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  • Common expenses T–W

    Details on claiming common lawyer expenses for:

    Taxi, ride-share, public transport and car hire

    You can claim a deduction for transport costs if you travel in the course of performing your work. For example, taking a taxi from your regular workplace to attend court.

    You can’t claim a deduction for travel expenses between home and work, these are private expenses.

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

    Tools and equipment

    You can claim a deduction for tools and equipment you use to perform your duties as a lawyer.

    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 your employer or a third party supplies for use.

    Example: bag for a work laptop

    Marie is a lawyer. Her job requires her to regularly attend meetings with clients. She has to take her work laptop, phone and the client's file with her to the meetings and keep them secure to protect sensitive information. She frequently works from home and sometimes travels directly to a client meeting before heading into the office.

    Marie buys a lockable laptop bag for $565 that she uses to carry her work laptop and phone, chargers and client briefs. She carries her cash and cards, personal phone and other personal items in her handbag.

    Marie can claim a deduction for the decline in value of the lockable laptop bag over its effective life, as her job requires her to transport the laptop and phone, chargers and client briefs and the bag is suitable to carry all of the items.

    Marie can't claim a deduction for the cost of her handbag. It is a private expense.

    End of example

     

    Example: allowable deduction for decline in value

    Matthew purchases a laptop for $1,000 that he solely uses for work purposes. As the asset costs more than $300, he can claim a deduction for its decline in value over the laptop's effective life..

    Matthew keeps a four-week representative diary to demonstrate the 100% work-related use and a receipt for the purchase of the laptop.

    End of example

    Travel expenses

    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 mediation.

    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 for travel expenses if:

    • you are not required to sleep away from your home overnight in the course of performing your duties, for example if you fly interstate for work and return home the same day
    • you choose to sleep near your workplace rather than returning home, for example if you rent accommodation near your workplace and stay there because you live a long way from where you work.

    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 work 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:

    • accommodation
    • meal
    • incidentals.

    You don’t have to keep written evidence such as receipts if both of the following apply:

    • you received a travel allowance from your employer for the expenses
    • your deduction is less than the Commissioner’s reasonable amount.

    If your deduction is for more than the Commissioner’s reasonable amount you need to keep receipts for all your expense, not just for the amount over the Commissioner’s reasonable amount.

    Even if you're not required to keep written evidence such as receipts, you must be able to explain your claim and show you spent the amounts.

    Example: more and less than the reasonable amount for different travel expenses

    Justin is required to go interstate for a court hearing, he is away from home for seven nights. He has received a travel allowance covering the cost of meals, accommodation and incidental expenses. His airfares are paid directly by his employer.

    Justin can claim a deduction for the cost of his meals, accommodation and incidental expenses as he incurs the expenses in the course of performing his employment duties.

    Justin can't claim a deduction for his airfares as he was reimbursed by his employer.

    The total deduction Justin claims for accommodation is more than the reasonable allowance. However, the amount he incurs on meals and incidental expenses is less than the reasonable amount. Justin must get and keep written evidence to support his total claim for all of his accommodation expenses.

    Justin doesn't need to get and keep written evidence for his meal and incidental expenses but he needs to be able to show how he works out his deduction and that he spent the amounts he has claimed.

    End of example

     

    Example: allowable deduction less than the reasonable amount without written evidence

    Bobby works for a law firm in Brisbane. He is required by his employer to meet a client in Sydney for three days. Bobby’s employer paid for his flights and accommodation in Sydney and provided a travel allowance for his breakfast, lunch and dinner. The travel allowance is shown on his income statement.

    Bobby spends $20 on breakfast, $15 on lunch and $40 on dinner, a total of $75 per day on meals.

    Because Bobby has spent less than the reasonable amount on each of meals, he can claim a deduction for the $75 per day that he spends on meals and he isn't required to get and keep receipts for the expenses on the meals.

    Bobby can't claim the cost of his flights and accommodation as he has not incurred these expenses.

    End of example

     

    Example: work-travel with private component

    Jessie’s employer requires that she travels interstate to Perth to meet with a client. While she is there her employer allows Jessie to extend her stay to explore the city and tourist attractions.

    Jessie has kept the receipts for all of the expenses she incurred during the trip.

    Upon her return, Jessie’s employer reimburses her for the work-related travel costs, this includes her flights, accommodation, meal and any incidental expenses she incurred.

    Jessie can't claim a deduction as she has been reimbursed for all of the costs incurred for the work-related travel by her employer. Jessie's expenses incurred during her extended stay are also not deductible as they are private in nature.

    End of example

     

    Example: deduction claim is less than the reasonable amount

    Josephine works for a personal injury law firm in a regional town. Josephine's employer requires her to travel to their head office for an internal training program. Josephine 's employer provides her with an accommodation allowance to cover her accommodation costs while she works away from home for a few days. Josephine doesn't receive an allowance for meals or incidental expenses.

    The amount Josephine claims as a deduction for the accommodation costs she pays is less than the reasonable allowance amount. This means she doesn't have to keep records for her accommodation expenses.

    However, as Josephine does not receive an allowance to cover her meal and incidental expenses, she must keep records and other written evidence to support her deduction for her meals and incidental expenses.

    End of example

    For more information, see TD 2021/6 Income tax: what are the reasonable travel and overtime meal allowance expense amounts for the 2021-22 income year?

    Union and professional association fees

    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.

    Working from home expenses

    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 that 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'. This occurs where your home office is both:

    • your sole place of work because no other work location is provided by your employer
    • exclusively or almost exclusively used for work purposes.

    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.

    The Home office expenses calculator helps you work out the amount you can claim as a deduction for home office expenses.

    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 2020/3 Claiming deductions for additional running expenses incurred whilst working from home due to COVID-19

    For more lawyer expenses:

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      Last modified: 24 May 2022QC 51251