ato logo
Search Suggestion:

Office worker expenses G–O

Last updated 15 June 2023

Details on claiming common office worker 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.

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

Grooming expenses

You can't claim a deduction for hairdressing, cosmetics, hair and skin care products, even though:

  • you may receive an allowance for grooming
  • your employer expects you to be well groomed.

All grooming products are private expenses.

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, 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: laundering a deductible compulsory uniform

Giorgio is a financial accountant in a large consulting firm. His employer supplies collared work shirts with the company’s logo embroidered on them. Giorgio is required to wear the shirts and business pants when at work.

Giorgio can claim the cost of laundering the shirts he is provided as they are a compulsory uniform.

However, he can't claim the cost of buying or laundering his business pants as they are conventional in nature, even if he only wears them to work.

Giorgio washes his work shirts 3 times per week in a combined load and worked for 46 weeks during the income year. He applies a reasonable basis to calculate his claim:

3 washes per week × $0.50 per load × 46 weeks in the year = $69

As his total claim for laundry expenses is under $150 Giorgio isn't required to keep evidence of his laundry expenses. However, if asked, he will still be required to explain how he calculates the claim.

End of example

 

Example: conventional clothing not deductible

Shauna is an administration officer in a manufacturing company. Her employer requires all staff to maintain a professional appearance in the workplace. Shauna buys professional attire that she only wears to work.

Shauna can't claim a deduction for the cost of or laundering of these clothes as they are conventional in nature.

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 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).

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 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.

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 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 and how you work out your claim.

Example: deduction for overtime meal

Craig works for a consulting firm. He calculates that he works overtime 20 times during the year, after completing his normal 8 hour shift. He receives an overtime meal break and overtime meal allowance of $20 under the award each time this occurs.

Craig likes to buy and eat a meal costing $15 (which is less than the reasonable amount) during his overtime shift. On his income statement, it shows his overtime meal allowances as a separate allowance totalling $400. That is, 20 overtime shifts × $20 = $400.

In his tax return, Craig includes the allowance as income and claims a deduction. He works out his deduction as:

$15 × 20 overtime shifts = $300.

That is the actual amount he spent on overtime meals multiplied by the number of overtime shifts.

As the amount Craig spent on his meals is less than the reasonable amount, he doesn't have to keep receipts. However, if asked, Craig will have to show that he spent the $300 on overtime meals and how he works out his claim.

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 office workers expenses, see:

QC18955