Be Prepared this Tax Time

Published on 04 May 2021


The ATO will be focusing on work-related expenses this tax time to help taxpayers get their returns right. When you want to find out what public servants can and can’t claim at tax time, it’s best to hear it from the source itself – the Australian Taxation Office.

There are three golden rules for claiming a work-related deduction:

  • you must have spent the money yourself and weren't reimbursed
  • it must directly relate to earning your income
  • you must have a record to prove it.

Before lodging your tax return, it’s important to know what you’re eligible to claim and make sure you don’t claim more than you’re entitled to.

Exceptions to the record keeping rules are there to make things simpler – they do not allow you to claim an automatic deduction. For example, some taxpayers think they can make a standard claim of $300 without having spent the money. While you don’t need receipts for claims up to $300, you must have spent the money yourself, and be able to show how you worked out your deduction if asked.

Other common mistakes include claiming self-education expenses when the study doesn’t have a direct connection to current employment and private use of phone or internet expenses. Remember – you can only claim for the work-related portion!

Getting prepared for next year

If you spend time trying to find your receipts, or if these receipts are now faded and unreadable, the ATO app’s myDeductions tool will help you get prepared for next tax time. myDeductions makes it easier and more convenient to keep your expense records in one place.

You can record expenses and deductions, vehicle trips and take photos of your invoices and receipts. Come tax time you can email your data to your tax agent or upload your data to prefill your tax return. Simply:

  • download the ATO app to your smart device
  • select the myDeductions icon
  • step through and choose whether you’d like to use the tool as an individual (generally or as an employee), as a sole trader (business) or both.

For more information on what government workers can and can’t claim, check out the handy ATO guides below: 

Office Worker FAQ(PDF, 849KB)

Public Servant FAQ(PDF, 1MB)

Have you been affected by drought? Fact Sheet(PDF, 161KB)