes for staff to have client case files up to date. Theresa is required to regularly take her small laptop and client paperwork to and from the office to complete her case work and ensure these timeframes are met.

    Theresa uses her handbag to carry personal items such as her wallet, sunglasses and lunchbox as well as her work laptop and client files. She also uses the handbag outside of work hours when she goes out.

    Theresa can claim a deduction for the purchase of the handbag as her job requires her to transport the work items. However, as the handbag is being used to transport both work and personal items, Theresa can only claim the work-related portion and will need to apportion the expense between her work-related and private use.

    End of example

    Example: transport of personal items

    Andy is employed as a lawyer in a legal firm and purchases a backpack to transport his lunch and other personal items to the office. He can't claim a deduction as he only uses it carry private items to and from work.

    End of example

    See also:

    Travel expenses

    You can claim a deduction for the costs you incur on accommodation, meals and incidentals when you travel for work and sleep away from your home overnight in the course of performing your employment duties – for example, travelling interstate to represent a client at the High Court of Australia.

    You can't claim a deduction for accommodation where you haven't incurred any accommodation expenses, because you:

    • sleep in accommodation provided by your employer
    • are reimbursed for any costs by your employer.

    Receiving an allowance from your employer doesn't automatically mean you can claim a deduction. In all cases, you need to be able to show:

    • you were away overnight
    • you spent the money
    • the allowance was included in your assessable income
    • the travel was directly related to earning your employment income
    • how you calculated your claim.

    Each year, we set a reasonable amount for travel expenses. Generally, you are required to get and keep written evidence, such as receipts, when you claim a deduction for travel expenses. However, if you are claiming a deduction and spent:

    • up to the reasonable amount, you don't have to get and keep receipts
    • more than the reasonable amount, you must get and keep receipts for all your expenses.

    If you spent and are claiming a deduction up to the reasonable amount for meals we have set (on a meal by meal basis), you don't have to get and keep receipts.

    Example: more than the reasonable amount

    Justin is required to go interstate for a court case hearing, he is away from home for seven nights. He has received a travel allowance covering the cost of meals, accommodation and incidental expenses. His airfares are paid directly by his employer.

    Justin can claim a deduction for the cost of meals, accommodation and incidental expenses as he incurs the expenses in the course of performing his employment duties.

    Justin can't claim a deduction for his airfares as he was reimbursed by his employer.

    The total of the deductions Justin claims is more than the reasonable allowance. Therefore, Justin is required to get and keep written evidence to support his total claim for meals, accommodation and incidental expenses.

    End of example

    Example: allowable deduction less than then the reasonable amount without written evidence

    Bobby works for a law firm in Brisbane. He is required by his employer to meet a client in Sydney for three days. Bobby’s employer paid for his flights and accommodation in Sydney and provided a travel allowance for his breakfast, lunch and dinner. The travel allowance is shown on his income statement.

    Bobby spends $20 on breakfast, $15 on lunch and $40 on dinner, a total of $75 per day on meals.

    Because Bobby has spent less than the reasonable amount on meals, he can claim a deduction for the $75 per day that he spends on meals and he isn't required to get and keep receipts for the expenses on the meals.

    Bobby can't claim the cost of his flights and accommodation as he has not incurred these expenses.

    End of example

    Example: work-travel with private component

    Jessie’s employer requires that she travels interstate to Perth to meet with a client. While she is there her employer allows Jessie to extend her stay to explore the city and tourist attractions.

    Jessie has kept the receipts for all of the expenses she incurred during the trip.

    Upon her return, Jessie’s employer reimburses her for the work-related travel costs, this includes her flights, accommodation, meal and any incidental expenses she incurred.

    Jessie can't claim a deduction as she has been reimbursed for all of the costs incurred for the work-related travel by her employer. Jessie's expenses incurred during her extended stay are also not deductible as they are private in nature.

    End of example

    Example: deduction claim is less than the reasonable amount

    Josephine works for a personal injury law firm in a regional town. Josephine's employer requires her to travel to their head office for an internal training program. Josephine 's employer provides her with an accommodation allowance to cover her accommodation costs while she works away from home for a few days. Josephine doesn't receive an allowance for meals or incidental expenses.

    The amount Josephine claims as a deduction for the accommodation costs she pays is less than the reasonable allowance amount. This means she doesn't have to keep records for her accommodation expenses. However, she does have to keep records and other written evidence to support any deductions she claims for her meals and incidental expenses.

    End of example

    See also:

    Union and professional association fees

    You can claim a deduction for union and professional association fees you pay. If the amount you paid is shown on your income statement or payment summary, you can use it to prove your claim.

    See also:

    Working from home

    You can claim a deduction for the additional running expenses of an office or a study at home that you use to earn your income working as a lawyer.

    Running expenses include:

    • decline in value of home office equipment
    • the cost of repairs to your home office furniture and fittings
    • heating, cooling, lighting and cleaning expenses
    • internet.

    Only the additional running costs incurred as a result of working from home are deductible. For example, if you work in your lounge room when others are also present, the cost of lighting and heating or cooling that room isn't deductible because there is no additional cost for those expenses as a result of you working from home.

    You can claim the cost of logbooks, diaries and pens that you use for work, provided you aren't reimbursed by your employer.

    To work out your home office expenses you can either use a fixed rate of 52 cents per hour for each hour that you work from home or calculate your actual expenses.

    You can’t claim occupancy expenses, such as rent, rates, mortgage interest and house insurance premiums.

    In limited circumstances, you may be able to claim a deduction if your home office is considered to be a 'place of business'. If your only income is paid to you as an employee, you aren't considered to be carrying on a business.

    Diary records noting the time the home office was used for work are acceptable evidence of a connection between the use of a home office and your work. You'll need to keep diary records during a representative four-week period.

    The Home office expenses calculator helps calculate the amount you can claim as a deduction for home office expenses.

    See also:

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      Last modified: 04 May 2020QC 51251