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Did you know that as a teacher or as someone working in education, you’re entitled to various industry-specific, teacher tax deductions?

These teacher tax deductions can have a significant benefit on your annual tax return, so it’s worth equipping yourself with the knowledge presented by the Australian Tax Office (ATO)

How do you qualify to claim teacher tax deductions? What are you entitled to claim and what can’t you claim?

We’ve compiled this ultimate guide on teacher tax deductions to help you maximise your benefits on your annual return.

 

Do You Qualify to Claim Teacher Tax Deductions?

According to the ATO, to claim a teacher tax deduction for work-related expenses: 

  • you must have spent the money yourself and weren’t reimbursed for the costs; 
  • the expenses must relate directly to earning an income; and 
  • you must keep all records to prove that you incurred the expenses you’re claiming

Note: you are only allowed to claim the work-related portion of the expenses, you can’t claim any expenses incurred related to personal use.

 

So, What Teacher Tax Deductions Can You Claim?

There are a variety of expenses that you’re allowed to claim, including:

1. Car and Travelling Expenses

As a teacher, you’re entitled to claim the travel costs incurred while performing your duties. 

While the expenses incurred from travelling between your home and the school are generally excluded, there are certain circumstances where you may be able to claim a teacher tax deduction, such as: 

  • when you’re transporting heavy or bulky items that you require for work (for example, a music teacher might have to transport a cello) because they can’t securely store at the school; and 
  • when you’re transporting school children to a sporting event or a school excursion, for example

Example:

Luke, a swimming coach, often has to transport his students to the swimming events that don’t take place at the local swimming pool.

Generally, the parents will drop their children off with Luke at the local swimming pool, and he will then transport them to and from the swimming event that is taking place elsewhere. 

As a result, Luke can claim a teacher tax deduction for transporting his students to the sporting event. 

Another instance where you can claim a teacher tax deduction for travel expenses includes travelling between different jobs on the same day.

Example:

Joan is a math teacher at her local high school. After school finishes at around 2 pm, Joan travels home for lunch and then meets with different students at their homes to provide after-school maths tutoring. 

Generally, she tutors two students per afternoon. So she will have to travel from one student’s home to the next before travelling back home.

While Joan can’t claim a tax deduction for the expenses incurred travelling from the high school to her home for lunch, she can claim a teacher tax deduction for the travel expenses incurred from travelling between her students’ homes for the after-school tutoring.

You can also claim a teacher tax deduction if you drive to and from an alternate workplace for the same employer on the same day. For example, you may teach at one school and then have to mark exam scripts at another school premises.

 

2. Home Office Expenses

More often than not, teachers end up doing their classroom prep and marking at home. And with 2020 being a year of many changes due to the worldwide coronavirus pandemic, many teachers have had to adapt to online teaching from their home. 

For many, working from home has become the new normal.

The upside of working from home is that you may qualify to claim teacher tax deductions for some of the expenses you incur at your home office.

You can claim a percentage of the running costs of your home office if you have to work from home, including:

  • electricity for heating and cooling; 
  • lighting costs; 
  • depreciation of your home-office equipment such as computers;
  • repairs to your home office furniture and fittings; 
  • work-related internet access charges; and 
  • work-related phone calls

To learn more about these expenses and how to calculate your home office expense deductions, make sure to check out our article on the six working from home deductions you can claim.

 

3. Self-Education Expenses

If you undertake to attend any courses, further training or seminars specifically related to your current job, you may qualify for a teacher tax deduction.

According to the ATO, for self-education to relate to your current line of work, it: 

  • must either maintain or improve the skills you require to perform your everyday employment duties; and 
  • is likely to result in an increase in your income

Self-education expenses include:

  • course fees;
  • travel expenses if the seminar is interstate; 
  • books; and 
  • equipment

The ATO distinguishes between five categories of self-education expenses:

Category Expenses
A tuition fees; stationery; student union fees; public transport fares, car expenses calculated using the logbook method and running expenses for your home study room. 
B depreciation deductions on your home study furniture such as a desk or computer and your car for which you are claiming a deduction in category A.
C repair costs to assets used for self-education purposes.
D car expenses using the cents per kilometre method 
E expenses you’ve incurred but can’t use as a deduction such as taxable scholarships. 

Note, however, if you only incur Category A expenses, then the first $250 spent on self-education expenses aren’t tax-deductible. However, if you incur Category E expenses, you can use them to offset the $250 reduction.

Example:
Mary attends a short-course to improve her knowledge of working with children with special needs.
Because it’s a short course, she only incurs a few Category A expenses, including:

  • Tuition Fees: $2,670
  • Stationery: $80
  • Public transport: $302

Mary can claim a self-education teacher tax deduction for an amount of:

($2,670 + $80 + $302) – $250 = $2,802

 

4. Clothing and Laundry Expenses

Does your workplace require you to wear clothing distinctive to their organisation? If so, you can claim a teacher tax deduction for buying, repairing and cleaning those work clothing items. 

Remember: if your employer buys the clothing for you or reimburses you for your purchase you can’t claim a teacher tax deduction for uniform expenses. The same applies if you’re allocated a uniform or laundry allowance. 

Work clothing that you can claim a teacher tax deduction for includes: 

  • compulsory uniforms;
  • distinctive clothing items such as a jumper or tops that have the organisation’s logo printed on it; and 
  • protective clothing such as a hat and sunglasses if you’re on lunchtime playground duty, for example

 

5. Other Common Tax Deductible Expenses

  • the costs of acquiring teaching aids or tools required to help you carry out your teaching duties such as textbooks with practice examples; 
  • first aid training;
  • any union and professional association fees; and 
  • expenses incurred on school trips, excursions or camps

 

What Teacher Tax Deductions Can’t You Claim?

While the list of teacher tax deductions is extensive, there are some expenses you’re not entitled to claim such as: 

  • costs incurred while travelling between your home and workplace; 
  • working at home occupancy expenses such as rent or mortgage interest; 
  • study expenses designed to help you get a new job, for example, if you’re looking to be promoted from a teacher’s aid to a teacher; 
  • the cost of buying or cleaning general clothing that you wear at work as well as outside of work; 
  • fitness expenses such as a gym membership, even if you’re a physical education teacher; and 
  • any costs related to attending staff dinners or other social school functions

 

Key Takeaways

Teachers can generally claim tax deductions for various out-of-pocket expenses incurred that weren’t reimbursed by their employers. 

What’s more, is that if you’ve had to adapt to the changes brought by COVID-19 and bring your classroom home, you may qualify to claim tax deductions for some of the expenses you incur at your new home office.

Beyond that, remember that you can’t claim any of the listed expenses as teacher tax deductions without proof.

Make sure you always keep receipts, invoices, and any other documents relating to any expenses incurred that directly relate to you earning an income. 

If you’re looking for some guidance, our team of tax experts at Box Advisory Services can help you navigate through submitting your tax return and maximising your teacher tax deductions. 

To see how we can help you calculate your teacher tax deductions, book a free consultation with us today.

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