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How to maximise your relief teacher tax return

Have you noticed that some of your teacher peers are getting more in their tax returns than you? The difference can come down to knowing what you can claim and ensuring you are routinely keeping a record by the way of receipts throughout the financial year. 

Many of the tax deductions for teachers are out-of-pocket expenses that have been incurred over the course of the year, which your employers (several schools or the Department) do not compensate you for. 

Due to COVID-19, you may have worked from home assisting a school over the course of 2020. If you were lucky enough to secure some work over the school closure period, you will be eligible to claim some tax back on related expenses (more on that below).

In general, there are three things that you need to consider: 

  1. Have you spent the money yourself and haven’t been compensated by your employers? 
  2. Is the expense directly related to how you earn your income? 
  3. Do you have a record to prove the expense? 

If you answer “yes” to all these questions, it is likely that the expense is tax deductible. 

Please note that if the expense was for both work and private purposes, you can only claim a deduction on the work-related portion

We’ve done some research and put together a comprehensive list of what you can claim as a relief teacher so as to ensure you are fully aware of all the tax rebate benefits that are available to you.  

Here are the top tax deductions for teachers 

  • Teaching supplies: teaching resources or materials that were not paid for or reimbursed by your employers 
  • Teaching registration fees and related costs  
  • Working with children / Blue card applications 
  • Any uniforms (or clothing with the company/school logo on it) including laundry costs that you may have to wear if on block 
  • Self-education that relates to your current teaching role (your membership with the Relief Teacher Association and if you attended RTCON (our annual virtual relief teacher conference) 
  • Some travel and meal expenses 
  • Relevant car expenses 
  • Union or membership fees 
  • Home internet bill (for the times you may work from home on marking if on block or lesson planning etc.) 
  • Cost of relevant memberships and subscriptions (Teach Starter, Twinkl, Relief Teacher Association etc) 
  • Work related books, magazines and journals 
  • Tax-deductible phone expenses 
  • Protective hat and sunscreen used when working outside 

What about COVID-19 working from home related expenses? (If you secured any online teaching work during school closures)

  • electricity expenses associated with heating, cooling and lighting the area from which you are working and running items you are using for work
  • cleaning costs for a dedicated work area
  • phone and internet expenses
  • computer consumables (for example, printer paper and ink) and stationery
  • home office equipment, including computers, printers, phones, furniture and furnishings – you can claim either the
    • full cost of items up to $300
    • decline in value for items over $300.

Learn more about claiming working from home expenses during COVID-19 from the ATO website here.

The nitty gritty 

Working from home  

While full time teachers may be spending more time working from home, there are many instances where as a relief teacher you will also find yourself doing the same – especially this year due to the pandemic.

It’s important to keep evidence of the hours worked at home, perhaps log it down in a diary, as work performed from your home office should be a tax-deductible expense, even if the area is not set aside solely for work-related purposes and is just a desk in the corner of your living room… either way you’re working! 

Car expenses 

Trips to and from work are considered a private expense and are generally not tax deductible, however, there are some exceptions. For example, car expenses may be considered a deduction if you use your personal to transport students to and from school excursions or events. You may also be able to claim a deduction for transporting bulky equipment if: 

  • The school you are working at requires you to transport the equipment for work to and from an event 
  • the equipment was essential to earning your income 
  • there was no secure area to store the equipment at the work location 
  • the equipment is too large or bulky to transport 

Renewing your registration 

Although the initial cost of obtaining your teaching registration is not tax deductible, the good news is that you can claim the cost of renewing it. 

Other Work-Related Expenses 

Below are several other work-related expenses that may be claimed as tax deductions by teachers. This includes: 

  • Newspapers purchased for teaching purposes 
  • Teaching related and reference books 
  • Stationery, art materials, stopwatches and computer consumables including pens and toner cartridges are all deductible 
  • Phone and internet fees (for the work-related portion only) 

It pays to know what items may be tax deductible when it comes to preparing your tax return. If you are still unsure, have a chat with your tax agent or visit the ATO’s website if you need more clarity around what is deductible.  

However, it is always handy to keep a thorough record of your paperwork to help ease the stress when submitting your tax return. 

Top tip on foolproof way of storing receipts: 

Unless you are one of those rare teacher breeds: the extreme organiser who methodically files away every single work related expense over the full 12 month period, and you’re more like the rest of us – then you should get yourself organised by using an app that will keep a record for you. 

Apps like Receipt Saver and Recibo will allow you to take a picture and record on the go right then and there so you can throw away the original receipt and not have to worry about the print fading or losing it. 

Etax also have an app where you can store receipts and complete your tax return all from your smartphone.  

The ATO also have an app which is widely used to store receipts.

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