ATO Interpretative Decision

ATO ID 2001/27

Income Tax

Deductions and expenses: Legal Expenses in Course of Employment
FOI status: may be released
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Status of this decision: Decision Current
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If you reasonably apply this decision in good faith to your own circumstances (which are not materially different from those described in the decision), and the decision is later found to be incorrect you will not be liable to pay any penalty or interest. However, you will be required to pay any underpaid tax (or repay any over-claimed credit, grant or benefit), provided the time limits under the law allow it. If you do intend to apply this decision to your own circumstances, you will need to ensure that the relevant provisions referred to in the decision have not been amended or repealed. You may wish to obtain further advice from the Tax Office or from a professional adviser.


Whether legal expenses incurred by an employee in the course of employment are an allowable deduction under section 8-1 of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1997.


Yes. Legal expenses incurred by an employee in the course of employment are an allowable deduction under section 8-1 of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1997.


The taxpayer, as part of the taxpayer's job, was instructed to write a paper. Subsequently, the taxpayer was reprimanded for comments included in the paper. The taxpayer, being concerned about the possibility of being dismissed from the position as a result of the comments, sought legal advice.

Reasons For Decision

Section 8-1 of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1997 provides that a loss or an outgoing is an allowable deduction if it is incurred in producing assessable income or in carrying on a business for the production of assessable income unless that loss or outgoing is capital or of a private or domestic nature.

The courts on a number of occasions have determined legal expenses to be an allowable deduction if the expenses arise out of the day to day activities of the taxpayer's business. The action out of which the legal expense arises has to have more than a peripheral connection to the taxpayer's business and the expense may arise out of litigation concerning the taxpayer's professional conduct.

In FC of T v Rowe (1995) 31 ATR 392; 95 ATC 4691, an employee incurred legal expenses in defending the manner in which he performed his employment duties. The court accepted that such expenses were allowable and no significance was placed on the taxpayer's status as an employee.

The taxpayer has incurred legal expenses in defending against criticism of the taxpayer's work practices. The evidence indicates that, in carrying out the actions that led to the criticism, the taxpayer was doing no more than executing the taxpayer's employment duties. Consequently, the legal expenses incurred are an allowable deduction.

Date of decision:  6 October 1997

Legislative References:
Income Tax Assessment Act 1997
   section 8-1

Case References:
FC of T v Rowe
   (1995) 31 ATR 392
   95 ATC 4691

Legal expenses

Siebel/TDMS Reference Number:  UMG22770

Business Line:  Small Business/Individual Taxpayers

Date of publication:  4 June 2001

ISSN: 1445-2782

  Date: Version:
You are here 6 October 1997 Original statement
  4 April 2014 Updated statement