Tax returns in Australia can vary greatly depending on your occupation, and there are a number of deductions that are specifically relevant to teachers and people working in education. These can have a significant benefit on your final tax refund, so it's worth checking all the details.
We've put together this helpful outline of tax deductions for teachers to help maximise your returns at tax time.
4 teacher-specific expenses you CAN claim as deductions
Self-education expenses if your course or conference relates directly to your current job – e.g. a course in working with children with special needs.
Running costs of your home office if you have to work from home, including depreciation of office equipment, work-related phone calls and internet access charges, and electricity for heating, cooling and lighting costs.
Equipment purchased specifically for your work such as computers, laptops, tablets, mobile phones and printers. Claim an immediate deduction for items costing $300 or less and for items costing more than $300, you can claim a deduction for this cost spread over a number of years (depreciation).
Expenses for your car when you:
Drive between separate jobs on the same day – e.g. travelling from your job as a teacher to a second job as a musician
Drive to and from alternate workplaces for the same employer on the same day – e.g. driving from your school to another school to moderate exam results.
There are limited circumstances where you can claim the cost of trips between home and work, such as where you carry bulky tools or equipment for work – e.g. a set of sporting equipment needed for a carnival. The cost of these trips is deductible only if:
Your employer requires you to transport the equipment for work
The equipment was essential to earning your income
There was no secure area to store the equipment at the work location, and
The equipment is bulky – at least 20kg, or cumbersome to transport.
If you claim car expenses, you need to keep a logbook to determine the work-related percentage and receipts for all expenses if you claim actual costs, or keep a log of business related journeys if you use the 72 cents per kilometre method to claim.
As long as the expense relates to your employment, you can also claim a deduction for the work-related portion of the cost of:
Phone and internet usage
Excursions, school trips and camps
First aid courses
Seminars and conferences
Protective equipment such as sunglasses, sunhats and
Technical or professional publications
Union and professional association fees.
5 teacher-specific expenses you CAN'T claim as deductions
Self-education, if your study is only related in a general way or is designed to help you get a new job, e.g. you can't claim the cost of study to enable you to move from being a teacher's aid to being a teacher.
Home office occupancy expenses related to the cost of rates, mortgage interest, rent and insurance.
The cost of car trips between home and work, even if you live a long way from your usual workplace or have to work outside normal business hours – e.g. parent-teacher interviews.
Gifts you purchased for students
Meeting students' personal expenses – for example, paying for lunch, excursions or school books
Make sure you keep details records
Our advice is the same whether you're a first-year teacher, or have been in the job for a while. It's important to employ detailed knowledge of the tax system so you know what you can and can't claim at tax time.
It's important to do the groundwork before tax time and keep a record of your outgoings. As a general rule, if you're not reimbursed for out-of-pocket expenses related to work, you can claim it.
Retain all of your receipts and invoices, bank and credit card statements, as well as a journal of the number of kilometres you travelled for work this year, when and where you went and why it's work-related, so you can go through them with s tax experts.