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  • Common expenses A–F

    Details on claiming common lawyer expenses for:

    Admission fees

    You can't claim a deduction for the cost of admission fees.

    Annual practising certificate fees

    You can claim a deduction for the cost of renewing your annual practising certificate if you need it to work in your current employment.

    You can't claim the initial cost of getting your practicing certificate as a deduction. This is because you incur the expense to enable you to start employment, not while earning your income.

    Example: prerequisite expenses

    Drew has finishes his legal training in Townsville and is looking to start his career as a solicitor. To practice as a solicitor, Drew needs to apply to the Supreme Court of Queensland to be admitted as a lawyer and then apply for a practicing certificate. Until he is granted both, he can't practice law.

    Drew can't claim a deduction for the cost of his admission or practicing certificate because he incurs it so he can start earning employment income. Once he is employed, he will be able to deduct the cost of renewing his practice certificate each year, as it allows him to continue earning his income as a solicitor.

    End of example

    Bags and cases for work items

    If you use a bag or a case, for example a briefcase, to carry items for work, you are entitled to a deduction to the extent that it is used for work purposes. Work items may include laptops, legal documents and briefs but do not include private and domestic items like gym gear, food or a personal phone or tablet. To be deductible, your job must require you to transport work items and the bag must be suitable for that purpose.

    If the bag or case cost you $300 or less, and you use it for work only, you can claim a deduction for the whole cost of the bag in the year you purchase it. If the bag or case cost more than $300, you can claim a deduction for its decline in value over the bag's or case's effective life.

    If you use the bag or case to carry both work and private items, you need to apportion the expense between work-related and private use, and you can only claim the work-related portion.

    Example: bag deductible

    Michael is a solicitor. Michael purchases a leather satchel for $450. He uses the satchel to carry confidential material and legal documents to court. Michael does not use the satchel for any other purpose.

    As the satchel cost more than $300, Michael can claim a deduction for the decline in value of the satchel.

    End of example

     

    Example: bag not deductible

    Francisco is a law clerk. He buys a holdall bag for $250 and uses it every day to take his lunch, personal tablet and gym clothes to work.

    Francisco can't claim a deduction for the bag, as he only uses it to transport private items to and from work.

    End of example

    Books, journals and professional library

    You can claim a deduction for the total cost of a publication you buy (including technical journals and reference books) if:

    • it cost less than $300
    • you use the publication mainly for work-related purposes, that is more than half of the time for work purposes
    • the publication isn't part of a set you start to hold in that income year where the total set costs more than $300
    • the item isn't one of a number of identical or substantially identical items that together cost more than $300.

    Items are generally considered to be part of a set if all of the following factors are met. They are:

    • interdependent
    • marketed as a set
    • designed and intended to be used together.

    If you subscribe and pay for a publication in advance for more than one year, you must claim your deduction proportionately over the whole subscription period.

    Example: dividing the cost of a subscription

    On 1 January 2022, Martin, a senior clerk employed by a legal firm, paid $1,250 for a subscription for a monthly professional journal. The subscription is for 1 January 2022 – 31 January 2023 (396 days). As Martin has paid in advance for more than 12 months, he must apportion his deduction over the income years 2021–22 and 2022–23. Martin’s deductions are:

    2021–22 (1 January 2021 to 30 June 2021)

    $1,250 × (181 ÷ 396) = $571

    2022–23 (1 July 2021 to 31 January 2022)

    $1,250 × (215 ÷ 396) = $679

    The total deduction allowed proportionately over the income years 2020–21 and 2021–22 is $1,250.

    End of example

    You can claim the decline in value of your professional library over its effective life, if:

    • the content of each individual item is directly relevant to your duties and cost more than $300
    • the item is part of a set or a number of items that are identical or substantially identical which cost more than $300.

    Example: claiming decline in value of an item that cost more than $300

    Marie is an in-house lawyer. She buys a legal book costing $350 to add to her professional library.

    Marie can’t claim a deduction for the full cost of the book. This is because the total cost to be added to her professional library is more than $300. Instead, she must claim the decline in value of the book over the effective life of her professional library.

