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Train driver expenses G–O

Details on claiming train driver expenses.

2 June 2024

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, sunglasses, safety glasses or goggles. You can only claim a deduction for the work-related use of the item.

Laundry and maintenance

You can claim a deduction for the cost 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 by your employer on the Register of Approved Occupational Clothing 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 of the clothing you wear at work from one of the categories above.

If your laundry claim (excluding dry-cleaning expenses) is $150 or less, you don't need to keep records. However, 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 compulsory uniform

Kelly is a short haul train driver. She drives between Albury and Melbourne each day. Kelly's employer provides her with a compulsory uniform that she is responsible for cleaning.

She washes, dries and irons her compulsory uniform in a separate load of washing twice a week. Kelly works for 40 weeks during the income year.

She calculates her claim of $80 for laundry expenses as follows:

Number of claimable laundry loads per week × number of weeks × reasonable cost per load

2 × 40 × $1 = $80

As Kelly's total claim for laundry expenses is less than $150, she isn't required to keep written evidence of her laundry expenses.

Although Kelly isn't required to keep evidence to prove her claim for laundry expenses, if asked, she will still be required to explain how she calculated her claim.

End of example

Licences, cards and permits

You can’t claim the cost to get your initial licence, regulatory permit, cards or certificates to get a job. For example, a heavy vehicle permit.

You can claim a deduction for costs you incur to get or renew your licence, regulatory permit, card or certificate to continue to perform your work duties. For example, if you need to have a special licence to drive a train to get your job, you can't claim the initial cost of getting it. However, you can claim the cost to renew it during the period you are working.

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't claim your meals expenses when you travel for work if you didn't need to:

  • take a mandatory long rest break as part of your shift
  • sleep away from home overnight for work.

You can only claim one of each meal type in a 24-hour period, even if you eat at unusual times. For example, you can't claim for 2 dinners in one day.

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
  • the cost of meals you incur when you are travelling overnight for the purpose of carrying out your employment duties (travel expenses).

Example: when you can't claim a meal expense

Matthew is a short-haul train driver who drives a passenger train from Sydney to Canberra. He then returns to his station in Sydney the same day. He buys food and drink during the course of the trip.

As this trip is part of Matthew's normal working day, he can't claim a deduction for the food and drink he buys.

End of example

Music streaming services, CDs, audio books or podcasts

You can't claim a deduction for music streaming services, CDs, audio books, podcasts or devices that you use in the train. Even if they're used to help relieve fatigue, these items aren't essential to earning your income. They are private expenses.

Newspapers and other news services, magazines and professional publications

The cost of newspapers, other news services and magazines and professional publications 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 industrial law, award or agreement
  • the allowance is on your income statement or payment summary as a separate allowance
  • you include the allowance in your tax return as income.

You can't claim a deduction if the allowance is not shown as a separate allowance on your income statement or payment summary.

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 calculated your claim.

Example: deduction for overtime meal

Isiah is a train driver. Twenty times during the year he works overtime 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.

Isiah generally buys and eats a meal costing $15 during overtime. His income statement shows the overtime meal allowances as a separate allowance totalling $400. That is, 20 overtime shifts × $20 = $400.

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

End of example

For more information, see TD 2023/3 Income tax: what are the reasonable travel and overtime meal allowance expense amounts for the 2023–24 income year?

For more train driver expenses: