Your job saving lives, protecting homes and fighting fires is super important, and you might feel that admin tasks like filing your taxes are a bit trivial and pale in comparison to everything else. But getting your taxes done each year is actually super important – and one of the main reasons to get it done promptly at the end of each financial year is that you might actually get more money back than you expected.
The main way to do this is to get professional help. You know better than anyone that it’s a good idea to get expert assistance when you need it, and this holds true when it comes to taxes. Our experienced consultants know all the deductions available for fire fighters, so they’ll help you get the best possible refund.
To complete your return as a fire fighter, 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?
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:
- 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 fire fighter, such as:
- Car expenses, including parking costs and tolls, if you travel between different jobs on the same day (eg. from your day job as a fire fighter to a second job as a personal trainer) or to different locations for your work, such as from your fire station to a local community centre to run an info session, or from your home to an alternative workplace or station to usual
- Any expenses connected to buying, repairing and cleaning any work clothing items that are either part of your compulsory uniform or distinctive to your job (such as a t-shirt with your station logo on it) or have protective benefits such as a chemical resistant gloves, firefighting boots, goggles and helmets
- Physical training and fitness expenses required to train you above the usual standard level for work in a special emergency or search and rescue team or as a physical training instructor
- Any expenses related to buying protective items such as sunglasses or anti-glare glasses, sunhats and sunscreen
- Overtime meals when your employer pays you an overtime meal allowance under an industrial law, award or agreement
- Self education costs for attending any courses, training or seminars specifically related to your current line of work, such as an update to your first air certificate or an advanced certificate in public safety
- The cost of buying stationary such as notepads, diaries and pens needed for your work
- Any expenses related to buying and insuring equipment or tools specifically required for your work, such as climbing or safety equipment
- Phone and internet costs for your own phone or device if you need to use it for work purposes and you’re not given a phone by your employer or reimbursed for the costs (records must be kept for claims over $50)
- Travel expenses such as accommodation and meals if you’re travelling for work and need to stay away from home overnight (for example, if travel to assist with a fire in a different state or you’re hosting a two-day training course in another city) and pay these expenses yourself
What can’t I claim?
There are several key expenses you can’t claim, including:
- Any regular clothing worn to your workplace that could also be worn outside of work (such as sweatpants or a white t-shirt) even if you only wear it for work and bought it specifically to wear to work
- 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
- Costs relating to general physical training and fitness (such as fitness courses, gym memberships and other health-related items) to maintain a basic level of physical fitness
- Removal and relocation expenses if you transfer your work location for an existing job, or when you’re taking up a new job, even if moving is a condition of your employment
- 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
- 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?
Records are seriously important when it comes to filing your tax return. Stay on top of your receipts and have a comprehensive set if you want to get a good tax refund. It’s a good 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?
Stay cool and deal 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.