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Self-education expenses are the costs you incur when you:
- undertake courses at an educational institution (whether or not the courses lead to a formal qualification)
- attend work-related conferences or seminars
- do self-paced learning and study tours (whether within Australia or overseas).
You can claim a deduction for a self-education expense if, at the time you incur the expense, it has a sufficient connection to earning income from your employment activities.
Self-education has a sufficient connection to earning your employment income if it either:
- maintains or improves the specific skills or knowledge you require in your employment activities
- results in, or is likely to result in, an increase in your income from your employment activities.
Your employment activities are the duties and tasks expected of you to perform your job and are usually set out in your duty statement.
You may also be eligible if you undertake a course to maintain your right to receive a taxable bonded scholarship.
Example: course related to apprenticeship
Isaiah is employed as an apprentice hairdresser. As part of his apprenticeship he's required to work 4 days a week at his employer's salon receiving on-the-job training, and one day a week at TAFE doing a Certificate 3 in Hairdressing. Isaiah pays for the TAFE course himself.
The course will improve the knowledge and skills that Isaiah requires to carry out his employment activities. Isaiah can claim a deduction for the self-education expenses he incurs.End of example
Example: course leading to increased income
Ranita is one of several systems administrators employed by a large company. Ranita's employer pays systems administrators more if they know how to use a particular programming language.
Ranita enrols in and pays for a course on how to use the programming language. On completion, Ranita's employer gives her a pay rise.
Ranita can claim a deduction for the self-education expenses she incurs because the course results in an increase in income from her employment activities.End of example
When you can't claim a deduction
You can't claim a deduction for a self-education expense if, at the time you incur the expenses:
- it doesn't have a sufficient connection to your employment activities at that time
- you are not employed
- it only relates in a general way to your employment activities at that time – such as undertaking a full-time fashion photography course and working as a casual sales assistant on the weekends
- it enables you to get new employment or change employment – such as moving from employment as a nurse to employment as a doctor.
Example: expense only generally related to employment
Louis is a computer science student who works at the university laboratory installing computers. The course and the job are generally related, and what Louis learns might help him in his job.
However, the high-level professional skills Louis acquires from his studies are well beyond the skills he requires for his current job. There isn't a sufficient connection between his current employment income and his course so Louis can't claim a deduction for his self-education expenses.End of example
Example: employment ceases while studying
Callum is an employee software developer. To improve his skills in his current employment, Callum starts a Graduate Diploma in Advanced Software and Network Technology. The course takes one year and is paid for in 2 instalments, which become due as each semester starts. Callum’s employer is supportive of his study and offers paid leave for Callum to study each week.
During semester 1, Callum is made redundant. He chooses to continue studying the course while unemployed.
Callum can claim a deduction for the semester 1 payment, as he was working and earning income when he made the payment and the course had a sufficient connection to his employment income at that time.
Callum can’t claim a deduction for the semester 2 payment. As Callum was unemployed at the time he made the semester 2 payment, it was not incurred in earning his income.End of example
You can claim a deduction for self-education expenses if you do the course to satisfy study requirements to maintain your right to a taxable bonded scholarship.
If you're an employee of the scholarship provider, normal work-related self-education rules apply.
If your self-education expenses meet the eligibility criteria, you can claim a deduction for the following expenses:
- Tuition, course, conference or seminar fees
- General course expenses
- Decline in value of depreciating assets
- Car and other transport expenses
- Accommodation and meal expenses (incurred when the self-education requires you to travel and be away from your home for one or more nights)
- Interest on borrowings
For self-education expenses incurred before 1 July 2022, you generally can't claim the first $250 of expenses.
You can claim a deduction for tuition fees, including student and amenities fees, you incur if you are enrolled in a full fee paying place at a university or other higher education institution. You incur deductible course or tuition fees when the debt becomes a legal obligation you need to pay back (for example, on the census date). This is not when you make a repayment.