    End of example

    Car expenses

    You can't claim a car expenses deduction for normal trips between your home and regular place of work. These are private expenses, even if you:

    • live a long way from your usual or regular workplace
    • have to work outside normal business hours (for example, weekend or early morning shifts).

    In limited circumstances, you can claim the cost of trips between home and work, such as where you carry bulky tools or equipment for work or where you had shifting places of employment.

    To be able to claim a deduction for the cost of trips between home and work while carrying bulky tools or equipment, all the following conditions must be met:

    • the tools or equipment are essential to perform your employment duties
    • the tools or equipment are bulky, meaning that  
      • because of the size and weight, they are awkward to transport
      • they can only be transported conveniently using a motor vehicle
    • there is no secure storage for such items at the workplace.

    It will not be sufficient if you transport the tools or equipment merely as a matter of choice. For example, if your employer provides reasonably secure storage, your decision to transport items home will be a matter of choice.

    You are considered to have shifting places of employment where you have no fixed place of work and you continually travel from one work site to another before returning home.

    You can also claim a deduction for the cost of using a car you own, lease or hire (under a hire-purchase arrangement) when you drive:

    • directly between separate jobs on the same day – for example, travelling from the court to represent a client to your second job as a university lecturer
    • to and from an alternative workplace for the same employer on the same day – for example, travelling to meet a client in custody or attend court
    • from home to an alternative place of work – for example, driving directly to your appointment at your client's premises.

    You can't claim car expenses for a car you use under a salary sacrifice or novated lease arrangement. This is because it's usually your employer leasing the car from the financing company and making it available for your use. You can however claim additional work-related expenses you incur that are associated with your work use of the car such as parking and tolls.

    To claim a deduction, you must keep records of your car use. You can choose between the logbook method or the cents per kilometre method to work out your deduction.

    If you use the logbook method, you need to keep a valid logbook to help you work out the percentage of work-related use along with written evidence of your car expenses.

    If you use the cents per kilometre method, you need to be able to show how you work out your work-related kilometres. You must be able to show that the kilometres travelled were work-related.

    If you claim your work-related car expenses using one of the above methods, you can’t claim any further deductions in the same tax return for the same car. For example, petrol, servicing, and insurance costs.

    To claim a deduction in your tax return, include the amount of your claim at Work-related car expenses. The Work-related car expenses calculator can help you work out the amount you can claim as a deduction.

    You can’t use the cents per kilometre or logbook methods to work out your claim for a:

    • motorcycle
    • vehicle with a carrying capacity of one tonne or more (such as a ute)
    • vehicle that can transport 9 passengers or more (such as a minibus).

    For these vehicles, you can claim the actual expenses you incur for your work-related travel. This includes costs such as fuel, oil, insurance and loan interest along with the decline in value of the vehicle. You must keep receipts for all your expenses and records to show your work-related use of the vehicle. Although it is not a requirement for you to keep a logbook, it is the easiest way to calculate your work-related use of the vehicle.

    To claim a deduction for actual expenses you incur for a vehicle not defined as a car, include the amount at Work-related travel expenses.

    Example: home to regular place of work

    Nigel is a lawyer. He is receives a phone call at his home outside normal working hours as a client has been arrested. Nigel travels from his home to his office in response to this phone call.

    Even though Nigel is called outside his normal working hours, Nigel can't claim a deduction from his home to the office. It is travel to a regular place of work and he does not incur the cost in earning his income. The expenses are private.

    End of example

     

    Example: home to an alternative place of work

    Renata is lawyer. Her office is located in a suburb of Sydney. When Renata attends court in city, she drives from her home directly to the court. After she has finished at the court, Renata drives back to her suburban office.

    Renata can claim a deduction for the expenses she incurs when she drives from:

    • home to the court
    • the court to her suburban office.

    Renata can't claim a deduction for the expenses she incurs when drives home at the end of the day from her suburban office.

    End of example

     

    Example: bulky equipment

    Charlie is a solicitor. He decides to do some work at home on some of his cases over the weekend. Charlie uses his car to carry home 5 containers of working papers which weigh around 50kg.

    Charlie can't claim a deduction for car expenses when he drives from the office to his home on Friday afternoon and from his home to the office on Monday morning. Although the documents are bulky, he has made a personal choice to carry the documents home.

