Frontline workers play a heroic role in our society and have protected thousands of lives in situations ranging from bushfires to the fight against COVID-19. In recent times, many have been faced with constant dangers due to the shifting levels of infection throughout the community.
Preventative measure such as hand-washing and wearing masks have been an essential part of the process of keeping Australians safe. Wearing special clothing or personal protective equipment (PPE) has also been crucial for safeguarding the health of many – especially people working in jobs that require close human contact such as hairdressers, waiters and fitness workers.
So it's good to know that any costs incurred in buying and maintaining any specialised clothing or equipment for these jobs are eligible as tax deductions.
What claims can (and can't) be made specific to COVID-19?
The COVID-19 outbreak has placed greater focus on the importance of PPE for frontline health workers and anyone working in a job that requires close human contact, and all occupation specific clothing or equipment required for these roles is eligible as tax deductions.
- Disposable or reusable gloves
- Disposable or reusable face masks
- Antibacterial spray
- Hand sanitiser
- Plastic face shields
You can only claim these items if the nature of your job reasonably requires you to be in breach of the normal social distancing rules – so beauty therapists, medical staff (including support staff such as cleaners and receptionists), massage therapists and hairdressers would all qualify.
Who can claim for clothing, laundry and dry cleaning services in general?
Anyone who works in a job that requires occupation-specific clothing, protective clothing or a distinctive uniform is allowed to claim a deduction for any amount they personally spend on the purchase and cleaning of these items., If you receive an allowance for clothing from your employer, you need to include this in your tax return as income.
It's important to note that different occupations are eligible for different items, so it's a good idea to explore possible deductions specific to your industry and to speak to a tax professional if you have any questions. Some examples include:
- Protective clothing, non-slip shoes or a compulsory uniform for nurses
- Service uniform, camouflage clothing or anti-glare sunglasses for military personnel
- Protective clothing and footwear, and compulsory uniform items for firefighters
- Clothing with a company logo on it or protective footwear for fitness trainers
For laundry costs, if the amount you're claiming is over $150 (and your overall work expenses are over $300) you will need to keep written documentation to support your claim. If your laundry expenses are $150 or less, you can claim the amount you spend on laundry without providing written evidence of your laundry expenses.
But it's important to remember that you can't claim any expenses incurred for non-compulsory work uniforms unless your employer has registered the design with AusIndustry.
This means you can't claim for:
- The cost of purchasing or cleaning a plain uniform
- The cost of purchasing or cleaning ordinary clothes you wear for work that may also protect you (such as normal, closed-in shoes)
- The cost of purchasing or cleaning clothes you bought to wear for work that are not specific to your occupation such as a business suit
Get expert advice
There are many occupation specific deductions that can make a difference when it comes to tax time – but it's very important you stick to the rules and only make claim for items that you can support with documentation. False or exaggerated claims can get you into serious trouble with the ATO and will result in you having to pay back any excesses and may possibly also lead to additional fines and penalties.
To make sure you tick all the right boxes and get the best possible return, talk to one of our tax experts at 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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