Details on claiming common engineer expenses for:
- Award transport payments (fares allowance)
- Car expenses
- Child care
- Clothing and uniform expenses (including footwear)
- Drivers licence
- Fines and penalties
- First aid courses
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.
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 reasonably 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:
- 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
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.
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 with AusIndustry.
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
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.
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.
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:
Details on claiming common engineer expenses for:
- Glasses, contact lenses and anti-glare glasses
- Insurance of tools and equipment
- Laundry and maintenance
- Licences, permits and cards
- Meal and snack expenses
- Newspapers and other news services, magazines and professional publications
- Overtime meal expenses
You can't claim a deduction for prescription glasses or contact lenses, even if you need to wear them while working as 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 as an engineer. 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: protective goggles
Meena is a chemical engineer. Meena wears protective goggles when she is working to ensure her eyes are not damaged by chemicals. Meena's employer does not provide her with goggles so she buys a pair for $49.
Meena can claim a deduction of $49 for the goggles she buys. The goggles protect her eyes from damage while she is carrying out her duties.End of example
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.
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, a 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.
We consider that a reasonable basis for working out your laundry claim is:
- $1 per load if it only contains clothing you wear at work from one of the categories above.
- 50c per load if you mix personal items of clothing with work clothing from one of the categories above.
You can claim the actual costs you incurred 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, but you will still need to calculate and be able to show how you worked out your claim. This isn't an automatic deduction.
Example: laundry expenses uniform and conventional clothing
Joselyn is an electrical engineer and is required to wear shirts embroidered with her employer's logo whilst at work. Her employer also requires her to wear black drill pants.
Joselyn can claim a deduction for the laundering of her work shirts as the logo makes them unique and distinctive. However, she can't claim a deduction for the cost to launder her drill pants even though she only wears them to work. They are conventional in nature and don’t have a logo or other feature that is unique and distinctive.
Joselyn washes and dries her embroidered shirts and drill pants in a separate load of washing twice a week. She can only claim 50c per load as her embroidered shirts are washed with her drill pants (conventional clothing).
Jocelyn worked for 40 weeks of the income year and calculates her laundry claim as follows:
Number of claimable laundry loads per week × number of weeks = total number of claimable laundry loads
2 × 40 = 80
Total number of claimable laundry loads × reasonable cost per load = total claim amount
80 × $0.50 = $40
As her total claim for laundry expenses is under $150, Joselyn doesn't have to provide written evidence of her laundry expenses. However, if asked, she will still be required to explain how she calculated her claim.End of example
You can't claim the cost of getting your initial licence, regulatory permit, cars or certificates in order to get a job. For example, a forklift licence.
You can claim a deduction for the additional costs you incur to get or renew these expenses in order to continue to perform your work duties. For example, if you need to have a forklift licence to get your job, you can’t claim the initial cost of obtaining it, however you can claim the cost of renewing it during the period you are working.
You can't claim for the cost of food, drink or snacks you consume during your normal working hours, even if you receive a meal allowance. These are 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).
The cost of newspapers, 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 is not general in nature.
If you use the publication for work and private purposes, you can only claim the portion related to your work-related use.
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 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 part of your salary and wages and not included 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 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 your expenses.
In all cases, you need to be able to show:
- you spent the money
- how you worked out your claim.
Example: overtime meal expenses
Ash, an aeronautical engineer, completes his eight-hour shift and is asked to work for an additional three hours. He is given a meal break and paid an overtime meal allowance of $25 under his enterprise bargaining agreement. Ash buys and eats a meal costing him $14 during his overtime which is less than the Commissioner's reasonable amount for the relevant income year.
At the end of the income year his income statement shows he received $25 for his overtime meal allowance. In his tax return, Ash correctly declares the $25 allowance and claims a deduction of $14. This is the amount he actually spent on his overtime meal.
The amount Ash is claiming as a deduction is less than the commissioner's reasonable amount so Ash 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 engineer expenses, see: