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Engineer expenses A–F

Details on claiming common engineer expenses.

Last updated 2 June 2024

Award transport payments (fares allowance)

Allowances you receive from your employer for transport or car expenses that are paid under an award must be included as income in your tax return.

You can claim a deduction for expenses covered by award transport payments, if:

  • the expenses are for work-related travel
  • you have actually spent the money.

You will need to be able to show how you work out your claim if we request this information. You don’t need written evidence if your claim is less than the amount in the award as at 29 October 1986. If you're unsure of this amount, your union or employer can tell you.

Car expenses

You can't claim a car expenses deduction for normal trips between your home and regular place of work. These are private expenses, even if you

  • live a long way from your usual or regular workplace
  • have to work outside normal business hours (for example, weekend or early morning shifts).

In limited circumstances, you can claim the cost of trips between home and work, such as where you carry bulky tools or equipment for work or have shifting places of employment.

To be able to claim a deduction for the cost of trips between home and work while carrying bulky tools or equipment, all the following conditions must be met:

  • the tools or equipment are essential to perform your employment duties
  • the tools or equipment are bulky, meaning that
    • because of the size and weight, they are awkward to transport
    • they can only be transported conveniently using a motor vehicle
  • there is no secure storage for such items at the workplace.

It will not be sufficient if you transport the tools or equipment merely as a matter of choice. For example, if your employer provides secure storage, your decision to transport items home will be a matter of choice.

You are considered to have shifting place of work where you have no fixed place of work and you continually travel from one work site to another before returning home.

You can also claim a deduction for the cost of using a car you own, lease or hire (under a hire-purchase agreement) when you drive:

  • directly between separate jobs on the same day – for example, travelling from your first job as a mechanical engineer to your second job as a university lecturer
  • to and from an alternative workplace for the same employer on the same day – for example, travelling from your office to a job site to perform an inspection
  • from home directly to an alternative workplace – for example, travelling from home to meet a client at their business premises which is not your regular work location.

To claim a deduction, you must keep records of your car use. You can choose between the logbook method or the cents per kilometre method to work out your deduction.

If you use the logbook method you need to keep a valid logbook to help you work out the percentage of work-related use along with evidence of your car expenses.

If you use the cents per kilometre method, you need to be able to show how you work out your work-related kilometres. You also need to be able to show that the kilometres were work-related.

If you claim your work-related car expenses using one of the above methods, you can’t claim any further deductions in the same tax return for the same car. For example, petrol, servicing, and insurance costs.

To claim a deduction in your tax return, include the amount of your claim at Work-related car expenses. The Work-related car expenses calculator can help you work out the amount you can claim as a deduction.

You can’t use the cents per kilometre or logbook methods to work out your claim for a:

  • motorcycle
  • vehicle with a carrying capacity of one tonne or more (such as a ute)
  • vehicle that can transport 9 passengers or more (such as a minibus).

For these vehicles, you can claim the actual expenses you incur for your work-related travel. This includes costs such as fuel, oil, insurance, and loan interest along with the decline in value of the vehicle. You must keep receipts for all your expenses and records to show your work-related use of the vehicle. Although you aren't required to keep a logbook, it is the easiest way to calculate your work-related use of the vehicle.

To claim a deduction for actual expenses you incur for a vehicle not defined as a car, include the amount at Work-related travel expenses.

Example: no secure storage

Mike is a mechanical engineer responsible for constructing machines. To perform his duties as a mechanical engineer he requires several tools and pieces of machinery, that combined are large and heavy.

Mike's employer doesn't provide secure storage for him to store his tools and machinery at work. He must transport his tools and machinery between his home and workplace each day to perform his duties.

He can claim a deduction for the expenses he incurs to transport his tools and machinery as they are considered bulky due to their size and weight and no secure storage is provided. Transporting the tools and machinery is not a personal choice.

End of example


Example: from alternative workplace to home

Hiroto works as a civil engineer for a large company. His regular place of work is in the city where his office is located. However, at least once of month he must attend meetings at his employer's head office in the suburbs. He uses his own car to travel to his employer's head office. Hiroto travels directly home after the meetings because they finish late.

Hiroto can claim the cost of travelling from his city office to the meeting at head office, and then to his home.

