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Building and construction employee expenses G–O

Last updated 5 June 2023

Details on common building and construction employees' expenses.

Glasses, contact lenses and anti-glare glasses

You can't claim a deduction for prescription glasses or contact lenses, even if you need to wear them while working. These are private expenses.

You can claim a deduction for the cost of protective glasses if you wear them to reduce the real and likely risk of illness or injury while working. Protective glasses include anti-glare or photochromatic glasses, sunglasses, safety glasses or goggles.

You can only claim a deduction for the work-related use of the item.

Example: claiming sunglasses

Mia is a carpenter and she works at a major construction site. She wears sunglasses to protect her eyes against the glare of the sun while working on site. She also needs to wear prescription glasses while driving, for her short-sightedness.

She buys a pair of prescription sunglasses which counter the glare whilst working on site. She also buys a pair of prescription glasses for driving.

Mia can claim a deduction for the cost of the prescription sunglasses as they protect her eyes from the glare of the sun while working. If Mia also uses her prescription sunglasses for personal purposes, she can only claim a deduction for the work-related use.

Mia can't claim a deduction for the prescription glasses. These are a private expense as they don't provide Mia protection in her working environment.

End of example

Insurance of tools and equipment

You can claim a deduction for the cost to insure your tools and equipment to the extent that you use them for work-related purposes.

Laundry and maintenance

You can claim a deduction for the costs you incur to wash, dry and iron clothing you wear at work if it's:

  • protective (for example, hi-vis jacket)
  • occupation-specific and not a conventional, everyday piece of clothing such as jeans or general business attire
  • a uniform either non-compulsory and registered with AusIndustry or compulsory.

This also includes laundromat and dry-cleaning expenses.

To work out your laundry expenses, you can claim a rate of:

  • $1 per load if it only contains work-related clothing from one of the categories above
  • 50c per load if you mix personal items of clothing with work-related items from one of the categories listed above.

You can claim the actual costs you incur for repairing and dry-cleaning expenses.

If your laundry claim (excluding dry-cleaning expenses) is $150 or less, you don't need to keep records. However, you will still need to be able to show how you work out your claim. This isn't an automatic deduction.

Example: laundry expenses

Laura receives 3 company shirts with logos embroidered on them from her employer. Her employer requires her to wear these at work and has registered the shirt with AusIndustry.

Laura washes and dries her company shirts in a separate load of washing twice a week. Laura works 48 weeks during the year.

She works out her claim of $96 for laundry expenses as follows:

Number of claimable laundry loads per week × number of weeks = total number of claimable laundry loads

2 × 48 = 96

Total number of claimable laundry loads × reasonable cost per load = total claim amount

96 × $1 = $96

As her total claim for laundry expenses is under $150 ($96) Laura doesn't have to provide written evidence of her laundry expenses. Although Laura doesn't require evidence to prove her claim for laundry, if asked, she will need to show how she works out her claim.

End of example

Licences, permits and cards

You can't claim the cost to get your initial licence, regulatory permit, cards or certificate to get a job. For example, a bobcat licence.

You can claim a deduction for costs you incur to get or renew your licence, regulatory permit, card or certificate to continue to perform your work duties. For example, if you need to have a bobcat licence to get your job, you can't claim the initial cost to get the licence. However, you can claim the cost to renew the licence while you still need it for that job.

Example: getting and renewing a builders licence

Marcus completes his training as a builder and is looking for a job in the industry. All the available jobs require Marcus to have at least 2 years' experience and a current builders licence.

Marcus follows the process in his home state for applying for his builders licence. He pays the licencing fee of $388.80.

Marcus can't claim a deduction for the cost of getting his builders licence as he incurs this cost to enable him to get a job.

However, if Marcus is employed as a builder when his renewal for his builders licence is due he will be able to claim a deduction for the renewal of his builder licence.

End of example

Meal and snack expenses

You can't claim a deduction for the cost of food, drink or snacks you consume during your normal working hours. Even if you receive a meal allowance, these are a private expenses.

You can claim:

  • overtime meal expenses, but only if you buy and eat the meal while you are performing overtime and you receive an overtime meal allowance under an industrial award
  • cost of meals you incur when you are travelling overnight for the purpose of carrying out your employment duties (travel expenses).

Music streaming services, CDs, audio books or podcasts

You can't claim a deduction for the cost of music streaming services, CDs, audio books, podcasts or devices that you use at work. Even if they're used to keep you motivated or occupied at work, these items aren't essential to earning your income. They are private expenses.

Newspapers and other news services, magazines and professional publications

The cost of newspapers, other news services and magazines are generally private expenses and not deductible.

You can claim a deduction for the cost of buying or subscribing to a professional publication, newspaper, news service or magazine if you can show:

  • a direct connection between your specific work duties and the content
  • the content is specific to your employment and isn't general in nature.

If you use the publication for work and private purposes, you can only claim the portion that relates to your work use.

Overtime meal expenses

You can claim a deduction for the cost of a meal you buy and eat when you work overtime, if all of the following apply:

  • you receive an overtime meal allowance under an industrial law, award or agreement
  • the allowance is shown on your income statement as a separate allowance
  • you include the allowance in your tax return as income.

You can't claim a deduction if the allowance is not shown as a separate allowance on your income statement.

You generally need to get and keep written evidence, such as receipts, when you claim a deduction. However, each year we set an amount you can claim for overtime meal expenses without receipts. We call this is the 'reasonable amount'. If you receive an overtime meal allowance, 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.

In all cases, you need to be able to show:

  • you spent the money
  • how you work out your claim.

Example: overtime meal expenses

Derek is a builder and was employed to fit-out a major shopping centre. He works overtime on 10 occasions through the year. Derek is paid an overtime meal allowance of $31.25 for each occasion he worked overtime.

Derek spent $14.00 on a takeaway meal each occasion he worked overtime which is less than the reasonable amount for the relevant year.

At the end of the income year his income statement shows he received $312.50 in allowances which represented the 10 times he worked overtime × $31.25 the amount he received per occasion.

In his tax return, Derek declares the $312.50 allowance. He also claims a deduction of $140 for the meals he bought.

He works this out as $14.00 × 10 = $140. This is the total amount he spent on his overtime meals.

The amount Derek is claiming as a deduction is less than the Commissioner's reasonable amount so, Derek doesn't have to keep written evidence. However, he will need to be able to show how he works out his deduction and that he spent the money.

End of example

For more information, see TD 2022/10 Income tax: what are the reasonable travel and overtime meal allowance expense amounts for the 2022-23 income year?

For more building and construction employee expenses, see: