Experts reveal how to get the most from your tax return and the surprising things you can claim

The cost of hand sanitiser, rapid antigen tests, app subscriptions, handbags and course fees are among some of the surprising things you may not know you can claim at tax time.

Financial expert Gerry Incollingo, the managing partner at LCI Partners, told NCA NewsWire the pandemic had revolutionised the way we work and not just because more of us are working from home.

“We’ve been forced to be more mindful of upholding stringent hygiene practices and abiding by social distancing regulations,” he said.

“Employees who work in medical, health, personal care, education, retail, hospitality and retail – where physical contact or social distancing is impossible – may be eligible to deduct the costs of personal safety items, such as hand sanitiser, gloves, antibacterial spray, face shields, face masks and rapid antigen tests.”

Camera IconHand sanitiser, gloves, antibacterial spray, masks and rapid antigen tests are among the items you may be able to claim. NCA NewsWire/Nicholas Eagar Credit: NCA NewsWire

Another deduction that may surprise people is self-education.

“If you’ve paid for a magazine or app subscription, joined a professional organisation such as BNI Australia or become part of a union and paid fees, you can claim these costs,” Mr Incollingo said.

“You also may be eligible to deduct course fees and costs associated with self-education, webinars and training courses that allow you to continue your professional development.

“For example, if you are a dentist and want to specialise in cosmetic surgery, you can claim on course fees, textbooks et cetera.

“However, if you wanted a complete change of career and decide you want to become a florist, it wouldn’t be tax deductible.”

Curtin Tax Clinic founder and director Annette Morgan told NCA NewsWire that a handbag, briefcase or satchel primarily used for work purposes could also be claimed.

“If it costs less than $300 then they can claim it in full, or if it’s more than $300 they will need to depreciate it – that is, claim it over a certain period of time,” she said.

“If they buy something to carry their laptops, computer tablets, work papers or diaries and don’t use it for any private purposes then they can claim a deduction.

“If they use it for both private and work purposes then they will need to apportion the claim.

“But if they buy a bag and mostly put their private items such as lunch, water bottles, purse, keys and beauty products then it would only be considered of a private nature and not deductible.”

Finance expert Gerry Incollingo says there are ways to maximise your tax return.
Camera IconFinance expert Gerry Incollingo says there are many ways to maximise your tax return. Credit: Supplied

Taxpayers could also claim a tax deduction for the cost of first aid training courses if they were a designated first aid person at their place of employment and needed to complete a course, Ms Morgan said.

People could not claim the cost of getting or renewing their personal driver’s licence, but if they needed to get a special licence condition, such as a licence to drive a heavy vehicle, then those costs were deductible, she added.

While many Australians self-lodge their tax returns, they might be missing out on hundreds of dollars they could claim, Mr Incollingo said.

“Anyone can research what they are entitled to deduct using Google or by visiting the Australian Taxation Office website, but I would highly recommend engaging a certified taxation account,” he said.

“They will be up to date with the very latest changes in tax legislation and have an in-depth knowledge on what you can legitimately claim.

“Tax can get a little complicated if you are juggling a full-time job in conjunction with a start-up, you’re part of a trust or have a self-managed super fund, so it’s definitely worth talking to an expert.

“Plus, you can also claim back the cost of hiring an accountant.”

Ms Morgan said one of the best ways to understand what could be claimed was by looking at the ATO’s occupation and industry specific guides.

“The taxpayer must have spent the money and did not get reimbursed by their employer or anyone else,” she said.

Taxpayers must only claim the work-related portion of the expense if there was a mix of work and private use, such as a mobile phone, and they must retain a receipt, she said.

Many Australians self-lodge their tax returns, but they could be missing out on hundreds of dollars they could claim.
Camera IconMany Australians self-lodge their tax returns, but they could be missing out on hundreds of dollars they could claim. Credit: News Regional Media

Mr Incollingo said there were multiple ways to make your money work even better.

“Property investment is considered one of the most common ways people choose to grow their wealth,” he said.

“Whether you lease out a rental property for a passive income or flip it and list it, you’re not going to see results overnight.

“Real estate is a slow burn and by slow burn, I mean a minimum of 12 months.”

The stock market and cryptocurrency were other options that could bring some gains, but Mr Incollingo warned the volatility of the exchange might deter some people.

Alternatively, Mr Incollingo said people could invest in themselves.

“Everyone has a talent or skill of some sort they set up as a side hustle for extra money,” he said.

“For example, graphic artists could advertise their skills to create logos and branding for companies.

“The money from your side hustle could easily be invested into a savings account or used to make voluntary contributions to your superannuation fund.

“Think of ways you could turn your hobbies into cash.”

Close-up of a young woman looking at financial graphs on a laptop with financial graphs reflected in her glasses
Camera IconMr Incollingo says people can invest in themselves, including side hustles. Credit: istock

Ms Morgan suggested increasing your tax deductions by making some donations to charitable organisations or putting some extra cash into your superannuation fund.

“If you receive a tax refund – and often it can be a large sum of money – taxpayers should consider putting it into savings for a rainy day or reducing debts and parking it in the mortgage offset account to reduce interest on the mortgage,” she said.

Mr Incollingo also recommended people look into salary sacrificing, which could reduce the amount of tax they pay.

“For example, if your income was $60,000 per year before tax, you might decide to choose $45,000 as your salary and the difference goes towards the benefits you’ve selected,” he said.

“Before you start a separate savings account, aim to create an emergency buffer for life’s unexpected events.

“It’s recommended that you should have the equivalent of at least three months’ wages to tide you over should we end up in another pandemic lockdown or you find yourself without a job.”

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