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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 county. 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.

    Example: record of small expenses

    Boris is a detective. Sometimes he buys snack or non-alcoholic drinks for his informants. Each drink cost around $5 or $6. When he only buys a drink, he keeps a record of the expense rather than keeping receipts as this occurs around 15-20 times per year.

    Boris puts a note in his work diary which records:

    • what he buys
    • the date he buys the drink
    • where he buys the drink
    • how much he spent on the drink.

    He also makes a note that he buys the drink for an informant and the name of the case the information relates to.

    As each drink cost less than $10 and he didn't spend more than $200 in total, Boris's diary records are sufficient evidence of his informant expenses.

    End of example

    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 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'll 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.

    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?

    Example: overtime meal expense less than reasonable amount

    Raisa is an Australian Federal police officer. During the income year, Raisa works overtime on 12 occasions.

    Raisa receives an overtime meal allowance of $26.56 pursuant to her industrial award each time she works overtime. At the end of the income year, Raisa's overtime meal allowance of $318.72 (12 × $26.56) isn't reported on her income statement.

    During the course of performing overtime duty, Raisa takes a rest break to have a meal and returns to continue her overtime. Raisa generally spends the amount of her allowance on her meal. The reasonable amount for overtime meal expenses for the relevant income year is $32.50.

    At the end of the income year, Raisa:

    • doesn't have to include her overtime meal allowance as income in her tax return
    • can't claim a deduction for the amount she spent on overtime meals.
    End of example

    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 6 nights or less and you:

    • receive a travel allowance that's expected to cover your accommodation, meal 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 for work
    • are not claiming more than the reasonable amount set.

    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'll need to provide documents that show:

    • when you were travelling for work (including start and finish times)
    • you paid for accommodation, meals and incidental expenses 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 received
    • 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 incidental expenses 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.

    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?

    Example: allowance and expenses incurred less than reasonable amount

    Jim is a member of the critical incident response team. His employer requires him to attend some specialist training interstate. The training is for 3 days. Jim travels interstate the night before the training commences and travels back home on the third day of the training. He arrives home at 9.00pm that evening.

    Jim receives an allowance of $495 to cover his accommodation and meals while he is travelling. The allowance is included on his income statement at the end of the income year.

    While he is interstate for the training, Jim stays in accommodation which cost him $110 per night and spends around $23 for breakfast, $19 for lunch and $35 for dinner each day. At the airport on his way home, Jim spends $21 on his dinner. These amounts are less than the reasonable amounts for the interstate location he travelled to.

    At the end of the year, Jim declares the allowance of $495 received from his employer as income in his tax return and claims a deduction of $582 which he has calculated as follows:

    Accommodation $110 × 3 nights = $330

    Four dinners ($35 × 3) + $21 = $126

    Three breakfasts $23 × 3 = $69

    Three lunches $19 × 3 = $57

    Total amount spent: $330 + $126 + $69 + $57 = $582

    Jim can claim his deduction of $582 for accommodation and meals without keeping written evidence because he:

    • travelled overnight for work purposes
    • spent money on accommodation and meals while he was travelling
    • was paid a travel allowance by his employer which was capable of meeting his expected costs while he was travelling for work
    • included the travel allowance in his tax return
    • is not claiming more than the reasonable amount.

    Although Jim does not have to keep written evidence of his expenses, he may be asked to show how he calculated his claim.

    End of example

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      Last modified: 26 Apr 2022QC 20810