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What tax deductions can you claim as a NDIS support worker

Bottrell Accountants | Newcastle Accounting Firm | Maitland Accountants

In a perfect world, claiming tax deductions would be simple and straightforward.

Unfortunately, we live in the real world, where the tax rules are (necessarily) complex. Not every purchase you make on behalf of your business is tax deductible, and you’re probably not claiming everything you can claim!

Studies have shown that a whopping 42% of sole traders with business expenses don’t claim all the tax deductions they’re entitled to. That’s an average of $5,611 in unclaimed deductions per sole trader, per financial year.

To help sole traders navigate the wild west of tax deductions, the ATO have come up with three golden rules for making claims. If your expense meets these three requirements, it’s *possibly* tax deductible:

  • The expense must have been for your business, not for personal use.
  • If the expense is for a mix of business and personal use, you can only claim the portion that is used for your business.
  • You must have records to prove it.
  • On top of these three rules, there are a few other guidelines to bear in mind as an NDIS support worker:
  • You can only claim what you’ve paid for out of pocket. If your employer reimburses you for an expense, it’s no longer claimable.
  • The exception is allowances. If you receive an allowance for an expense (eg. travel), and you spend it on travel, you can claim it as an expense

To help you make heads AND tails of it all, we’ve put together a quick cheat sheet for 15 NDIS-worker expenses that you can claim, may be eligible for, and can’t claim.

We’ve also included a few guidelines explaining why an expense will/may/won’t be accepted.

  1. Fees and insurance

All professional fees and insurance payments are claimable including union fees, professional association fees, and the cost of getting your blue card. Make sure you claim them all!

  1. Protective items

Protective items (gloves, hand sanitiser, PPE, non-slip shoes, sunscreen if working outside) are all claimable, but only if your employer doesn’t reimburse you.

  1. Seminars, conferences, and training courses

Like with education, costs for seminars, conferences, and training courses that will help you get ahead in your current role are tax deductible.

Better yet, travel expenses, accommodation, and meals are all also tax deductible if you’re required to stay away from home for more than a day.

You just need to make sure that the whole trip is 100% work related. You can’t fly to Bora Bora for a holiday, attend a seminar on aged care, and then expense the entire trip (unfortunately). In this case, only direct costs like the seminar registration fees will be tax deductible.

  1. Tools and equipment

Any equipment you need in order to do your job (mobile phone, disability ramp, stethoscope) is tax deductible. Remember though: If the equipment is for both business and personal use, you can only claim the business portion of the cost.

  1. Travel expenses

Like with seminars, conferences, and training courses, you can claim any costs associated with an overnight trip for work. The exception is if you’re staying overnight at a client’s house; the ATO doesn’t consider this a travel expense.

If you receive an allowance for overnight costs, and this allowance is part of your assessable income, you can still claim these expenses if you can show:

  • You were away overnight
  • You spent money while away
  • The trip directly relates to earning income
  • How you worked out your claim
  1. Working from home expenses

There are two ways to calculate your WFH expenses. Each has its own pros and cons, and the one that’s best for you will depend on your situation.

  • Fixed rate method – for those who are short on time
  • Actual cost method – for those who have a big, dedicated space for working from home
  • Fixed rate method
  • To use the fixed rate method, you need to have:
  • A dedicated, separate space for working from home
  • A log/timesheet of the number of hours you spend working from home across the financial year
  • From there, you can claim the fixed rate of $0.67 (in the 2022-2023 year) for each hour you worked from home. This covers:
  • The decline in value of home-office furniture, like a desk
  • Electricity and gas for heating, cooling, and lighting
  • Cleaning costs

Using the fixed rate method means that you can’t claim any of these costs separately. You can however claim the work-related percentage of other expenses that aren’t covered by the $0.52 rate, like:

  • Phone, data, and internet expenses (including the decline in value of your mobile phone!)
  • The decline in value of home-office furniture, like a desk
  • Electricity and gas for heating, cooling, and lighting
  • Cleaning costs
  • Using the fixed rate method means that you can’t claim any of these costs separately. You can however claim the work-related percentage of other expenses that aren’t covered by the $0.67 rate (in the 2022-2023 year), like:
    • Computer accessories and stationery
    • The decline in value of other office assets
    • Actual costs method

With the actual costs method, you work out your expenses by multiplying relevant costs (all costs mentioned in the “fixed rate method” section) by the percentage of your home that forms your home office.

To use this method, you’ll need:

  • a record of the number of hours you work from home in an income year OR a 4-week diary recording your usual work-from-home pattern.
  • receipts, bills, or other documents recording the running expenses you include in your expense claim.
  1. Car expenses

Car expenses are tax deductible, but only in specific circumstances:

You CAN’T claim the cost of normal trips between home and work, even if you work outside of usual business hours. This includes any taxi or public transport fares; the ATO considers your regular commute a private expense.

There are limited exceptions to this rule. For example, if you have no fixed place of employment and you continually travel from one work site to another.

You CAN’T claim any tolls you pay driving between home and your regular place of work.

You CAN’T claim parking costs for parking at or near your regular place of work.

You CAN claim the cost of driving from one job to another during the working day.

You CAN claim the cost of driving between alternate work locations for the same employer eg. if you take a client to an appointment.

You CAN claim the cost of tolls and parking on work related trips.

Claiming car expenses

To claim the cost of car expenses, you can use either the logbook method or the cents per kilometre method.

Logbook method

The logbook method is used to calculate the business-use percentage of the expenses for the vehicle. Expenses include fuel, maintenance, and registrations.

To work out your business-use percentage, you’ll need to keep a logbook (obviously) for a minimum of 12 continuous weeks. Note the income year you create the logbook, and then for each trip you take, record:

  • the date the journey began, and the date it ended
  • the car’s odometer reading at the start and end of the journey
  • how many kilometres the car travelled on the journey
  • why the journey was made (eg. for business or personal reasons)
  • Once your logbook is complete, you can work out the percentage you use your car for work, and claim that percentage of all running expenses. Unless your circumstances change significantly (eg. you change jobs), your logbook will be valid for five years.

You can claim fuel and oil costs based on your actual receipts, or you can estimate costs based on your odometer readings. For all other expenses, you’ll need written proof.

If the cost of fuel skyrockets unexpectedly, using the logbook method means your fuel claims will keep pace with the pump price. It might be worth the admin if you use a lot of petrol for work.

Cents per kilometre method

From 1 July 2022, you can claim $0.78 per kilometre for every tax deductible trip you take, up to a maximum of 5,000km (or $3,900). You won’t need to keep a logbook, but the ATO might ask you to show them how you calculated your business kilometres. It’s far easier, but less accurate than using a logbook.

  1. Clothing and laundry

This one’s a bit tricky. The ATO only allows deductions for:

uniforms with logos,

occupation-specific clothing (eg. nurse scrubs),

and unconventional costumes (eg. a clown suit if you work as a clown).

Even if you only use certain clothes for work, if they could feasibly be worn outside of work, you’re out of luck.

If your work clothes ARE tax deductible however, you can also claim the related laundry expenses. This includes:

  • Dry cleaning and repairs.
  • $1 for every load containing just your work clothes.
  • $0.50 for every load containing a mix of work and personal garments.
  • If your laundry expenses (minus dry cleaning) are less than $150, you don’t need to keep records to prove your costs, but you will need to be able to show how you calculated and worked out your claim.
  1. Driver’s licence

  • While you can’t claim the cost of getting or renewing your regular driver’s licence, you can claim the costs for any additional special licences or conditions you need for work.
  • For example, a heavy vehicle permit needed to drive a retirement-home bus is a claimable work expense.
  1. Meals

  • You CAN’T claim the cost of food, drinks, and snacks consumed during normal work hours, even if you receive an allowance. These are considered private expenses.
  • You CAN claim meals bought when working overtime IF you receive an overtime meal allowance, and this allowance is included in your assessable income.
  • Similarly, you CAN also claim meals you buy when travelling overnight on a work trip (memo to self: remember this burger next time you’re in Perth for work).
  1. Self-education and study

  • You can claim all self-education and study expenses IF your course relates directly to your current role. In order these expenses to be eligible, your education needs to:
  • Maintain or improve the specific skills and knowledge you need for your current duties
  • Be likely to result in an increase in income from your current employment.
  • You can’t claim a deduction for a course that will help you get a new job, or if it’s only tangentially related to your line of work. Personal development courses unfortunately don’t cut the mustard with the ATO.
  • Expenses you can’t claim
  1. Child care

  • Even if you aren’t able to work without paying for childcare, childcare is considered a personal expense. It’s never claimable (sorry).
  1. Entertainment and social functions

  • This one’s a bit of a hard pill to swallow, we won’t lie. Entertainment and social event costs are considered personal expenses, even if they’re related to work. Even if they’re required for work. It’s not tax deductible to:
  • Take your client to a movie.
  • Take your client out for a coffee.
  • Attend a networking event (even if your recruitment company says it’s compulsory for you to be there – ouch!).
  1. Glasses

  • The ATO doesn’t care if you’re as blind as a bat without them; glasses are a personal expense.
  1. Grooming costs

  • Your recruitment company might need you to be well turned out 24/7, but the ATO likes you exactly the way you are. Grooming costs are considered personal expenses.
  • Record-Keeping:
    • Maintaining accurate records is crucial for a successful tax refund. Establishing a reliable system to organize receipts throughout the year is a smart practice. Digital copies of receipts are acceptable, provided they include essential details like the supplier’s name, expense amount, nature of goods or services, payment date, and document date. Receipts for expenses under $10 (cumulatively not exceeding $200) are not required.

Addressing Mistakes:

  • If you realise a mistake in your tax return, don’t panic. It’s a common occurrence, and the key is to address it promptly. Ensuring meticulous information gathering and supporting documentation when filing your tax return is essential. Only claim genuine deductions to avoid penalties and potential prosecution by the ATO. If you self-lodge and identify inaccuracies or unsubstantiated claims, contact Bottrell Accountants & Financial Planners immediately for assistance in making necessary amendments.

For any further questions regarding your tax return, reach out to Bottrell Accountants & Financial Planners. Our experienced consultants are ready to help. Call us at 02 4027 5782 for details or book an appointment online at your nearest office.

What happens if I make a mistake in my tax return?

Exercise caution when assembling information and supporting documentation. Only claim genuine deductions to avoid penalties or prosecution. If you realise errors, promptly contact your accountant for necessary amendments.

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