The 10 occupations that claim the highest tax deductions


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When it comes to tax, surgeons have the highest deductions with an average claim of $21,184, or more than double the next occupation, real estate agents at $8616. How come they can claim so much?

It boils down to the fact that surgeons generally aren't reimbursed for many of their expenses by their employers, according to Liz Russell, a senior tax agent at, which has analysed the data of 13.5 million Australian taxpayers.

"This means all those expenses can generally be claimed on their return instead," says Russell.

tax deductions

She says the same is true for all the top-claiming fields. "The nature of their work means they have a high number of work-related expenses, and the employing company doesn't offset or reimburse them for these costs."

Unlike many other professionals, surgeons are generally required to take a certain number of special training courses to keep up with the latest medical practices, says Russell.

"Additionally, surgeons can claim costs for textbooks, other learning materials, home office computers, furniture for study and travel costs associated with attending courses. Plus they often need their own insurance, which can run into thousands, or in some cases tens of thousands of dollars per year."

Real estate agents, who come second on this year's list, can claim car maintenance, licensing fees and incidental out-of-pocket costs.

Lawyers sit in third place. Having a broad list of work-related expenses, their claims can include travelling to see clients, self-education and annual registration fees.

While the ATO is strict regarding what can and cannot be claimed, Russell says there are deductions that thousands of Australians who do their own tax return are missing out on.

"Each occupation has a niche set of rules that govern the relevant tax entitlements, and there are no guarantees when it comes to the minimum refund a taxpayer can expect in each industry.

"Even workers within one specific occupation can have hugely different deductions, meaning yours could be completely different to your co-worker and can even change from year to year."

At the end of the day, tax refunds are determined by an individual's own expenses, the quality of their record-keeping and personal circumstances.

Russell says the key to making deductions is having a good system for recording expenses. She says tax agents can help identify any expenses that are truly work related and necessary. "It's important to seek guidance on what is relevant to your specific industry, role and income."

But just because some occupations have a greater range of tax entitlements, Russell warns that it doesn't mean workers can get away with illegitimate claims.

"Those with broader options for deductions who try to get 'creative' with claims are on the fast track to an ATO examination. These can go back years and are very painful for workers who don't keep good records.

"However, a bit of help from a tax agent to ensure that you claim all the deductions and tax concessions that you're entitled to will definitely pay off."

So how can you identify a deductible expense?

Russell says if you can say "yes" to five key questions, then you can generally claim the expense as a tax deduction:

1. Is it directly related to your work or required for your work?

2. Do you have a proper receipt or evidence for the item?

3. Did you pay for it yourself?

4. Did you use your own money as opposed to a work credit card or petty cash to buy the item?

5. Did you carry the cost as opposed to getting a reimbursement from your company or anyone else?

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Susan has been a finance journalist for more than 30 years, beginning at the Australian Financial Review before moving to the Sydney Morning Herald. She edited a superannuation magazine, Superfunds, for the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia, and writes regularly on superannuation and managed funds. She's also author of the best-selling book Women and Money.

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