This includes fees that you pay with the assistance of a:
- FEE-HELP loan
- VET Student Loan (formerly known as VET-FEE HELP).
You can't claim a deduction for voluntary or compulsory repayments of these loans in your tax return.
If you're unsure whether you are enrolled in a full fee paying place, you can check with your university or higher education institution.
Example: deduction for course fees
Tara enrols in 2 subjects for her Master of Business Administration course. Each subject cost $10,000. Tara has deferred payment of the course fees through a FEE-HELP loan.
Tara's subjects have a census date of 22 March, meaning she will not need to pay the course fees if she withdraws from the subject before this date.
Tara decides to withdraw from one subject on 17 March due to an unexpected increase in workload. On 22 March Tara incurs the course fees of $10,000 for the remaining subject she enrolled in.
Tara can claim a deduction for the course fees of $10,000 she incurs on 22 March in the income year it occurs, even though she has a deferred payment through a FEE-HELP loan.
On 15 June, Tara gets a bonus of $5,000 from her employer. She decides to use the bonus to make a voluntary repayment of $5,000 to her FEE-HELP loan.
Tara can't claim a deduction for the voluntary repayment of $5,000 that she makes to her FEE-HELP loan. She also can't claim a deduction for the repayment when she is required to make a compulsory repayment to her FEE-HELP loan.End of example
There are certain tuition fees you can't claim as a deduction.
For seminars, conferences and similar courses, you can claim a deduction for the cost you incur to attend the event or enrol in the course.
You can't claim a deduction for tuition, course, conference or seminar fees if your employer reimburses you or pays the fees on your behalf.
You can claim a deduction for the following general course expenses you incur:
- computer consumables – for example, printer cartridges
- equipment repairs – for example, the cost of repairing a computer
- internet and data usage (excluding connection fees)
- phone calls
- student union fees
- trade, professional, or academic journals
A depreciating asset is an asset that loses its value over time. You can claim a deduction each year for the decline in value (depreciation) until the value of the asset is nil. This period is called the effective life of the asset.
You can claim a deduction for the decline in value (depreciation) of assets you use for work-related self-education purposes. For example:
- professional libraries
- desks and chairs
- filing cabinets and bookshelves
- technical instruments and tools
- other equipment (such as desk lamps).
$300 or less
You can claim the cost of a depreciating asset you purchase in the year you buy it if:
- the asset cost $300 or less
- you use it for work-related self-education (or in the course of earning other non-business assessable income) in the income year you buy it.
You need to apportion your claim if you also use the asset for private purposes.
More than $300
If the depreciating asset you are using for work-related self-education cost more than $300, you can claim a deduction for its decline in value over its effective life.
You must reduce your claim if you either:
- bought the asset part-way through the income year
- use the asset partly for private purposes.
To work out your claim for the decline in value of a depreciating asset, use our online Depreciation and capital allowances tool.
Depreciation and capital allowances tool
You can manually calculate the decline in value of a depreciating asset using either the prime cost method or diminishing value method.
Example: apportioning deduction for decline in value of assets
- the course will improve the skills and knowledge she needs to carry out her current duties
- on completion of the course, Danika's employer will give her a pay rise.
On 1 February, Danika purchases a laptop for $1,400 and a desk for $229.
Based on her records, Danika works out that she uses the laptop and desk 80% for self-education purposes and 20% for private purposes.
As the desk cost less than $300, she can claim the cost in the year she purchased it. However, because Danika used her desk for private purposes as well as self-education purposes, she must apportion her deduction. Danika calculates her deduction as:
$229 (purchase cost) × 80% (time used for self-education purposes) = $183.20
Danika chooses to use the diminishing value method to calculate the decline in value of her laptop. She uses the Depreciation and capital allowances tool to calculate her deduction. The tool calculates Danika's deduction as follows:
- Year of purchase
- Opening adjustable value: $1400.00
- Decline in value: $575.33
- Taxable use: 80%
- Days held: 150
- Deductible decline in value: $460.26
- Adjustable value at end of year: $824.67
- Year 2
- Opening adjustable value: $824.67
- Decline in value: $824.67
- Taxable use: 80%
- Days held: 365
- Deductible decline in value: $659.74
- Adjustable value at end of year: $0.00
Danika can claim a deduction of $460.26 for the decline in value of her laptop in the year she purchased it. She can claim $659.74 in the following year, at which time the value of the asset is nil. This means Danika can't claim any further deductions for the laptop.End of example
If your self-education expenses have a sufficient connection to earning income from your employment activities, you can claim transport expenses for both trips when you travel from your:
- home to your place of education and back home
- work to your place of education and back to work.
