You can now claim your RATs at tax time: What you're missed

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$415 million Valentine's Day spend, RATs become tax deductible, and motorists face a crude awakening. Here are five things you may have missed this week.

The price of love? $111

Australians are set to spend $415 million on gifts for Valentine's Day (heads up, that's Monday), with flowers, chocolates and jewellery being the most popular items people will buy their significant other.

rat rapid antigen tests tax deductible

But if V-Day rolls around and no gift appears, don't feel broken-hearted. Roy Morgan research found only one in four men and just over one in ten women will fork out for a Valentine's Day present.

Among Roy Morgan's survey of 2717 respondents, the average spend on Valentine's Day gifts is just $111. However, one respondent claimed to have purchased a $60,000 Tesla for their sweetheart. Someone's going to have a great Valentine's Day!

Foreign spies target online dating apps

Speaking of romance, it seems the online dating world is starting to attract a growing number of 007s.

Our national spy agency ASIO, is tracking suspicious approaches on popular dating platforms like Tinder, Bumble and Hinge to identify foreign spies seeking intelligence from unwitting victims.

Apparently, the past two years have seen thousands of Australians with access to classified information targeted by foreign spies using social media profiles.

Dating apps and websites already offer rich pickings for romance scammers. Consumer watchdog, the ACCC, says romance scams cost Australians $131 million in 2020.

Director-General of ASIO Mike Burgess, says, "My message for any potential victims on these sites is a familiar one - if it seems too good to be true, it probably is."

RATs to be tax-deductible

How's this for the ultimate sign that we're living through a pandemic?

Two years ago none of us had even heard of rapid antigen tests (RATs). Today, they're not only the latest must-have health accessory, RATs have also become our most recent tax deduction.

The government announced on 7 February that COVID-19 testing expenses - both PCR (nasal swabs) and RATs, will be tax-deductible. This applies whether you are required to attend the workplace or have the option to work from home.

Assistant Treasurer Michael Sukkar says this change will take effect from the start of the 2021-22 tax year and be in place permanently.

While this measure is yet to become law, if you've paid for COVID-19 tests, or you plan to stock up on RATs, it's worth holding onto the receipts.

Lockdown's lingering buyer remorse

Long days spent in lockdown in 2021 saw many of us turn to the internet for a spot of retail therapy. Data from Australia Post shows online shopping skyrocketed in 2021. During last year's Sydney lockdown, online sales jumped 63.5% year-on-year.

However, for many the joy was short-lived. Finder research shows five million Aussies regret a pandemic purchase.

Money spent on clothing, used cars and bicycles are the leading sources of buyer remorse.

Kate Browne, personal finance expert at Finder, says online shopping was a popular lockdown escape for many of us. But she adds, "Many of us splurged on things we didn't need or couldn't afford, and are now regretting that decision."

One solution to wash away the shopping guilt is to cash in unwanted buys.

Browne explains, "Selling items online is a great way to make some of your money back. Most online marketplaces will let you list your items for free."

Crude awakening - oil hits 7-year high

The price of crude oil hit a seven-year high this week, pushing past $US90 per barrel ($AUD125) - a price not seen since 2014.

Tighter supplies of crude from OPEC, increased demand during the pandemic, geopolitical tensions and supply chain woes have all come together to push the cost of crude higher - and prices aren't expected to drop any time soon.

Aussies are feeling the bite at the bowser, paying an average of just over $1.70 per litre at present, up from a low of less than $1 a litre in May 2020.

Northern Territory and Tassie motorists are doing it especially tough, paying around $1.82 and $1.81 per litre respectively according to the Australian Petroleum Institute.

That makes it worth driving a better deal on fuel costs.

Check out a range of apps like MotorMouth and GasBuddy that identify the cheapest service stations in your area.

If you shop at Coles or Woolworths, spending more than $30 on groceries can see you score a 4c per litre discount at Shell Coles Express, or head to Ampol and participating Caltex servos if you're a Woolies devotee.

Membership of a motoring organisation can also see you pay less at the pump. NRMA members for instance, can save 5c per litre on premium fuel and 3c per litre on regular fuel at participating Ampol and Caltex branded service stations. RACQ members save 4 cents per litre at participating Puma Energy and Choice petrol stations.

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A former Chartered Accountant, Nicola Field has been a regular contributor to Money for 20 years, and writes on personal finance issues for some of Australia's largest financial institutions. She is the author of Investing in Your Child's Future and Baby or Bust, and has collaborated with Paul Clitheroe on a variety of projects including radio scripts, newspaper columns, and several books.

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