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  • Truck drivers – claiming work-related expenses

    In most situations, to claim deductions for work-related expenses:

    • you must have spent the money yourself and weren't reimbursed
    • it must be directly related to earning your income
    • you must have a record to prove it (there are some limited exceptions).

    However, there are some instances where you have to meet other conditions.

    On this page:

    Claim the correct amount for the year

    You must have incurred the expense in the year you are claiming the deduction, unless the expense relates to the decline in value (depreciation) of tools or equipment you purchased.

    When claiming the decline in value of your tools or equipment, you must have used them or had them available for use in the year you are making the claim.

    You can only claim that part of an expense that relates to earning your income.

    Note: When you complete the declaration on your tax return, you are declaring that everything you have told us is true and you can support your claims with written evidence.

    You are responsible for providing proof of your expenses, even if you use a registered tax agent.

    Allowances

    The most common allowances paid to an employee truck driver are:

    • overtime meal allowance
    • travel allowance.

    Regardless of how much allowance you receive, you can only claim a deduction for the expenses you actually paid – that is, if you paid $80 in work-related expenses and you received a $100 allowance for those expenses, you can claim only $80.

    Allowances and your payment summary

    Receiving a travel allowance from your employer does not automatically entitle you to a deduction.

    If your overtime meal allowance or travel allowance is shown on your payment summary:

    • include the allowance as income in your tax return
    • claim a deduction for the amount you actually spent.

    If your overtime meal allowance or travel allowance is not shown on your payment summary and meets each of these criteria:

    • is bona fide (closely represents what you would spend when travelling), and
    • is less than the reasonable amount (see below), and
    • you spent all of it

    Then either:

    • don’t claim any deductions for your overtime meal expenses or travel expenses and don’t include the allowance as income in your tax return, or
    • you can choose to claim a deduction for the amount you actually spent – but if you do, you need to include the amount of the travel allowance as income in your tax return.

    Reimbursements

    If your employer or any other person reimburses you for expenses you have actually incurred, the payment is called a reimbursement. A reimbursement is not considered to be an allowance.

    You cannot claim a deduction for expenses you incur if those expenses are reimbursed to you by your employer – you do not include a reimbursement on your tax return.

    If you claim your motor vehicle expenses from your employer using the cents per kilometre method, the amount you receive is considered to be an allowance.

    Example 1

    Troy had to use his car to meet another truck driver who had to stop driving his truck 20 km away from the depot due to a mandatory long break. The driver returned Troy's car to the depot while Troy drove the truck.

    Troy was paid for the 20 km he used his car, based on the cents per kilometre rate plus the bridge toll he incurred. Even though Troy received a payment for using his car, the payment is not a reimbursement but an allowance, because it is only an estimate of the cost of using the car. As a result, Troy must show the amount he received in his tax return.

    The amount Troy receives from his employer to cover the cost of the bridge toll is a reimbursement, and does not have to be included in Troy's tax return.

    Troy can claim a deduction for these car expenses in his tax return.

    End of example

    Short-haul or local drivers and long-haul drivers

    Short-haul or local drivers usually return home at the end of a day's work. Common expenses for short-haul or local drivers are overtime meal expenses.

    A long-haul driver usually sleeps away from home in the course of their employment. Common expenses for long-haul drivers are:

    Find out about:

    Claiming overtime meal expenses

    Generally, meals, snacks and drinks you buy and consume while on the job are considered to be a private expense for which you cannot claim a deduction.

    However, if you are working overtime, you can claim a deduction for overtime meal expenses if you:

    • purchased and consumed a meal when you worked overtime
    • received an overtime meal allowance under an industrial award for working overtime.

    You can claim up to the reasonable amount we have set without getting and keeping written evidence. If you claim more than the reasonable amount you need to get and keep written evidence for all your expenses.

    Most industrial awards roll the overtime meal allowance into the normal salary or wage and it is not included as a separate allowance on your payment summary. In this situation, you cannot claim a deduction for overtime meals.

    We set the reasonable allowance amount each year. We explain what records you need to keep to claim your expenses, and the way in which you can claim them.

    Keeping records of your overtime meal expenses

    You must keep records, and these can be:

    • receipts, or other written evidence of your expenses
    • payment summaries or payslips which record the overtime meal allowance
    • a letter from your employer recording your overtime meal allowance.

    See also:

    Claiming meal and incidental expenses

    When you are required to sleep away from home overnight, or for a long or night rest break in the course of doing your job, you may be able to claim a deduction for your:

    • meal expenses
    • incidental expenses.

    If you were not required to sleep away from home overnight, or take your long or night rest break when travelling, you cannot claim a deduction for your meals or expenses incidental to your travel, even if you received a travel allowance.

    Example 2

    Joe does an intercity haul. He travels to a sleepover point where he hands the truck over to another driver and takes his required break at the company-paid accommodation. He then collects a truck going back home. Joe receives a meal allowance to cover his meals while on the road and for the sleepover.

    Joe can claim the costs of his meals and incidental expenses because he incurred them as a result of having to sleep away from home overnight when travelling for work.

    End of example

     

    Example 3

    Meredith is a truck driver. She regularly has to drive her truck to a distant country depot. Because the depot is so far away, she sleeps in the cab of the truck overnight and she also incurs meal expenses while on the road. Because Meredith slept in the cab of her truck, she cannot claim a deduction for her accommodation expenses because she didn't incur any. Meredith can claim a deduction for the cost of buying her meals while on the road.

