Details on claiming fire fighter expenses for:
- Taxi, ride-share, public transport and car hire
- Tools and equipment
- Travel expenses
- Union and professional association fees
- Watches and smart watches
You can claim a deduction for transport costs if you travel in the course of performing your work. For example, taking a taxi from your regular workplace to another work location because a fleet vehicle was not available.
You can’t claim a deduction for travel expenses between home and work, these are private expenses.
You can't claim a deduction if your employer reimburses you for these expenses.
You can claim a deduction for tools and equipment if you use them to perform your duties as a fire fighter.
You can only claim a deduction for the work-related use of the item.
If the tool or equipment cost you $300 or less, you can claim a deduction for the full amount in the year you buy it, if:
- you use it mainly for work purposes
- it's not part of a set that together cost more than $300.
You can claim a deduction for the cost over the life of the item (that is, decline in value), if the tool or equipment:
- cost more than $300
- is part of a set that together cost more than $300.
If you bought the tool or item of equipment part way through the year, you can only claim a deduction for the decline in value for the period of the income year that you own it. To work out your deduction use the Depreciation and capital allowances tool.
You can also claim a deduction for the cost of repairs to tools and equipment that you use for work purposes.
You can’t claim a deduction for tools and equipment that your employer or a third party supplies for use.
Example: deduction for tools
Benjamin is a firefighter in the bushfire services team. He buys an axe for $129, a bushfire beater for $45 and a portable firefighting pump for $750 to use when he and his colleagues are called out to a bushfire. Benjamin's employer doesn't provide or reimburse Benjamin for this expense.
As the axe and bush fire beater cost less than $300 he can claim a deduction for their cost in the year he buys them.
Benjamin can claim a deduction for the decline in value of the portable firefighting pump over its effective life.End of example
Example: equipment used for private purposes
Jesse is a firefighter in the rescue services team. Jesse buys a computer which he uses to check his roster each week. He thinks he may also need the computer to do some study for his role. However, due to a change in his circumstances, he never ends up doing any work-related study. Jesse and other members of his family use the computer for private purposes
Jesse can't claim a deduction for the decline in value of the computer. The computer is used for private purposes, checking his roster is incidental.End of example
You can claim a deduction for travel expenses you incur when your work requires you to:
- travel for work
- sleep away from your home overnight in the course of performing your employment duties.
Expenses you can claim include your accommodation, meals and expenses which are incidental to the travel (incidentals). For example, when you travel interstate to fight a fire.
You can't claim a deduction for travel expenses where you don't incur any expenses, because:
- you slept in accommodation your employer provides
- you eat meals your employer provides
- your employer or a third party reimburses you for any costs you incur.
You also can't claim a deduction if you are not required to sleep away from your home overnight in the course of performing your employment duties, for example if you fly interstate and return home the same day, or you choose to sleep near your workplace rather than returning home.
Receiving an allowance from your employer doesn’t automatically mean you can claim a deduction. In all cases, you must be able to show:
- you were away overnight
- you have spent the money
- the travel directly relates to earning your employment income
- how you worked out your claim.
If you receive a travel allowance you must include it as assessable income in your tax return unless all of the following apply:
- the travel allowance is not shown on your income statement or payment summary
- the travel allowance doesn't exceed the Commissioner's reasonable amount
- you spent the whole allowance on deductible accommodation, meal and incidental expenses, if applicable.
The Commissioner's reasonable amount is set each year. The amount is used to determine whether an exception from keeping written evidence applies for the following expenses which are covered by a travel allowance:
You don’t have to keep written evidence such as receipts if both of the following apply:
- you receive a travel allowance from your employer for the expenses
- your deduction is less than the Commissioner’s reasonable amount.
If you claim a deduction for more than the Commissioner’s reasonable amount you need to keep receipts for all expenses, not just for the amount over the Commissioner’s reasonable amount.
Even if you are not required to keep written evidence such as receipts, you must be able to explain your claim and show you spent the amounts. For example, show your work diary, that you received and correctly declared your travel allowance and bank statements.
Example: travel for work deductible
Jim is a firefighting trainer based in Melbourne. He trains new recruits at Falls Creek and the surrounding stations. The training runs for 3 days at a time.
Jim travels to Falls Creek the night before the training starts and travels back to Melbourne after the third day of the training. He arrives home at 9pm on the evening of the third day.
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 in Falls Creek, Jim stays in accommodation which cost him $110 per night. Jim eats at the same places each day and spends approximately $23 for breakfast, $19 for lunch and $35 for dinner. On the way home from Falls Creek Jim spends $21 on his dinner. These amounts are all less than the reasonable amounts.
As the amounts Jim is claiming for accommodation and meals are less than the reasonable amounts, Jim doesn't have to get and keep records to show his expenses. However, if asked, he may be asked to show how he calculated his claim.
At the end of the year, Jim declares the allowance of $495 received from his employer as income in his return and claims a deduction of $582 which he has calculated as follows:
Accommodation for 3 nights × $110 = $330
4 dinners ($35 × 3) + $21 = $126
3 lunches $19 × 3 = $57
3 breakfasts $23 × 3 = $69
Total amount spent $330 + $126 + $69 + $57 = $582End 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?
You can claim a deduction for union and professional association fees you pay. You can use your income statement as evidence of the amount you pay if it's shown on there.
You can't claim a deduction for the cost of buying or maintaining watches or smart watches, even if they are required as part of your job. This is a private expense.
Similar to ordinary watches, a smart watch (that connects to a phone or other device to provide notifications, apps and GPS, for example) is a private expense and not deductible under ordinary circumstances.
However, you may be able to claim a deduction for the work-related use of a smart watch. You can claim a deduction where you require some of the smart watch's functions as an essential part of your employment activities. To show the work-related use of the watch, you will need to keep a diary or similar record of your use of the watch for a representative period.
Example: smart watch not deductible
Joel is a fire fighter. As part of his role, he needs to keep GPS records of where he travels. His employer provides him with a GPS for this purpose.
Joel buys a smart watch so it is easier for him to keep personal GPS records and to check messages sent to his phone while he is in the truck. He receives both private and work-related messages via the smart watch.
Joel can't claim a deduction for the smart watch, because his employer provides him with the necessary tools to fulfil his work functions. The ability to check messages on his phone with his watch is not a part of his employment duties and the cost of the watch is not a deductible expense.End of example
For more fire fighter expenses, see: