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  • Common expenses P–S

    Details on claiming common lawyer expenses for:

    Parking fees and tolls

    You can't claim a deduction for parking at or near a regular place of work. You also can't claim a deduction for tolls you incur for trips between your home and work. These are a private expense.

    You can claim a deduction for parking fees and tolls you incur on work-related trips.

    Example: parking fees

    Spencer drives his own car to work each day and parks in the secure parking centre next to the legal firm where he works.

    Once a month Spencer drives his car to a training facility to complete mandatory training, required for his role as a solicitor. He pays for parking and isn't reimbursed by his employer.

    Spencer can't claim the cost he incurs parking at his regular place of work. However, he can claim his parking at the training facility as he incurs the cost on a work-related trip.

    End of example

    Phone, data and internet expenses

    You can claim a deduction for phone, data and internet costs if you use your own phone or electronic devices for work purposes.

    If your phone, data and internet use for work is incidental and you're not claiming more than $50 in total, you do not need to keep records.

    If you claim more than $50, you need to keep records to show your work use. For example, an itemised bill where you can identify your work-related phone calls and data use.

    You can’t claim a deduction if your employer:

    • provides you with a phone for work and pays for your usage
    • reimburses you for the costs you incur.

    You can’t claim a deduction for any phone calls to family and friends, even while travelling for work. This is because these are personal phone calls.

    Example: calculating the apportionment of phone expenses

    Lily uses her mobile phone for work purposes. She is on a set mobile phone plan of $49 a month and rarely exceeds the plan cap.

    Lily receives a monthly itemised account from her phone provider including details of the individual calls she has made.

    Lily prints out her account once a year and highlights the work-related calls she made. She notes on her account for the first month about who she is phoning for work and privately, for example her employer or parents.

    Of the 200 phone calls Lily makes in a 4 week period, 30 calls (15%) are for work. She applies that percentage to her cap amount of $49 a month.

    Lily calculates her phone calls for work purposes as follows:

    Total work phone calls ÷ total number of phone calls = work use percentage for phone calls

    30 ÷ 200 = 15%

    Lily can claim 15% of the total bill of $49 for each month for work purposes

    $49 × 0.15 = $7.35

    Lily worked for 38 weeks of the year (8.8 months), she calculates her work-related mobile phone expense deduction as follows:

    8.8 months × $7.35 = $65

    End of example

     

    Example: work and private use

    Audrey uses her computer and personal internet account at home to access her work emails and do research for her cases. She uses her computer and the internet for work and private purposes.

    Audrey's internet use diary showed 10% of her internet time was for work-related activities and 90% was for private use. As her internet service provider charge for the year was $1,200 she can claim:

    $1,200 × 0.10 = $120 as work-related internet use

    If there was anyone else that accesses the internet connection, Audrey will need to reduce her claim to account for their use.

    End of example

    Professional library

    You can claim a deduction for the decline in value of a professional library over its effective life.

    Reference books can only be included in your professional library if the contents of the book are directly relevant to your employment duties. For example, if you are a family law solicitor, a reference book on divorce settlements and child custody would be relevant to your duties.

    If the reference book cost $300 or less, you can claim a deduction for the full cost of the book in the year that it was purchased.

    You can't add textbooks purchased and claimed as self-education expenses to your professional library.

    Removal and relocation expenses

    You can’t claim a deduction for the cost to transfer or relocate to a new work location. This is the case whether the move is a condition of your existing job or you are taking up a new job.

    Example: relocating due to transfer

    Caitlyn is a lawyer in Sydney. She is temporarily transferred to a position in the Melbourne office for two years by her employer.

    Caitlyn can't claim a deduction for her relocation costs, rent or other living expenses.

    End of example

    Repairs to tools and equipment

    You can claim a deduction for repairs to tools and equipment you use for work. If you also use them for private purposes, you can only claim an amount for your work-related use.

    Self-education and study expenses

    You can claim a deduction for self-education and study expenses if it directly relates to your employment as a lawyer and it:

    • maintains or improves the skills and knowledge you need for your current duties
    • results in or is likely to result in an increase in your income from your current employment.

    For example, self-education and training courses you attend to meet your continued professional development (CPD) points.

    You can't claim a deduction if the self-education or study course:

    • doesn't have a connection with your current employment
    • only relates in a general way to your current employment
    • enables you to get employment or change employment.

    For example, you can’t claim your Bachelor of Law if you are working as a legal secretary.

    If your self-education and study expenses are deductible, you can claim expenses such as course fees, student and amenities fees, textbooks, academic journals and stationery expenses. You will also be able to claim a deduction for the decline in value of any depreciating assets which cost more than $300 that you use for your work-related study.

    If you have set aside a home office to do your study, you may also be able to claim work from home running expenses, but not occupancy expenses.

    You can claim a deduction for transport expenses for:

    • travel between your home and the place of education and then back home
    • the first leg of the trip
      • when you travel from home to the place of education and then on to work
      • when you travel from work to a place of education and then home
    • travel between work and the place of education and then back to work.

    You can't claim a deduction for the repayments you make on your study or training support loan. Study and training support loans include:

    • Higher Education Loan Program (HELP)
    • VET Student Loans (VETSL)
    • Trade Support Loan Program (TSL)
    • Student Financial Supplement Scheme (SFSS)
    • Student Start-up Loan (SSL).

    While course fees may be deductible, fees you incur under the Higher Education Contribution Scheme Higher Education Loan Program (HECS-HELP) scheme are not deductible.

    You generally can't claim a deduction for the first $250 of expenses for self-education.

    Example: maintains or improves specific skills or knowledge

    Beryl is a solicitor at a large company. She enrols in an online course on effective client interviewing. The skills are required as part of the duties she performs at work.

    The course deepens her knowledge on interview skills and communications issues and directly ties into the work she does from day to day.

    Beryl can claim a deduction for the cost of the course.

    End of example

     

    Example: improves specific skills or knowledge

    Dean is a qualified legal practitioner in commercial law. He wants to improve his knowledge and skills and has decided to complete a Masters of Commercial Law.

    Dean can claim a deduction for the course and associated expenses as the course enables Dean to maintain or improve the skills and knowledge specific to his current income-producing activities.

    End of example

     

    Example: self-education you can't claim

    Jamie is a lawyer in a small firm. Jamie decides that he'd prefer to teach law to high school students, so has decided to return to university to complete a teaching degree. While studying to become a high school teacher, Jamie continues working at the law firm part time.

    When he completes the degree, although he will be employed as a law teacher, his job will have changed significantly.

    Jamie can’t claim a deduction for the study expenses as the degree will allow him to obtain a new job, and although he is teaching law there isn't a sufficient connection with his present employment activities.

    End of example

     

    Example: education doesn't maintain or improve skills for current role

    Christine holds a Bachelor of Law and has been employed in a law firm for two years as a legal clerk. Christine decides to further her career and complete a Practical Legal Training program to be admitted as a lawyer.

    Christine can't claim a deduction for the expenses she incurs to complete the program as it doesn't directly relate to her current employment as a legal clerk.

    End of example

     

    Example: no sufficient connection with current role

    Sam is a practising solicitor at a Melbourne law firm. Her employer advises they want her to take on some accounting duties in the future. Sam proceeds to complete a Diploma of Accounting.

    Sam can't claim a deduction for the related self-education expenses as there isn't a sufficient connection with her current employment activities as a solicitor.

    End of example

    Seminars, conferences and training courses

    You can claim a deduction for the cost of seminars, conferences and training courses that relate to your work as a lawyer.

    The costs you can claim includes fares to attend the venue where the seminar, conference or training course is held and registration costs. If you need to travel and stay away from home overnight to attend such an event, you can also claim the cost of accommodation and meals.

    You may not be able to claim all of your expenses if attending a seminar, conference or training course is for both work-related and private purposes. If the private purpose is incidental, such as a catered lunch or a reception for delegates, you can still claim all your expenses. However, if the main purpose is not work-related, such as attending a conference while on a holiday, you can only claim the direct costs. Direct costs include the registration costs.

    Where you have a dual purpose for attending the seminar, conference or training course, for example you add a holiday of one week to a training course that runs for one week, then you can only claim the work-related portion.

    Example: deductible seminar

    Timothy is a practising lawyer and a member of a professional law association. Timothy decides to attend a seminar hosted by the association in order to keep up with new legislative changes.

    Timothy can claim a deduction for the seminar fees.

    End of example

     

    Example: course not related to employment

    Jenny is a lawyer in a legal firm. She has been struggling to keep up with her work commitments and becomes stressed. Jenny decides to undertake a time and stress management course.

    Jenny can't claim a deduction as the course doesn't directly relate to maintaining or increasing her knowledge, capabilities or skills needed in her current position.

    End of example

    Stationery

    You can claim a deduction for the cost of logbooks, diaries and pens that you use for work.

    You can't claim a deduction if your employer reimburses you for these expenses.

    Supreme Court library fees

    You can claim a deduction for Supreme Court library fees you pay on an annual basis. You can't claim a deduction if you pay Supreme Court library fees only once upon admission to practice.

    Suspension from practice

    You can't claim a deduction for the cost of defending your right to practice.

    For more lawyer expenses:

      Last modified: 24 May 2022QC 51251