Australian Defence Force Tax Return and Deduction Checklist

8 min read

As a member of the Australian Defence Force, you’re tasked with the job of keeping our country safe, and we all greatly appreciate your hard work and dedication. But, whether you’re on home soil or deployed overseas, you’re still required to file a tax return to the Australian Tax Office every year. 

Getting all your documents together might feel like a bit of a hassle, but the more effective you are at getting this done, the more likely you are to get a good result – specifically, a big refund. And don’t worry, you don’t have to go it alone. 

Our expert tax consultants are here to support you every step of the way and help you get the refund you deserve, so you can go back to focusing on what you do best. 

If you’re deployed overseas on eligible duty in a specified area or as a member of a disciplined force (such as a peacekeeping force), it’s possible that your income might be exempt from tax. In this case, the Chief of the Defence Force will issue you with a certificate verifying that you qualify.  

But generally, your income from local or foreign employment is still subject to Australian tax and you will need to complete a tax return. To do this, 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 an actual 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? 

As you know, you’re entitled to claim deductions on any money spent during the financial year on products or services that directly related to earning an income. But there are two things you need to remember:

  1. First, you need to have spent the money yourself (it can’t have been reimbursed by your employer), and
  2. 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 member of the Australian Defence Force, such as: 

  • Car expenses if you travel between different workplace locations on the same day (for example from a training location back to the base) or if you are required to transport heavy or bulky equipment that can’t otherwise be stored securely (such as your field equipment pack)
  • Any expenses connect to buying, repairing and cleaning any work clothing items that is part of your compulsory uniform such as military shirts with rank or other embellishments, standard matching trousers, regulation jackets, official mess uniform, service dress shoes or camouflage shirts and trousers. It might also be possible to claim some shoes, socks and stockings but only when these items are an integral part of a compulsory and distinctive uniform, as per the ADF uniform policy
  • The cost of buying special but unconventional items worn with or as part of a uniform such as medal mounting
  • Any expenses connected to buying, repairing and cleaning protective clothing and footwear that is not already provided by your employer, such as a Navy diver’s additional wetsuit, and sunhat and sunglasses if you’re required to spend large amounts of time outdoors as part of your job
  • Any costs associated with getting a special driver’s licence or condition on your licence that is required for you to be able to perform your duties
  • Any expenses related to performing extra regimental duties (ERDs) but only if this is part of your income earning activities and not a private activity
  •  Compulsory mess subscriptions that relate specifically to work activities
  • Any meals you buy and eat when you work overtime, but only if you get an overtime meal allowance under an industrial law, award or enterprise agreement and it's included in your assessable income
  • Phone and internet expenses for any work-related usage on your personal phone or device, provided they are not already covered by your employer
  • Any expenses related to buying equipment or tools specifically required for your work, including items such as a watch with special characteristics
  • Self education costs for attending any courses, training or seminars specifically related to your current duties (such as a heavy vehicle defensive driving course)
  • Working from home office expenses such as heating or cooling, depreciation of equipment and repairs
  • Travel expenses such as accommodation and meals if you travel for work and need to stay away from home overnight (for example, if you need to travel interstate to be part of a training exercise) and pay these expenses yourself

What can’t I claim? 

There are several key expenses you can’t claim, including: 

  • Any conventional clothing, including physical training clothing, worn to or at your workplace that could also be worn outside of work (such as jogging shoes, black sweat pants or a white t-shirt) even if you only wear it for work and bought it specifically to wear to work, unless you perform a role that requires an exceptionally high level of fitness, such as a physical training instructor or you are part of a special combat squad
  • Similarly, you cannot deduct any physical training or fitness expenses (such as a gym membership or any kind of weight loss activity) unless you are required to have an exceptionally high level of fitness above the standard level in the ADF
  • The cost of obtaining a driver’s licence, even if having it is a requirement of your role
  • Childcare costs incurred while you’re working
  • The cost of any food or drink consumed during the course of a normal work day, including costs incurred in attending compulsory or non- compulsory mess functions such as dinners, dances and cocktail parties
  • 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? 

Clear records are really 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) and for any hard to get receipts, it’s sufficient to make a note of the purchase in your diary of all the above details. 

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 self-lodge 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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