The last word on tax

While a tax re­turn is a welcome bonus, you have to make sure you have ac­counted for it, as An­thony Keane and Emma Blake re­port

Townsville Bulletin - - NEWS -

YOU work. You pay tax. For most Aus­tralians, that’s the sim­ple equa­tion they face.

But rather than baulk at this an­nual task, treat tax time as a pos­i­tive ex­pe­ri­ence that will help you share in the $ 27 bil­lion of an­nual re­funds handed back to in­di­vid­u­als.

Gov­ern­ment fig­ures show more than three quar­ters of taxpayers re­ceive a tax re­fund, av­er­ag­ing about $ 3600 each.

Em­ploy­ers should have sent group cer­tifi­cates out by July 14, so there’s no ex­cuse for most peo­ple to de­lay get­ting some money back from the tax­man.

“The in­for­ma­tion for your fi­nan­cial and tax af­fairs is usu­ally eas­ier to ac­cess and closer to mind right af­ter the fi­nan­cial year closes rather than months and months later,” says An­thony Bell, chief ex­ec­u­tive of ac­count­ing firm Bell Part­ners.

It starts with mak­ing sure you claim all the work- re­lated de­duc­tions and other per­sonal de­duc­tions you legally can. But be sure to keep it le­gal, be­cause the ATO is tar­get­ing ex­ces­sive de­duc­tions across all in­dus­tries this year af­ter work- re­lated ex­pense claims rose faster than in­fla­tion in re­cent years.

ATO as­sis­tant com­mis­sioner Adam Ken­drick says last year taxpayers claimed work- re­lated ex­penses of $ 19.9 bil­lion, up 9 per cent over three years. “There are 13 mil­lion in­di­vid­ual taxpayers and around 8.5 mil­lion of them made a work- re­lated ex­pense claim,” he says. PLENTY OF CHOICE Work- re­lated claims al­low you to get back some of the money you have spent on work- re­lated travel and mo­tor ve­hi­cle ex­penses, laun­dry and uni­forms, self- ed­u­ca­tion costs re­lated to your work, tools and equip­ment, union fees and home of­fice ex­penses such as part of your energy bills, mo­bile phone and in­ter­net use.

The ATO has spe­cific guides for 30 com­mon oc­cu­pa­tions that out­line what these work­ers can and can’t claim.

But, Bell says, this year the ATO will be fo­cus­ing on un­usu­ally high work- re­lated ex­pense claims across all in­dus­tries and oc­cu­pa­tions.

“The ATO will also be pay­ing par­tic­u­lar at­ten­tion to claims that have al­ready been re­im­bursed by em­ploy­ers, and for pri­vate ex­penses such as travel to work, mo­bile phones, pri­vate in­ter­net us­age and en­ter­tain­ment,” he says.

Ken­drick says if you are mak­ing large or com­plex claims it’s best to con­sult a tax agent.

“Our web­site has some good, down- to- earth prac­ti­cal tips around claims you can make.” PROVE IT Etax Ac­coun­tants se­nior tax agent Liz Rus­sell says many taxpayers may not re­alise they can claim things such as workre­lated mo­bile phone use, which must be doc­u­mented over a four- week pe­riod to sat­isfy the ATO.

“As tempt­ing as it may be to just pluck a num­ber out of the air, you’ll come un­stuck if you’re au­dited and asked to prove your cal­cu­la­tions,” she says.

Deakin Univer­sity se­nior lec­turer Adrian Raftery, au­thor of 101 Ways To Save Money On Your Tax Legally, says it is cru­cial to keep re­ceipts.

Work­ers can claim up to $ 300 of tax de­duc­tions with­out need­ing re­ceipts, but as soon as you pass $ 301 you’ll need records of the whole lot. BE­YOND THE WORK­PLACE There are plenty of other tax de­duc­tions you can claim if you keep records. Do­na­tions to reg­is­tered char­i­ties are tax de­ductible over $ 2. You can also claim for the cost of us­ing a tax ac­coun­tant, in­come pro­tec­tion in­sur­ance and su­per­an­nu­a­tion con­tri­bu­tions if you’re self- em­ployed.

Pic­ture: JONATHAN NG

JUST DO IT: Ac­coun­tant An­thony Bell says your tax re­turn is eas­ier if you tackle it sooner rather than later.

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