No deductions for spouse’s travel expenses

The ATO has issued another DIS regarding the decision in the case of WTPG V FCT [2016] AATA 971, which concerned whether a taxpayer could claim deductions for travel expenses they incurred for their spouse to accompany them to a work-related conference in Lindon as their personal carer.

The taxpayer suffered from medical conditions that meant he was unable to walk any distance without assistance, and could not stand for any length of time.

The taxpayer’s employee was aware of his disabilities but did not provide him with a carer or assistant to travel with him, and none of the employer’s staff members were willing to accompany him to act as his carer, so the taxpayer’s wife acted as his carer bot on the flights to and from the UK and during his time there.

Nonetheless, the AAT concluded that the travel expenses were not deductible, as the expenses were incurred during enabling the taxpayer to undertake his duties, rather than during his undertaking of the duties.

The AAT also found that the nature of the personal assistance required by the taxpayer equated with the travel expenses being of a private or domestic nature.

Since the AAT had concluded that the travel expenses were not deductible under S.8-1, it was not required to make a finding on the operation of S.26-30 of the ITAA 1997. However, the Tribunal considered the S.26-30 imposes, a blanket prohibition upon claiming a relative’s travel expenses as a deduction (but it is a prohibition that is ameliorated of the relative performed substantial duties as the taxpayer’s employer’s employee or as the taxpayer’s employee and it is reasonable to conclude that the relative would have accompanied and the taxpayer even without the personal relationship between them).

The Tribunal also held that the Commissioner’s objection decision was not in breach of the Disability Discrimination Act 1992.

The ATO agrees with the AAT’s reasoning.

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