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Can you claim hand sanitiser and face masks on tax?

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There's often a fine line between a legitimate work-related tax deduction and something that is primarily for personal use, and knowing the difference is important at tax time.

Radio hosts who are expected to be familiar with news and what people are doing and watching can claim subscriptions to streaming services, newspapers, magazines, voice training and home studio equipment, says Mr Taxman Adrian Raftery. However lozenges might be pushing it.

If you're a theatre reviewer, make sure you have proof of payment and publication before you claim tickets, programs and transport. You need to be able to prove it's not just for personal purposes.

claiming hand sanitiser on tax

Uber, Airbnb income

Raftery says the ATO has moved away from targeting particular industries in favour of data-matching. This means they receive data from banks, financial institutions and other government agencies and compare it with their own information to make sure Australians are reporting all their income, including earnings from Airbnb, Uber and rental properties.

People claiming high vehicle mileage may also draw the ATO's focus this year as people should have travelled less during the lockdown, Raftery says.

Unusual deductions

If your occupation is a little unusual there are probably things you can claim that other people can't, says H&R Block director of tax communications Mark Chapman.

"If you're a musician you can claim music lessons and your musical instruments, or an actor can claim acting lessons and stage make-up, and if you're an adult entertainer you can claim sex toys," he says.

"Basically, if you use something in your job you can claim it, and the more unusual the job the more unusual your deductions."

Nurses and medical professionals who are unable to wear a wrist watch for hygiene reasons can claim for a fob watch to wear on their clothing.

Truck drivers can deduct the cost of pillows and sleeping bag for when they are resting on the road, and can claim the cost of showers during mandatory rest breaks.

Seven expenses you may have forgotten to claim on tax

1. Sunscreen

If you work outdoors and need sunscreen you can claim a tax deduction for it. This includes truck drivers, miners, construction workers and more.

According to Raftery, this includes make-up with sunscreen, but it does need to have a significant sun protection component to it.

2. Handbags

Handbags up to the value of $300 can be claimed, but it has to be one that you can prove you use for work purposes to carry equipment such as phones and laptops.  A diamante clutch is unlikely to make the cut.

3. Laundry

For someone who has a uniform they must wear to work, the cost of laundry/dry cleaning may be a legitimate claim. The ATO says you can claim $1 per load for washing, drying and ironing, or dry cleaning costs if you have the receipts. The amount is reduced to 50c if you include non-work items in with your wash. You need written evidence if your total claim for work-related expenses is more than $300.

4. Union fees

The ATO says you can claim a deduction for union fees, subscriptions to trade, business or professional associations, and payment of a bargaining agent's fee.

5 . Education

People studying subjects related to current paid employment can claim a deduction after the first $250. You also can claim travel expenses for the cost of getting to and from your place of education.

6. Subscriptions

Work-related magazines, publications, professional certifications and association fees are tax deductible, as are pay TV subscriptions if you work in industries such as media.

7. Hand sanitiser and face masks

Taxpayers working in jobs that require physical contact or close proximity with customers may be able to claim a deduction for buying gloves, face masks, sanitiser or anti-bacterial spray.

But if you have bought these items to use at home, not work, they are not tax-deductible.

More information

Visit the ATO website to find out more about possible deductions for your industry, and see a tax professional if you need more information.

We're cutting through the confusion to help you manage your money during the coronavirus outbreak. Click here for more on how COVID-19 could affect your job, budget, super and investments.

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Julia Newbould is a financial writer and commentator with a background in journalism. She was previously editor of Financial Planning and Super Review magazines; managing editor at InvestorInfo and at Morningstar Australia. Julia co-authored The Joy of Money, a book on women and personal finance. She holds a Bachelor of Economics from the University of Sydney where she serves on the alumni council.
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