You can only claim the first leg of your trip when you travel from your:
- home to your place of education and then to work
- work to your place of education, and then home.
The second leg of these trips is private and you can't claim a deduction for the transport costs you incur for them.
If you incur parking fees when you attend your place of education or venue where the course or seminar is being held, you can claim a deduction for the cost of those fees as well.
For information on how to calculate your deduction for these expenses, see Motor vehicle and car expenses.
Example: car and parking expenses deductible
Akito is a mechanical engineer. Akito's employer pays for him to attend a 5 day conference on current issues and trends in the industry. The conference will allow Akito to improve the specific knowledge that he needs to carry out his current employment activities.
Akito drives his own car from his home to where the conference is being held and pays $15 for parking each day. At the end of each day, Akito drives directly back to his home. His employer does not reimburse him for the cost of using his car or his parking fees.
Akito can claim a deduction for the car expenses he incurs when he travels between his home and the conference centre each day. Akito can also claim the cost he incurs for parking at the conference centre each day.End of example
Example: certain public transport fares deductible
Lyle is employed as an assistant visual merchandiser in a retail store. To improve his skills and apply for a promotion to be a visual merchandiser specialist, Lyle enrols in a Diploma of Visual Merchandising. The course requires Lyle to attend the place of education for 3 hours one day per week.
On the day he attends the place of education, Lyle takes:
- the train from his house to the place of education in the morning (trip1)
- the bus from the place of education to his place of work after lunch (trip 2)
- the bus from his place of work to home at the end of the day (trip 3).
Lyle can claim a deduction for the cost of his train fares for the journey from his home to the place of education (trip 1).
Lyle can't claim a deduction for the cost of trip 2 or 3. These are private travel expenses being from the place of education to his work and then work to his home.End of example
The day-to-day costs you incur relating to your accommodation and meals are generally private living expenses.
You can claim the cost of accommodation and meals only when:
- you are participating in work-related self-education activities
- the self-education requires you to be temporarily away from home for one or more nights.
Example: attending a conference
Amara is employed as a computer programmer. Amara is taking a holiday in the United States of America (USA) and decides to attend the annual 3-day conference on software developments in Las Vegas immediately following her holiday. She arrives in Las Vegas at dinner time the day before the conference begins. Due to the finish time on the last day, Amara stays the night in Las Vegas and flies home the next day.
Amara's employer is supportive of her attending the conference and pays the registration fee for her to attend as it will improve the skills and knowledge she uses to carry out her employment activities. Her employer doesn't pay or reimburse Amara for any accommodation or meal expenses.
Amara can claim a deduction for the amount she spends on 4 nights of accommodation in Las Vegas (one night before the conference and 3 nights of the conference) and the meals she purchases during this time.
Amara can't claim a deduction for the amount she spends on accommodation and meals leading up to the conference. These are private expenses.End of example
Example: study expenses while on leave from work
Jamal is an employee research laboratory assistant in Adelaide. Jamal takes 12 months leave without pay to do a postgraduate course on understanding research methods at a university in London.
Jamal moves out of his rented unit in Adelaide and moves to London for a year. While he is in London, Jamal rents a unit with another course participant.
Even though the course will improve the skills and knowledge Jamal requires to carry out his current employment activities, he can't claim a deduction for the cost of accommodation and meals while he is in London studying. The expenses are private living expenses.End of example
You can claim the interest on a loan where you use the borrowed funds to pay for deductible self-education expenses.
