The way we work is changing. Increasingly, we demand flexibility in the way we work or run our business and it is now common for people to spend at least some of their time working from home; sometimes at weekends, sometimes at night and sometimes during the day to work around commitments such as child care.

If you carry out all or part of your employment activities from home, then some portion of the home office expenses can be claimed as a tax deduction. Ideally, you should have a room set aside as a home office. Whilst you do not need to have a room set aside for your home office claim, if you are using a room with a dual purpose (e.g. dining room), or a room shared with others (e.g. lounge room) you can only claim the expenses for the hours you had exclusive use of the area.

The ATO keeps a close eye on the deductions which taxpayers claim for working from home. It’s easy to make a mistake, perhaps by claiming too high a work-related proportion for a particular type of expense, claiming something that shouldn’t be claimed at all or simply not keeping records to substantiate the expense.

Here at H&R Block, we encounter a number of taxpayers who simply don’t know that they can claim a deduction for working from home. Previously, they may have missed out on deductions which we know they are entitled to.

So, what are the rules for claiming expenses when you work from home?

Home office expenses you can claim include

  • Occupancy expenses such as rent, mortgage interest, rates, land taxes and house insurance premiums (but only in limited circumstances, see below)
  • Running expenses such as:
    • Home office equipment, including computers, printers and telephones. You can claim the full cost (for items costing up to $300) or the decline in value (for items costing $300 or more). If you’re self-employed, you may be able to immediately write-off equipment costing up to $20,000
    • Work-related phone calls (including mobiles) and phone rental. You can claim a portion reflecting the share of work-related use of the line if you can show you are on call, or have to phone your staff, employer, customers or clients regularly while you are away from your workplace
    • Heating, cooling and lighting
    • Costs of repairs to your home office furniture and fittings
    • Cleaning expenses
  • Computer consumables, stationery, telephone and internet costs claimed on an actual expense basis.

Being able to claim these expenses depends on whether your home is your place of work or business and if you have an area set aside exclusively for work activities.

If your home is indeed your place of work and you have an area set aside exclusively for work activities, you may be able to claim both occupancy and running expenses. If, as is more typical, you carry on your work or business elsewhere (at an office, perhaps) but do some work at home occasionally, you cannot claim occupancy expenses – even if you have a home work area set aside.

The table below shows the deductions you can claim for the three ways you can work at home:

What you can claim How you work    
  Home is your place of business or work and you have a home work area Home is not your place of business but you have a home work area You work at home but you don't have a home work area
Occupancy expenses
Cost of owning or renting the house
Yes No No
Running expenses
Cost of using a room (such as gas or electricity)
Yes Yes Yes
Business phone costs Yes Yes Yes
Decline in value of office plant and equipment (such as desks, chairs and computers) Yes Yes Yes
Depreciation of curtains, carpets, light fittings, etc Yes Yes No

Methods of claiming home office deductions:

Diary /actual running expenses

You will need to keep a diary to work out how much of your running expenses relate to doing work in your home office. The diary needs to detail the time you spend in the home office compared with other users of the home office. Keep diary records for a representative four-week period.

Tax Office rate per hour

You can use a fixed rate of 45 cents per hour for home office expenses for heating, cooling, lighting and the decline in value of furniture instead of keeping details of actual costs. You just need to keep a record of the number of hours you use the home office and multiply that by 45 cents per hour. Under this method you can also include the decline in value of office equipment (i.e. computers, faxes, etc.) but not furniture.

The following costs are not deductible as part of home office expenses:

  • Mortgage or interest costs
  • Rates and taxes
  • Depreciation on the home

Examples

Method 1 (actual running expenses)

Betty has the following home office running expenses, including energy expenses which have been calculated using electricity authority hourly costs per appliance. The apportionment has been based on four weeks' diary entries as you'll see in this table.

Method 2 (rate per hour)

Betty is able to use a simpler and quicker calculation for her expenses: 45 cents per hour for 10 hours per week for 48 weeks = $216.00

Note: Method 1 gives a greater deduction for Betty this year because of the immediate write-off of a chair costing less than $300. However, Method 2 will allow greater ongoing deductions with a simpler calculation assuming that future use and electricity costs remain similar.

H&R Block offers a Home Office record card you can use to keep track of this information. Just ask at your nearest office.

Need help lodging your tax return? Contact us for assistance. We offer a range of services, from lodging your tax return for you to guiding you with our online tax program.

This information is intended as a guide. All actual detail and circumstances differ. Please discuss your situation with an H&R Block Tax Accountant. Remember – if you are not sure if you can claim an expense, keep the receipt and we will ensure that we claim all allowable deductions and rebates for you whilst preparing your tax return.

August 2016

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Let us lodge your tax return for you. Our tax accountants have the knowledge to walk you through the tax refund process with ease. We are committed to offering expert and personal service year-round at a location convenient to you.

Book now