When you spend every day behind a wheel helping people to get safely from A to B, the last thing on your mind is probably your taxes. But it's funny how quickly the end of the financial year rolls around each year – and if you're not prepared, it can be pretty stressful.
The best way to avoid having an EOFY panic each year is to enlist some professional help. An experienced tax agent, such as one of the amazing consultants here at H&R Block, can help you get your papers in order. And, more importantly, they can help make sure you get all the deductions you deserve so you might end up with a lot more money in your pocket at the end of the day. Sounds good, right?
First things first: To complete your return as a bus driver, you'll first need an income statement from your employer (previously called a "payment summary" or "group certificate"). This is a summary that outlines all of your salary, wages, allowances and bonuses for the financial year.
You won't need to have a copy of this statement, as it should be lodged by your employer directly to the ATO. Once this has been lodged, we can download the information for you and then help you work out your deductions.
What do I need to know about claiming deductions?
You probably already know that you're entitled to claim deductions on any money spent during the financial year on products or services that directly related to earning your income. But there are two things you need to remember:
- First, you need to have spent the money yourself (it can't have been reimbursed by your employer), and
- Secondly, you need to keep a record of the expense such as a receipt or invoice.
What deductions can I claim?
There is a wide range of deductions you can claim as a bus driver, such as:
- General expenses for your car, including parking costs and tolls, if you travel between different jobs on the same day (for example from your day job driving a bus to your second job packing shelves at a supermarket) or to different locations for the same company (for example if you need to drive between depots)
- Any costs associated with obtaining a special licence such as a heavy vehicle permit, or an additional condition on your regular driver's licence, in order to perform your work duties
- Costs connected to buying, repairing and cleaning any work clothing items that are either part of a uniform or distinctive to your company (such as a shirt with a company logo on it)
- Any clothing or items that have protective benefits such as steel capped boots, a face mask, driving gloves or sun protection including sun glasses and sun hat
- Any costs associated with washing and repairing your bus, including buying anti-bacterial products, window cleaner and tissues, provided this is not covered by your employer
- Any expenses related to buying and insuring equipment or tools specifically required for your work, such as a set of spanners or maps, that are not already supplied by your employer
- Self education costs for attending any courses, training or seminars specifically related to your current line of work, such a defensive driving course or a workshop on manual lifting in the workplace
- Any union and professional association fees
- The cost of buying stationery such as notepads, diaries and pens needed to record daily issues such as badly behaved students or damage to the bus
- Any compulsory assessments and medical examinations you need to do to certify that you are fit to drive, including working with children checks
- Journals, periodicals and magazines that are specifically related to your job as a bus driver
- The cost of a first aid training course if you're a designated first aid person and need to do first aid training to assist in emergency work situations
- Overtime meals when your employer pays you an overtime meal allowance under an industrial law, award or agreement
- Phone and internet expenses for any work-related usage on your personal phone or device, provided they are not already covered by your employer
- Travel expenses such as accommodation, showers, sleeping bags/pillows and meals if you're travelling for work and need to stay away from home overnight (for example, for a three-day bus tour to the Blue Mountains) and pay these expenses yourself
What can't I claim?
There are several key expenses you can't claim, including:
- The cost of obtaining or renewing your driver's licence or undertaking any pre-employment medical examination, even if you are required to have these as a condition of your employment
- Any fines for speeding or parking that are incurred during your work day
- Any regular clothing worn to your workplace that could also be worn outside of work (such as black pants or a white shirt) even if you only wear it for work and bought it specifically to wear to work
- The cost of buying CDs, talking books, iPods, or any other entertainment devices, even if they are purchased to keep you awake during a long drive
- The purchase of seat covers, air fresheners or any other adornments to your bus
- The cost of any meals or snacks consumed during the course of a normal work day, even if you are given an allowance by your employer to cover the meal expense
- The cost of purchasing prescription glasses or contact lenses, unless they're anti-glare glasses worn to reduce the risk of injury to your eyes while working in your job as a bus driver
- Any grooming costs, including hairdressing services and buying items of make up, even if it's a requirement of your job to be well presented
- Any costs incurred when travelling between your home and your workplace, even if you live a long distance away
What records do I need to keep?
Record-keeping might seem like a hassle, but it's super important at tax time, so you need to stay on top of your receipts and have a comprehensive set receipts if you want to get a good tax refund. It's a smart idea to create an easy and reliable system to help you keep on top of this throughout the year.
Remember, you don't need to keep physical receipts, and it's acceptable to keep a digital copy (such as a photo of a receipt or an email receipt) provided it is possible to read:
- The name of the supplier
- Amount of the expense
- Nature of the goods or services
- Date the expense was paid
- Date of the document
You also don't need to keep receipts for expenses under $10 (as long as these don't cumulatively come to more than $200).
What happens if I make a mistake in my tax return?
It's okay, we know this can happen to anyone and strongly recommend dealing with it as soon as possible. This is always the best approach. It's essential that you take great care in putting together the information and supporting documentation when filing your tax return, and only claim deductions that are genuine to avoid penalties and possibly even prosecution from the ATO.
It's easy to make an innocent mistakes sometimes, and if you lodge yourself and realise you've submitted incorrect or unsubstantiated claims then you should contact H&R Block immediately and we will assist you in making the necessary amendments.
Still have some questions about lodging your tax return? Talk to H&R Block. Our experienced tax consultants will be able to help. Call 13 23 25 for details or find your nearest office and book an appointment online.
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