    End of example

     

    Example 4

    Matthew is a truck driver who transports a load of cement from Sydney to Canberra and then returns to his base in Sydney the same day. He buys food and drink during the course of the trip. Because Matthew will return home to sleep, he cannot claim a deduction for the food and drink he bought while on the road, even if his employer paid him a travel allowance.

    End of example

    Generally, you will not incur accommodation expenses when working because you sleep in your truck or in accommodation provided by your employer. This means you cannot claim a deduction for your accommodation because you did not incur an expense.

    If you are claiming travel expenses and you received a travel allowance from your employer, you must record the allowance as income on your tax return.

    See also:

    Keeping records of your meal and incidental expenses

    Generally you need to keep written evidence for your meal and incidental expenses when travelling. There are some exceptions for your meal expenses if you claim less than the reasonable amount.

    Reasonable amounts for meals

    We set out the reasonable amounts for meals for truck drivers each year.

    The amount for each meal is separate and cannot be combined into a single daily amount or moved from one meal to another.

    We accept that you may eat your meals at unconventional times, but you can't claim a deduction for more than one meal of each type in a 24-hour period. For example, you can't claim for two dinners in a row.

    See also:

    Claiming up to the reasonable amount per meal

    You can claim a deduction for the full amount of your meal and incidental expenses without keeping all your records if:

    • you receive a travel allowance that could reasonably be expected to cover your meals when travelling (a token amount you receive as a travel allowance is not accepted as reasonably covering such costs)
    • you claim up to the reasonable allowance amount.

    However, we may ask you to explain how you worked out the amount you claimed. To do this, you need to keep the following records:

    • payment summary or payslips to show the travel allowances you received
    • work diary, or other fatigue documentation which shows the days you travelled for work including start and finish times, where you travelled to, and when you stopped for meals
    • written evidence to show that you were the one who spent the money. You don't need a receipt, but you need written evidence, such as bank statements to show you spent the money. If you travel the same route regularly, and have a regular pattern of expenditure, we accept written evidence for a three-month representative period.

    Example 5

    Dave is an employee truck driver who always travels from Tamworth to Cairns and back again. He keeps receipts and bank statements for three months to show that he usually spent $20 on breakfast (usually stopping at truck stop A), $25 for lunch (usually stopping at truck stop B), and $45 for dinner (usually stopping at truck stop C).

    As all of his expenses for each meal are below the reasonable amount, Dave does not need as many records as he would if his meal expenses had exceeded the reasonable amount. When he completes his tax return, he uses his work diary to work out that he had 200 breakfasts, 210 lunches and 150 dinners when travelling for work.

    Dave uses the evidence he has for the three months to calculate his claim for $16,000 for meals. He includes the $40 per day allowance that he received when travelling as assessable income.

    End of example

    Claiming more than the reasonable amount per meal

    If you claim more than the reasonable amount per meal when travelling, you need to keep the following records:

    • payment summary or payslips to show the travel allowances you received
    • work diary or other fatigue documentation to verify times and dates where you were required to sleep away from home overnight or for a long or night rest break
    • all receipts or invoices for every meal showing the name of the supplier, the amount you spent, the nature of the good or service, the day you spent the money, and the date the receipt or other written evidence was made.

    You might also be required to have other written evidence, such as bank statements, to prove you were the one that spent the money.

    Example 6

    Lea is an employee truck driver who always travels from Geraldton to Port Hedland and back again.

    Lea spends more than the reasonable amounts for breakfast, lunch and dinner, so she is required to keep all of her receipts or invoices for every meal (and not just the amount over the reasonable amount). When she completes her tax return she uses her work diary and receipts to calculate her claim for meals, which is the amount she actually spent and has a record for.

    Lea can’t use an ATM withdrawal or bank statement as they don’t have the details required. But these can assist if she is asked to show that she was the one that spent the money. Lea includes the $40 per day allowance that she received when travelling as assessable income.

    End of example

    If your trip is extended and you do not receive an allowance for the extra nights you are away for work

    Example 7

    Andrew receives an allowance to cover his meals and incidentals for a three-night trip. Due to bad weather, the roads are flooded and Andrew is away for a total of five nights. His employer does not pay an allowance or reimburse him for the extra two nights he is away for work.

    Because Andrew does not receive an allowance for the extra two nights he was out on the job, he can only claim a deduction for the extra expenses he incurs if he keeps records of the expenses for the additional days that were not covered by his allowance.

    End of example

    See also:

    Claiming work-related car expenses for transporting bulky tools and equipment

    You can claim a deduction for the cost of transporting bulky tools and equipment between home and work if:

    • you need to use them at work
    • there is no secure area for storing them at your workplace.

    Example 8

    Amy does an intercity haul. She collects her loaded truck in the evening and travels overnight to another city which she reaches before her mandatory long break. She unhitches the trailer, takes the truck to a place where she can sleep in it, and then returns to collect the reloaded trailer for the return trip that night.

    Amy takes a portable fridge, two screwdrivers, food for the road, a sleeping bag, a blanket, a change of clothing, toiletry gear and a GPS with her. She keeps these items at home and transports them to and from her depot because there is no storage at the depot. The items she uses for work are considered bulky.

    Amy is entitled to a deduction for her costs of travelling between her home and depot.

    End of example

    See also:

      Last modified: 27 Oct 2017QC 21635