Work­ing life brings re­turns

Make the most of your annual tax re­turn, writes Daniel Hoy

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WORK­ERS can cash in on thou­sands of dol­lars in tax re­funds by be­ing or­gan­ised and adding up costs of do­ing their job, whether it be at home or in the of­fice.

With flex­i­ble work­ing con­di­tions and new tech­nolo­gies con­tin­u­ing to in­crease in the mod­ern work en­vi­ron­ment, there is a raft of new ways in which work­ers are spend­ing money for work. And those costs can all be claimed from the tax­man.

Mak­ing the ef­fort to im­prove your ca­reer prospects also may be tax de­ductible, with self-ed­u­ca­tion course fees, cof­fees for a men­tor or pur­chas­ing the tools to do ex­tra work away from the work­place all tax de­ductible.

But the most gains may be made sim­ply by be­ing on the ball when fill­ing out the tax re­turn or seek­ing pro­fes­sional sup­port. If you are not wise to the lat­est pos­si­ble de­duc­tions, you may miss out on cash to which you are en­ti­tled.

‘‘ Most peo­ple just claim the $300 de­duc­tion that the tax pack tells them and dis­re­gard the re­main­der of the de­duc­tion,’’ says ac­coun­tant Brad Cal­laughan, of Cal­laughan Part­ners.

‘‘ In some cases, when we see some­one who has been pre­par­ing their own tax re­turn, we have re­verted to amend­ing their last year’s tax re­turn to get them the re­fund they are en­ti­tled to.’’

Sta­tis­tics from the Aus­tralian Tax Of­fice show the av­er­age tax re­fund for workre­lated ex­penses is $2110. Still many only claim the $300 avail­able if you can’t pro­vide re­ceipts.

Cal­laughan says the key when it comes to max­imis­ing the re­turn each year is or­gan­i­sa­tion. ‘‘ Not only will keep­ing all your re­ceipts or­gan­ised and filed help you in­crease your tax re­fund but it will re­duce your ac­count­ing costs and will also al­low you to pass an au­dit if you ever get asked pro­duce them,’’ he says.

‘‘ If you are look­ing for some ex­tra de­duc­tion, then look at pre­pay­ing some items or topping up your su­per through salary sac­ri­fice.

‘‘ If you are not sure if you can claim it, just keep the re­ceipt and ask your ac­coun­tant. If you don’t ask, you will never know.’’

As work/life bal­ance blurs the line be­tween work and re­cre­ation, it can be tricky to work out which costs are solely as­so­ci­ated with work.

The ad­vent of smart­phones and tablets has meant most work­ers are in con­stant con­tact with the of­fice, whether by text mes­sage, phone calls, emails or down­loads.

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‘‘ You can claim a per­cent­age of mo­bile phone us­age that re­lates to busi­ness use. So if that busi­ness use is for emails and the data down­loads then you could claim that,’’ Cal­laughan says.

The pur­chase of apps solely or partly used for busi­ness also can be claimed.

Work­ing from home also opens up pos­si­ble de­duc­tions.

Cal­laughan says work­ers at home can claim greater shares of house­hold run­ning ex­penses, such as phone rental, busi­ness calls, in­ter­net fees, de­pre­ci­a­tion of of­fice fur­ni­ture and equip­ment and any ad­di­tional heat­ing, cool­ing, light­ing and clean­ing ex­penses.

They also may be able to claim oc­cu­pancy ex­penses, such as rent, mort­gage in­ter­est, rates, land taxes and house in­sur­ance pre­mi­ums.

With one week left un­til the next fi­nan­cial year, now is the time to start pre­par­ing for next year’s re­turn.

CPA Aus­tralia ad­vises work­ers to bill all ex­penses to a sin­gle credit or debit card to more read­ily lo­cate and keep track of costs and re­ceipts.

Di­aries for mo­tor ve­hi­cle and home of­fice use also are ad­vis­able to have on hand.

MOST COM­MON MIS­TAKES MADE ON TAX RE­TURNS

Omit­ting in­come: Re­mem­ber to col­lect a group cer­tifi­cate from any em­ployer you have worked for since July 1, no mat­ter how brief a time pe­riod it may have been .

No records or lost re­ceipts: Writ­ten ev­i­dence is very im­por­tant to sup­port any claim. Al­ways ask for a re­ceipt for work-re­lated ex­penses and keep them in a spe­cial file or folder.

Not lodg­ing a tax re­turn: Only 55 per cent of the pop­u­la­tion lodged a tax re­turn in 2010/11. Make the ef­fort to reap the re­ward or face se­ri­ous le­gal reper­cus­sions if you don’t. Spell your name cor­rectly, in­clude your full date of birth and put your first and sur­name in the right order to help you re­ceive the cor­rect re­fund.

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