Due to a high number of mistakes, errors and questionable claims for home office expenses, the ATO will be increasing scrutiny and education on ‘other work-related expenses’ claims this tax time, which includes home office expenses.
The ATO has concerns relating to taxpayers who are claiming:
- expenses they didn’t pay for;
- expenses that their employer has reimbursed them for;
- private expenses; and
- expenses with no supporting records.
While additional costs incurred as a direct result of working from home can be claimed, care must be taken not to claim private expenses as well.
Ensure your claim only relates to your work
The ATO has indicated that one of the biggest issues they face is people claiming the entire amount of expenses (e.g., their internet or mobile phone), rather than just the extra portion relating to work.
Provided the taxpayer can demonstrate that they have incurred additional costs of running expenses (e.g., electricity for heating, cooling and lighting), then these are generally deductible.
In contrast, employees are generally not able to claim any portion of occupancy-related expenses (e.g., rent, mortgage repayments, property insurance, land taxes and rates).
Taxpayers are warned that the ATO may contact their employers to verify expenses claimed for working from home.
Also, the ATO expects to disallow a lot of claims where the taxpayer has not kept adequate records to prove that they have legitimately incurred the relevant expense and that the expense was related to their work.
Keep all receipts and itemise phone bills
As with the claiming of deductions in general, supporting records must be kept when claiming work-from-home expenses, which may include receipts, diary entries and itemised phone bills.
Importantly, only the additional work-related portion of the relevant expense is deductible.
The ATO can deploy sophisticated systems and analytics to spot claims that do not ‘add up’ and claims that are out of the ordinary compared to others in similar occupations, earning similar income.
The three golden rules when claiming
Finally, the ATO has reminded taxpayers of the ‘three golden rules’ to follow when claiming work-from-home deductions, being:
- the taxpayer must have spent the money themselves and have not been reimbursed;
- it must be directly related to earning the taxpayer’s income, not a personal expense; and
- the taxpayer must have a record to prove the expense.