    End of example

    Child care

    You can't claim a deduction for the cost of child care (including school holidays and before and after school care) when you’re working. It’s a private expense, and the expenses have no direct connection to earning your income.

    Clothing and uniform expenses (including footwear)

    With a few exceptions, clothing can't be deducted as a work-related expense.

    You can't claim conventional clothing (including footwear) as a work-related expense, even if your employer requires you to wear it and you only wear these items of clothing at work.

    'Conventional clothing' is everyday clothing worn by people regardless of their occupation – for example, business attire worn by a lawyer.

    You can claim a deduction for costs you incur to buy, hire, repair or replace clothing, uniforms and footwear you wear at work if it's in one of the following categories:

    • protective clothing – clothing that has protective features or functions that you wear to protect you from specific risks of injury or illness at work. For example, cleaning aprons, non-slip shoes or smocks worn to stop you coming into contact with harmful substance. Conventional clothes you wear at work are not regarded as protective clothing if they lack protective qualities designed for the risks of your work. This includes jeans, drill shirts, shorts, trousers, socks, closed shoes.
    • occupation-specific clothing – clothing distinctly identifies you as a person associated with a particular profession, trade or occupation. For example, a judge's robes or a chef's chequered pants. Items traditionally worn in a profession are not occupation-specific where the clothing is worn by multiple professions.
    • a compulsory uniform – clothing that your employer strictly and consistently enforces you wear by workplace agreement or policy and distinctly identifies either  
      • you as an employee working for a particular employer
      • the products or services your employer provides
    • a non-compulsory uniform – clothing that your employer registers on the Register of Approved Occupational Clothing with AusIndustry.

    You can't claim a deduction if your employer buys, repairs or replaces your clothing.

    Example: conventional clothing

    Lena wears a business suit to work. It isn't compulsory for a staff member to wear a business suit, but the employer encourages staff members to do so.

    Lena can't claim a deduction for the cost of purchasing or cleaning her business suits, even if her employer tells her to wear them. The suits are conventional clothing.

    End of example

     

    Example: compulsory uniform with logo

    Mike's employer requires him to buy and wear company shirts. Each shirt has his employer's company logo embroidered on it. As part of his uniform, he also has to wear plain black pants and black shoes.

    Mike can claim a deduction for the cost of buying and laundering the shirts as they are:

    • distinctive items with the employer's logo
    • compulsory for him to wear at work.

    However, he can't claim the cost of purchasing or cleaning his black pants or shoes because it is a private expense as the items are conventional clothing.

    Mike can't claim a deduction for the cost of the embroidered company shirts if they were provided by his employer or he was reimbursed for the cost.

    End of example

    Club membership fees

    You can't claim a deduction for club membership fees – for example, your annual golf club membership fees, even if it helps you to manage client relationships.

    Driver's licence

    You can't claim a deduction for the cost to get or renew your driver's licence, even if you must have it as a condition of employment. This is a private expense.

    You can claim a deduction for additional costs you incur to get a special licence or condition on your licence to perform your work duties.

    Entertainment and social functions

    You can't claim a deduction for the cost of any entertainment, fundraising or social functions. This applies even if they are compulsory, non-compulsory or you discuss work matters at the event. Entertainment and social functions include the cost of:

    • work breakfasts, lunches or dinners
    • attendance at sporting events
    • gala or social nights
    • concerts or dances
    • cocktail parties
    • other similar types of functions or events.

    These are private expenses because these events don't have a direct connection to your work duties.

    You also can’t claim the cost of travelling to and from functions.

    Example: entertainment costs

    Rachael attends a social breakfast organised by the Australian Bar Association. These breakfasts are held every other month to encourage lawyers within the region to meet socially with colleagues.

    Rachael can't claim a deduction for the cost of attending the breakfast as it is a private expense. That is because there is no direct connection to her work duties.

    End of example

    Fines and penalties

    You can't claim a deduction for any fines you get when you travel to work or during work. Fines may include parking and speeding fines or penalties.

    For more lawyer expenses:

      Last modified: 24 May 2022QC 51251