Details on claiming common police officer expenses for:
- Transport expenses
- Tools and equipment
- Travel expenses
- Union and professional association fees
- Watches and smart watches
- Working from home expenses
You can claim a deduction for transport costs if you travel in the course of performing your work. For example, taking a taxi or public transport from your regular workplace to another work location.
You can’t claim a deduction for transport expenses you incur to travel 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 you use to perform your duties as a police officer. For example, a wet suit bought by a police diver or equestrian equipment bought by a mounted police officer.
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. Use the Depreciation and capital allowances tool to work out your deduction.
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: apportioned deduction for tools
Benjamin works as a traffic branch officer. He buys a Leatherman and screwdriver to use in the course of performing his duties. His employer doesn't provide or reimburse Benjamin for these expenses. Benjamin also uses these tools on the weekend for odd jobs around the house and when he goes camping.
Benjamin calculates that the work-related use of these tools is approximately 70% and the cost of each tool was less than $300. Benjamin can claim 70% of the purchase price of each tool as a deduction.
If Benjamin had bought a tool that cost him more than $300 he couldn't claim the full value as a deduction. He can only claim a deduction for its decline in value over the effective life of the asset. Benjamin would also have to reduce his decline in value deduction for any private use of the items.End of example
Example: tools for private use
Jesse is a police officer in the aviation branch. 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 both:
- 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 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 expense with allowance
Rebecca is an Australian Federal Police officer and regularly travels away from home overnight for work purposes. Once a month she travels to Canberra for 3 days.
When she travels overnight for work her employer pays for her flights and accommodation and provides a travel allowance for her breakfast, lunch and dinner.
If Rebecca spends less than the reasonable amount on her meals she isn't required to keep receipts. She can claim a deduction up to the Commissioner’s reasonable amount for breakfast, lunch and dinner so long as she:
- actually incurs the meal expenses
- reports the allowance in her tax return.
Rebecca can't claim the cost of her flights and accommodation as she didn't incur these expenses.End of example
Example: private accommodation
Jennifer works as a police officer at a station which is a 90 minute drive from her home. To reduce her commute she sometimes stays at a hotel near the station.
Jennifer can't claim a deduction for her accommodation as it isn't a requirement of her employment duties that she stays away from home overnight.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 you incur to buy or maintain conventional or ordinary watches or timepieces, even if you require one 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) 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.
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 watches which have special characteristics which are used for work-related purposes – for example, a scuba diving watch used by Diving Squad police officers.
You can also claim a deduction for the cost of repairs, batteries and watchbands for these special watches. If you wear the watch when you are not working as well as when you are, you only claim a deduction for the amount you use the item at work.
Example: Specialty watch apportioned for private use
Bianca works on the police Diving Squad. She buys a diving watch that she uses every day for work. She also uses the watch when she goes diving recreationally.
As the watch cost more than $300, she can claim the decline in value of the watch as a deduction. However, Bianca would need to apportion the decline in value amount between her work and private use and claim only the portion that relates to her work.End of example
Example: smart watch not deductible
Dianna is a police officer who primarily works on bicycle patrol. As part of her role, she needs to keep GPS records of where she travels. The department has provided her with a GPS for this purpose.
Dianna buys a smart watch so it is easier for her to keep personal GPS records and to check messages sent to her phone while she is on patrol. She receives both private and work-related messages through the smart watch.
Dianna can't claim a deduction for the smart watch because her employer provides her with the necessary tools to fulfil her work functions. The ability to check messages on her phone with her watch is not a part of her employment duties and the cost of the watch is not a deductible expense for her work.End of example
You may be able to claim a deduction for working from home expenses you incur as an employee. These can be additional running expenses such as electricity, the decline in value of equipment or furniture, phone and internet expenses. You must:
- use one of the methods set out by us to calculate your deduction
- keep the records required for the method you choose.
There are some expenses you can't claim a deduction for as an employee. Employees who work at home can't claim costs:
- for coffee, tea, milk and other general household items your employer may provide you at work
- for your children and their education including
- setting them up for online learning
- teaching them at home
- buying equipment such as iPads and desks
- your employer pays for or reimburses you for the expense
- for the decline in value of items provided by your employer – for example, a laptop or a phone.
Generally as an employee, you can’t claim occupancy expenses (rent, rates, mortgage interest and house insurance premiums), unless your home is your 'place of business'.
You can’t claim a deduction if your employer paid for your home office to be set up or they reimbursed you for the expense.
You also can't claim a deduction for your working from home expenses if you are only carrying out minimal tasks, such as checking your shift times.
The Home office expenses calculator helps you work out the amount you can claim as a deduction for home office expenses.
Example: claiming home office expenses
Rosemary works as a police prosecutor. When she is preparing for a case, she works extra hours at home in the evening and on weekends.
Rosemary's employer doesn't reimburse her for the expenses she incurs while working from home, expenses which include electricity, a computer, office chair, reams of paper, printer ink and stationery.
Rosemary can claim a deduction for the additional running expenses she incurs as a result of working from home. The amount she can claim will depend on the records she has kept and the method she chooses to use.End of example
For more information, see:
- PS LA 2001/6 Verification approaches for home office and electronic device expenses
- TR 93/30 Income tax: deductions for home office expenses
- PCG 2023/1 Claiming a deduction for additional running expenses incurred while working from home - ATO compliance approach
For more police officer expenses, see: