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Top Tax Deductions for Photographers

6 min read

Nobody wants to pay more tax that they have to and the key to minimising your taxes is to ensure that you claim all the tax deductions you’re entitled to. If you’re a photographer, there’s a long list of potential tax claims that might apply to you. Not all of them will apply to everyone but it will pay to spend a bit of time running your eyes down this list to see which of them apply to you.
 

The Golden Rules of Tax Deductions

If you want to make a claim for work-related expenses, you need to follow the three golden rules:

  • The expense must relate to your work
  • You mustn’t have been reimbursed by your employer
  • You must be able to prove that you spent the money. That means that you must keep receipts, invoices or statements to demonstrate that you actually incurred the expense.
 
H&R Block’s tip is to keep electronic copies of all documentation relating to expenses. Paper receipts get lost or fade, so keeping everything together on your phone or computer will save time and effort when you come to complete next year’s tax return.


Travel

If you use your car as part of your work, for instance to travel to clients, between jobs, to expos or to collect supplies, you can claim the costs of your work-related journeys. If you use your own car, either claim 72 cents per kilometre up to a maximum 5,000 kms or keep a logbook and claim your actual expenses. You can also claim for parking, tolls and public transport if you don’t use your car.
 
You can’t claim the costs of traveling to and from work (the daily commute) though you might be able to make a claim if you’re required to transport bulky photographic equipment which you can’t safely store at work (TIP: the ATO checks such claims closely so make sure you can prove your claim).
 
Traveling to shoot locations is deductible and if the shoot requires an overnight stay, you can claim accommodation, meal and incidental costs.
 

Equipment

You can claim the cost of buying tools and equipment that you use in your job or business. If the item costs $300 or less, you can claim it straight away and if the cost is more than $300, the cost is depreciated over several years.
 
If you’re in business on your own account, rather than being employed by someone else, you can immediately write off all items of equipment without cost limit. This could include cameras, lenses, dark room equipment, lighting rigs, mobile phones, laptops and camera bags.
 
You can also claim the cost of insuring work-related equipment.
 
If you use the photography equipment both for your business and for personal use, you can only deduct the business use percentage. For example, if you use a $1,000 camera 75 percent of the time for business, and 25 percent for personal use, your deduction is $750.
 

Self-Education

You can claim the cost of any work-related courses that you undertake, provided that they relate directly to your current role and aren’t intended to boost your skills into a promotion or another role entirely. That could include courses on photo-journalism, or specialist photography. It could also include management training if you supervise staff.

The cost of self-education course run by a University or TAFE, such as a course on journalism or photography, is also deductible if relevant to your current role.
In addition to the cost of the course, you can claim travel costs to and from the course, accommodation and meals if you’re required to sleep away from home, books, stationery and depreciation on computer equipment used in your study.


Clothing

If you’re required to wear a uniform at your workplace, the cost of purchasing the uniform is claimable and you can also claim for the cost of cleaning the uniform. Conventional clothing doesn’t count as a uniform so ideally any garment you claim for should have the business logo on it.
You can also claim for protective items such as bullet proof vests (if you’re going somewhere dangerous on assignment), hi-vis vest (if you need to be seen), protective footwear, and sun protection (if you’re shooting outside).


Other deductions

Don’t forget to claim these costs if they are relevant to you:
  • If you work from home, you can claim a deduction for home office expenses. Either claim the ATO’s short-cut rate of 80 cents per hour (in which case you can’t claim anything else), the fixed rate of 52 cents per hour (in which case you can claim phone, internet and depreciation of technology items in addition), or claim a proportion of your actual costs, based on a diary of work use. If you run your photography business from home, you may also be able to claim a proportion of the running costs (rent or mortgage interest, rates, insurance) for the part of the property that is used in the business, eg the office, dark room or studio.
  • Claim for professional subscriptions, eg to a professional body.
  • The cost of work-related photographic magazines and journals
  • The cost of work-related books (for instance, books focussing on photographic technique)
  • Agency costs: if you get your work through an agency, the cost is claimable.
  • The cost of using a tax agent is itself tax deductible, including costs incurred in travelling to see the tax agent.
  • If you use your mobile phone for work purposes, you can claim a proportion of both the cost of the phone and the monthly bill, to the extent that the costs relate to work or business.
  • If you attend exhibitions, competitions or other events in a professional capacity, the costs are claimable.
  • Claim for conference expenses. As well as the cost of the conference itself, that can also include travel, meals and accommodation costs – even where the conference is overseas, though you might need to apportion the costs (and disallow the private bit) if you spent some downtime on the beach afterwards!
  • You can claim a deduction for charitable donations provided the amount is $2 or more and you have a receipt.
  • The cost of entertaining clients unfortunately isn’t tax deductible, so business lunches and rounds of golf – for instance - are excluded.

Get Help

There’s a reason why over 70% of people use a tax agent to help them do their taxes. Tax is complicated and stressful and if you do it yourself, you’re likely to make a mistake. You might claim something you weren’t entitled to and find yourself audited by the ATO or you might miss out on a deduction you could have claimed but didn’t realise was available to you; the result is a lower refund than you could have got.
Using a tax agent like H&R Block takes away the stress and opens up a whole world of expertise to guide you through the process, so you can be sure you’re claiming everything you’re entitled to.  You wouldn’t generally choose treat a medical condition yourself, you’d see a doctor so why should tax be different? Get expert advice and the fee will generally be more than covered by the bigger refund and the peace of mind.

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