The Weekend Series: totally legit tax hacks to maximise your dollar bills
When it comes down to it, you can’t cheat the taxman. You (or someone you know) may be all for fudging a few figures here and there to make your yearly return a little more lush, but keeping it legit is definitely the way to go when it comes to anything financial – you don’t want to end up in a Caleb Nichol a la The OC type situation, after all. If you play your cards right you can maximise your return without any risk of landing yourself in hot water – we’ve rounded up a few tips to help you out before the new financial year rolls around. Make it rain, folks!
It’s all in the details
Did you know that journalists can sometimes claim pay TV in their tax return? Odds are there are a bunch of things that you can claim that are specific to your area of work. The ATO website has a handy guide sorted by industry that outlines what you can (and definitely cannot) claim – take a look, because the results might surprise you. As an added bonus, this is coming from the most official source there is.
Sun safety pays off
Whether you’re driving, sitting under fluorescent lights or working outside, chances are UV affects you at work. Big deal, you say. Well, friends, this means you can claim sun protection! This includes sunglasses and sunscreen, meaning the moisturiser and foundation you use that has an SPF factor may be included here. The more you know.
One of the absolute punish-factors of the yearly tax return is somehow hustling a year’s worth of receipts. An easy way to do this is with the ATO app, where you can snap pictures of physical receipts and just pop them in your digital file as you go (trust us when we say this will come in handy this time next year). We realise that it’s a bit late in the game now, but all hope is not lost – if all of your receipts seem to have disappeared to the same place that socks and bobby pins go, your bank statement is always a good back up if you paid for work expenses with plastic.
Keep an eye out
Plenty of you would be wise to the fact that there is certain amounts for certain things you can claim without receipts, but the ATO doesn’t mess around when it comes to auditing. Every year it cracks down hard on certain claims and expenses to make sure nobody is rorting the system – one of the targets for this financial year includes people earning extra income through share economy services like Uber and Airbnb. The ATO also crosschecks your work expenses (vehicle, travel, internet and mobile phone, and self-education) with people in similar occupations, with those exaggerating getting red-flagged – just something to keep in mind if you’re getting creative with your claim.
Back it up
Home office usage, work-related car expenses and uniform costs are some of the deductions that don’t always require receipts, mostly because these things can be tricky to track. That being said, the ATO knows that this is an area where people tend to claim high – be prepared to back up your calculations if you get audited. For example, the ATO considers a reasonable deduction for work-related laundry claims as $1 per load if it’s only work-related clothing and 50c if it’s a mixture. For home office expenses, the ATO allows a fixed rate of 45c per hour if you are working from home, or you can keep a diary of the actual costs.
Trust the pros
If you’re not the greatest with numbers or money, sometimes it pays to leave it to the professionals. There are heaps of top-notch accountants that specialise in all manner of industries, because doing tax for freelancing as opposed to a 9-to-5 is a whole other kettle of fish. Plenty of industries have specialised accountants that are trained to max your return, which means they have years of secrets up their sleeves. Plus, you can claim the fees for the help you got on next year’s return, so it all balances out in the end.