End of example


Example: between alternative workplace and work

Jan makes site visits to view projects she's working on as a structural engineer. Sometimes, she travels from her home to view a site, and then continues to her regular workplace.

Jan can claim a deduction for her travel expenses that she incurs from her home to the project site and then onto her regular workplace.

End of example


Example: working partly from home

Mohammed's employer has an office in the city but is happy for Mohammed to work from home 3 days each week. On these days, Mohammed sometimes has to travel into the office for a meeting, before returning home to work.

In this situation, the expense Mohammed incurs to travel between his home and work is a private expense that he can't claim.

End of example

Child care

You can't claim a deduction for the cost of child care (including school holidays and before and after school care) when you're working. It's a private expense, and the expenses have no direct connection to earning your income.

Clothing and uniform expenses (including footwear)

With a few exceptions, clothing can't be deducted as a work-related expense.

You can't claim conventional clothing (including footwear) as a work-related expense, even if your employer requires you to wear it and you only wear these items of clothing at work. 'Conventional clothing' is everyday clothing worn by people regardless of their occupation – for example, business attire worn by engineers.

You can claim a deduction for costs you incur to buy, hire, repair or replace clothing, uniforms and footwear you wear at work if it's in one of the following categories:

  • protective – clothing with protective features or functions you wear to protect you from specific risks of injury or illness at work. For example, steel-capped boots, fire-resistant clothing, or hi-vis jackets. Conventional clothes you wear at work are not regarded as protective clothing if they lack protective qualities designed for the risks of your work. This includes jeans, drill shirts, shorts, trousers, socks, closed shoes.
  • occupation-specific – clothing that distinctly identifies you as a person with a particular profession, trade or occupation. For example, a judge's robes or a chef's chequered pants. Items traditionally worn in a profession are not occupation-specific where the clothing is worn by multiple professions, for example, white lab coats.
  • a compulsory uniform – clothing that your employer strictly and consistently enforces you wear by workplace agreement or policy and distinctly identifies either    
    • you as an employee working for a particular employer
    • the products or services your employer provides
  • a non-compulsory uniform – clothing that your employer registers on the Register of Approved Occupational Clothing and you wear the uniform at work.

You can't claim a deduction if your employer buys, repairs or replaces your clothing.

Example: conventional clothing

Kynon is an electrical engineer and works on a building site. He wears jeans with t-shirts or long sleeve shirts at work as they're comfortable. While the jeans and shirts afford Kynon some protection from skin abrasions, when handling tools and materials, they provide only limited protection from injury.

The jeans and shirts that Kynon wears to work are commonly worn as conventional clothing and don't have protective features or functions designed to protect the wearer or cope with rigorous working conditions.

Kynon can't claim a deduction for the cost of buying these items because they're conventional clothing.

End of example


Example: protective clothing

Justin is a structural engineer. He occasionally works on building sites to oversee concrete pours or to sign off on building work. When he goes onto a building site, Justin must wear steel-capped boots and a hi-vis jacket for safety purposes.

Justin can claim a deduction for the cost of steel-capped boots and a hi-vis jacket that he buys and wears while he is working on a building site. These items protect Justin from the risk of injury while carrying out his duties.

End of example


Example: no deduction allowed for business attire

Gayle is an employee mechanical engineer. Gayle’s employer doesn't provide or require employees to wear a uniform. However, she is expected to wear business attire whilst at work. Gayle buys suitable clothing such as suits, business shirts, skirts and pants. She only wears these items of clothing to work.

Gayle can't claim a deduction for buying of these items as they are conventional clothes, everyday clothing worn by people regardless of their occupation.

End of example

Drivers licence

You can't claim a deduction for the cost to get or renew your drivers licence, even if you must have it as a condition of employment. This is a private expense.

You can claim a deduction for additional costs you incur to get a special licence or condition on your licence to perform your work duties. For example, the cost you incur to get a heavy vehicle permit.

Fines and penalties

You can't claim a deduction for any fines or penalties you get when you travel to work or during work. Fines may include parking and speeding fines or penalties.

For example, a fine you receive for speeding whilst driving to a client's office to attend a business meeting.

First aid courses

You can claim a deduction for the cost of first aid training courses if you are both:

  • a designated first aid person
  • need to complete a first aid training course to assist in emergency work situations.

You can't claim a deduction if your employer pays for or reimburses you for the cost of the course.

For more engineer expenses, see: