Surprising things you can claim to maximise tax return

Tax time is almost here, which means a nice cash injection could soon be on the cards for many Aussies.

But while most of us already know we can claim common work expenses like business trips and stationery, financial planning expert and author Helen Baker told news.com.au there were plenty of “weird and wonderful” things that could potentially be deducted that many workers didn’t know about.

“The link between everything you can claim is how you are generating incomes and the expenses associated with generating that income,” she said.

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“Generally, anything you buy which enables you to earn an income can be claimed. If you use something in both your work and personal life, you may still be able to claim a portion of it.”

She gave 11 examples of items that could be claimed which would likely come as a surprise to many Australians.

GAMING CONSOLES

Ms Baker said small business owners could claim a range of items bought for staff or client use, including gaming consoles, Foxtel subscriptions, office art and coffee machines.

She said while gaming consoles might seem like a strange example, they might have been bought to “stimulate the wellness or creativity of employees” — which in turn could generate income — and therefore was a legitimate claim.

It is also possible to claim food and other incidentals purchased while travelling for work.

GARDEN GNOMES

While it might seem like another odd example, Ms Baker said any decorative items that were bought to make an investment property more attractive to new tenants could be deducted — including garden gnomes, heated towel rails or clocks.

But she stressed those items could not be claimed if they were bought for a person’s own property, and in some cases only a portion of the expense could be claimed.

“Something like maintenance on an investment property is 100 per cent tax deductible, but if you make a capital improvement, then it is deductible, but from a depreciation perspective — so if you put in a $20,000 kitchen, you won’t get $20,000 back,” she said.

GYM MEMBERSHIPS

Ms Baker said objects and services related to specific professions could also be claimed — including gym memberships for people with jobs that require a high level of physical fitness and strength.

She said there were “a lot of interesting items” for adult entertainment workers to claim, as well as flight attendants and crew who could claim rehydrating moisturisers, stockings and a second pair of shoes.

Stage make-up and hair salon fees can also often be deducted by actors, while you can also sometimes claim the family dog if it is used as a guard dog.

POLITICAL DONATIONS

If you donated some cash to a political party in the lead-up to the May election, you can add it to your tax return — along with charitable donations.

MAKE-UP

If your job requires you to spend time outdoors, sunscreen and even make-up containing SPF can be deducted.

And it’s not just gardeners or people in professions who spend most of their time outdoors who can add this expense — even teachers who perform playground duty can.

HANDBAGS

While a Louis Vuitton tote might raise some eyebrows, Ms Baker said a portion of the cost of bags, briefcases, satchels and backpacks used for carrying work documents or other items could be claimed.

TRAINING

Any sort of education or training relating to your paid employment — including self-employment — can be claimed, along with travel and other expenses related to the courses.

It can include things like vocal coaching for singers, even if it’s in-between gigs.

INVESTMENTS AND INSURANCE

You may be able to claim fees paid for specific investment advice, financial planning advice and the cost of attending investment seminars.

It’s also possible to claim income protection insurance and insurance on an income-producing asset.

PHONE BILLS

Use your phone or work from home at times? Then you may be able to claim a part of your utility bills.

For electricity, you can claim up to 45 cents per hour on electricity for any time spent working at home.

ACCOUNTANT FEES

You can claim the cost of travelling to see your accountant and fees for preparing and lodging your tax return, as well as a range of other costs associated with managing your tax affairs.

$300

Ms Baker also said many people weren’t aware they could claim up to $300 on work-related expenses — even without a receipt.

However, according to the ATO website, you’ll still have to meet certain criteria.

The cost of the depreciating asset must be $300 or less, it must be used mainly for the purpose of producing assessable income that isn’t income from carrying on a business, it must not be part of a set of assets you start to hold in the income year that costs more than $300, and it can’t be one of a number of identical or substantially identical assets you start to hold in the income year that together costs more than $300.

Ms Baker urged Aussies to visit a tax agent to get personalised advice.

Continue the conversation @carey_alexis | alexis.carey@news.com.au

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