Details on claiming pilot expenses for:
- Travel expenses
- Union and professional association fees
- Visa application fees
- Watches and smart watches
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 attend a work-related conference, seminar or training course.
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 work 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 received 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: deduction for overseas travel
Jermaine works for a commercial airline and flies internationally. He is based at the Perth airport.
He is regularly rostered on to fly from Perth to Singapore and return. The flight going to Singapore leaves Perth airport at 11:50 am and arrives in Singapore at 5:20 pm (local time). He returns to Perth the following day, leaving Singapore at 4:40 pm (local time) and arriving in Perth at 9:50 pm.
Jermaine is required to report to the airport 90 minutes before to his shift to review the pre-flight information the airline provides to him. For example, the weather conditions, and to carry out the various checks he needs to do before the plane takes off.
When he is in Singapore, his accommodation is provided by his employer. He is also provided with transport to and from his hotel. Jermaine's employer pays him an allowance to cover his dinner on the first night ($45) along with breakfast ($25) and lunch ($35) the following day. He also receives an allowance of $15 for incidental expenses for the 2 days he is away from home. Jermaine is provided with lunch on the flight over and dinner on the flight back so he is not paid an allowance for those meals.
Jermaine generally eats at the same places and spends around $42 on dinner, $25 on breakfast (usually at the hotel) and $23 for lunch. He also incurs incidentals such as work phone calls that amount to around $17 per trip. The amount Jermaine incurs is less than the reasonable amount for each of the meal he is claiming a deduction for and for his incidental expenses.
During the year, Jermaine does this shift 27 times. At the end of the year, his employer shows the allowance on his income statement (27 × $135 = $3,645). Jermaine declares the allowance of $3,645 as income and claims a deduction of $2,889 (27 × $107 = $2,889).
As he is claiming less than the reasonable amount, Jermaine doesn't have to substantiate his expenses, however he will need to show how he calculates the amount of his claim.End of example
Example: travel expenses between your home and work
Jason is a pilot who currently lives in Sydney. His usual sign-on point is in Newcastle.
Jason can't claim a deduction for travel, accommodation or meal expenses between Sydney and Newcastle. These are private expenses.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?
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 vaccinations you have to protect you from infectious diseases. Even if the vaccinations protect you while you are working, the cost of them is a personal medical expense and is private in nature.
You can generally claim visa application fees when you are required to enter a country as part of your job.
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 uniform. This includes chronograph watches as they are a private expense.
However, you can claim a deduction if your watch has special characteristics that you use for a work-related purpose. For example, a nurse's fob watch.
If the watch cost more than $300, you can claim a deduction for its decline in value over the effective life.
You can claim a deduction for the cost of repairs, batteries and watchbands for special watches. You only claim a deduction for the amount you use the item at work if you also wear it for private purposes.
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, if you require some of the smart watch's functions as an essential part of your employment activities you may be able to apportion the expense between your private and work use. In order to show your 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.
For more pilot expenses, see: