ATO Interpretative Decision

ATO ID 2002/517

Income Tax

Self-education expenses: driver education course
FOI status: may be released
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Status of this decision: Decision Current
CAUTION: This is an edited and summarised record of a Tax Office decision. This record is not published as a form of advice. It is being made available for your inspection to meet FOI requirements, because it may be used by an officer in making another decision.

This ATOID provides you with the following level of protection:

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you will need to ensure that the relevant provisions referred to in the decision have not been amended or repealed.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.

Issue

Is the taxpayer, an apprentice mechanic, entitled to a deduction under section 8-1 of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1997 (ITAA 1997) for self-education expenses in respect of a Heavy Vehicle Driver training course?

Decision

Yes. The taxpayer, an apprentice mechanic, is entitled to a deduction under section 8-1 of the ITAA 1997 (subject to the limitations imposed by section 82A of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1936 (ITAA 1936)) for self-education expenses in respect of the Heavy Vehicle Driver training course, as there is a clear relationship between the course and the taxpayer's existing duties.

Facts

The taxpayer is an apprentice mechanic who road tests heavy vehicles before and after repairs on the employer's premises.

Road testing is an essential part of the taxpayer's normal duties.

The taxpayer attended a Heavy Vehicle Driver training course and gained a Heavy Vehicle licence at their own expense.

The course was conducted by a Heavy Vehicle Driver training school.

The course has allowed the taxpayer to perform their duties more safely and with a higher level of skill.

The course may also give the taxpayer increased opportunity for pay increases and promotion.

Reasons for Decision

Section 8-1 of the ITAA 1997 allows a deduction for all losses and outgoings to the extent to which they are incurred in gaining or producing assessable income except where the outgoings are of a capital, private or domestic nature, or relate to the earning of exempt income.

The courts have considered the meaning of 'incurred in gaining or producing assessable income'. In Ronpibon Tin NL & Tong Kah Compound NL v. Federal Commissioner of Taxation (1949) 78 CLR 47; (1949) 56 ALR 785; (1949) 8 ATD 431 the High Court stated that:    


'For expenditure to form an allowable deduction as an outgoing incurred in gaining or producing the assessable income it must be incidental and relevant to that end. The words "incurred in gaining or producing the assessable income" mean in the course of gaining or producing such income.'

Taxation Ruling TR 98/9 discusses circumstances in which self-education expenses are allowable as a deduction. If a taxpayer's current income-earning activities are based on the exercise of a skill or some specific knowledge and the subject of self-education enables the taxpayer to maintain or improve that skill or knowledge, the self-education expenses are allowable as a deduction.

Paragraph 14 of TR 98/9 states that if the study of a subject of self-education objectively leads to, or is likely to lead to, an increase in a taxpayer's income from his or her current income-earning activities in the future, the self-education expenses are allowable as a deduction.

In Studdert v. FC of T (1991) 22 ATR 762; 91 ATC 5006 a qualified flight engineer undertook flying lessons in order to improve his ability to understand and interpret navigation data, identify navigation aids and monitor the pilots' actions. His efficiency was improved and his prospects for promotion was enhanced.

The Court found that the course better equipped the taxpayer to perform his duties and that there was a clear connection between the cost and the gaining of the taxpayer's income. In addition, it was found that the flying lessons would assist the taxpayer in promotion to higher grades in his current occupation and was sufficient to support the conclusion that the expenditure was deductible.

The Heavy Vehicle Driver training course will clearly result in improved efficiency in the performance of the taxpayer's existing duties and enhance their income earning capacity. Thus, a clear connection can be found between the cost of the course and the gaining of the taxpayer's assessable income.

Self-education expenses that are allowable under section 8-1 of the ITAA 1997 and relate to a 'prescribed course of education', are limited in deductibility by subsection 82A(1) of the ITAA 1936 to the net amount of self education expenses that exceeds $250.

A 'prescribed course of education' is defined in subsection 82A(2) of the ITAA 1936 to mean a course of education provided by a school, college, university or other place of education and undertaken by the taxpayer for the purpose of gaining qualifications for use in the carrying on of a profession, business or trade or in the course of any employment.

Paragraph 134 of TR 98/9 states that 'other place of education' is an institution or organisation, or a dedicated part of it, whose primary function is to provide systematic instruction, teaching or schooling in a subject, skill or competency.

The Heavy Vehicle Driver training school is considered to be an 'other place of education for the purposes of section 82A of the ITAA 1936. Accordingly, the net self education expenses allowable to the taxpayer under section 8-1 of the ITAA 1997 is limited to the excess over $250 of those expenses.

Note: the costs associated with obtaining or renewing a driver's licence are not allowable deductions because they are a capital or private expense. Costs associated with obtaining or renewing a driver's licence include expenses such as examination fees, licence fees, cost of hiring equipment to undertake examinations and so forth (paragraph 76 of Taxation Ruling TR 95/18).

Date of decision:  31/01/2002

Year of income:  Year ended 30 June 1999

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

Income Tax Assessment Act 1936
   section 82A
   subsection 82A(1)
   subsection 82A(2)

Case References:
Ronpibon Tin NL & Tong Kah Compound NL v. Federal Commissioner of Taxation
   (1949) 78 CLR 47
   (1949) 56 ALR 785
   (1949) 8 ATD 431

Studdert v. FC of T
   (1991) 22 ATR 762
   91 ATC 5006

Related Public Rulings (including Determinations)
Taxation Ruling TR 98/9

Keywords
Tuition expenses
Prescribed courses of education
Self education expenses
Truck drivers

Siebel/TDMS Reference Number:  CRS72503

Business Line:  Small Business/Individual Taxpayers

Date of publication:  31 May 2002

ISSN: 1445-2782

history
  Date: Version:
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  13 February 2015 Updated statement