Not many people get excited when tax season rolls around each year – except perhaps our team of experts here at H&R Block! We're great at what we do, which is helping you to find every possible deduction so you get the best refund. If you work in the public service, then you may not realise you can legitimately claim a number of difference expenses, and our tax consultants can show you how.
Public servants are the people who keep the different levels of government running efficiently for the rest of us and they include workers in accounting, finance, information technology and logistics management. This category technically also includes professional public servants such as police officers and firefighters, but these jobs come with their own set of deductions so you should check the relevant checklists for these occupations.
Every public servant in Australia will receive an income statement or payment summary that will outline all of your salary, wages, allowances and bonuses for the financial year. This is the basis for your tax return.
Can I claim any deductions?
You are allowed to claim deductions on any money you have spent during the financial year on products or services that are directly related to earning your income. But be warned – for the deductions to be valid, you need to have spent the money yourself (it can't have been reimbursed by your employer) and you need to keep a legible 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 public servant, such as:
- A percentage of the running costs of your home office if you are required to work at home; this can include everything from the depreciation of office equipment, to electricity for heating or cooling, plus work related phone calls and internet access
- Car expenses, provided you're driving between workplaces for either the same employer (for example, if you're travelling between offices) or for different employers (if you're driving from one paying job to another, such as a gig as a musician)
- Buying, hiring, cleaning and repairing of any uniform items or protective clothing that you are required to wear as part of your job (such as a shirt that is branded by a specific local council)
- Any job specific training or education such as a course on people management if you work in HR, plus any seminars or conferences, and any work related publications that you need for your job or fees to join a union or professional association.
What can't I claim?
There are several key expenses you can't claim, including:
- Driving to and from work even if it's a long distance, or any parking expenses (you can only claim car expenses if you are driving between paying jobs)
- Any study or training expenses that are designed to help you retrain for a new career (such as studying a law degree for a new career as a lawyer when you currently work in a finance department)
- The cost of buying any plain and unbranded clothing, even if you purchase it specifically for the purpose of wearing it to work such as a business suit
- The cost of your mortgage or rent, or any additional expenses such as rates or home insurance, if you are working from a home office.
What records do I need to keep?
Record keeping is very important when you're claiming deductions and it's a good idea to create an easy and reliable system to help you keep on top of this throughout the year. 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?
Don't panic! Of course 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.
But we all make innocent mistakes sometimes and if you realise you've submitted any incorrect or unsubstantiated claims then you should contact your accountant immediately and they 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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