You can't claim a deduction for repayments of loan principal.
Example: interest on borrowings
Tim is a solicitor undertaking a Master of Law degree part-time. He borrows $10,000, repayable over 3 years, to pay for his tuition fees. He incurs $1,000 interest each year.
Tim can claim a deduction of $1,000 for interest in each of the 3 years.End of example
You can't claim the following expenses in relation to your self-education:
- tuition fees paid by someone else or that your employer or a third-party reimburses you for
- tuition fees for Commonwealth supported places at a university or higher education provider, which includes any fees you pay with the assistance of a HECS-HELP loan
- repayments of study and training support loans such as
- Higher Education Loan Program (HELP), including FEE-HELP and HECS-HELP
- Student Financial Supplement Scheme
- VET Student Loans
- Student Start-up Loans
- ABSTUDY Student Start-up Loans
- Trade Support Loan Program
- accommodation and meals where you are not required to be temporarily away from home for one or more nights.
You also can’t claim a deduction for self-education expenses you incur if your only income is a qualifying Australian Government allowance or payment. This allowance or payment is a rebatable benefit and is eligible for the beneficiary tax offset.
For self-education expenses incurred before 1 July 2022, you generally can't claim the first $250 of expenses.
Example: receiving Austudy payments
Alison starts a full-time Bachelor of Pharmacy. As she has 2 young children, she applies for and receives Austudy payments from Centrelink to support herself while studying.
Austudy is a taxable government assistance payment and is eligible for the beneficiary tax offset.
Alison can't claim a deduction for her self-education expenses because the Austudy payments are her sole income and Austudy is a rebatable benefit.End of example
For more information see TR 98/9 Income tax: deductibility of self-education expenses incurred by an employee or a person in business
If you incur an expense for work-related self-education purposes and private purposes, you can only claim the work-related portion of the expense. This means you need to apportion the expense. See Example: apportioning deduction for decline in value of assets.
If the self-education isn't connected to your current employment income overall, but particular subjects of a qualification or components of a course are, you may be able to claim a deduction for the cost of those subjects or components. You can claim a deduction if the subjects or components have a sufficient connection to your employment activities at the time you incur the expense and you can work out their cost.
Example: course overall isn’t connected to current employment
James is an employee civil engineer. His duties include designing water and sewerage systems, determining the materials to be used for the systems, carrying out environmental impact studies, and project management of the projects he works on.
After 10 years in a workplace, James decides to enrol in a Master of Business Administration (MBA) at a university to broaden his career opportunities, including possibly opening his own firm in the future. The cost of each subject is identified in documents he receives from the university.
Not every subject in the MBA has a sufficient connection with James’ current employment activities, and so James can't claim a deduction for the total course fees. However, if James studies a subject on project management as part of his MBA qualification, that particular subject would have a sufficient connection to his current employment activity of managing projects. James would be able to claim the cost of the project management subject as a deduction.End of example
Use the calculator to work out your eligibility and estimate your self-education deduction.
Self-education expenses calculator
You must keep receipts for all self-education expenses you incur, including:
- course fees
- text books
- depreciating assets such as computers, laptops and office equipment
- transport and travel expenses.
You also need to be able to explain how the course directly relates to your employment activities at the time you incurred the self-education expense.
If you are claiming a deduction for a depreciating asset that you have used for self-education, you must keep:
- your receipts or invoices that clearly show the cost of the depreciating asset and the date of purchase
- details of how you worked out the effective life of the depreciating asset where you haven't used the effective life determined by the ATO
- details of how you work out your claim for decline in value, including which method you used and the opening adjustable value
- details of the percentage of time you use the asset for self-education.
Use the myDeductions tool in the ATO app to keep records of your expenses and income in one place, including photos of your receipts and invoices.
You can claim a deduction for self-education expenses if the education relates to your employment activities.