How to maximise your WFH tax refund

 

Desks, cabinets, computer screens, bills, cleaning products and, yes, even toilet paper can be claimed back on tax for the millions of Australians forced to work from home.

Strict social distancing measures to control the spread of the coronavirus pandemic has resulted in a significant outlay of cash to bring makeshift office spaces up to scratch.

And as employment becomes more and more uncertain and hours are reduced to keep businesses afloat during the nationwide shutdown, a healthy tax return might be more important than ever.

 

WHAT CAN I CLAIM?

"If you incur any extra expenses that relate to working from home, then you can claim a tax deduction from them provided you're not reimbursed by your employer," H&R Block director of tax communications Mark Chapman said.

So, the office basics such as a desk, chair, computer, cabinet and second computer screen are clearly taxable. But through the sheer nature of being home more, basic household items will need to be restocked more often.

Nearly all workplaces would have a cleaner and supply essentials such as toilet paper or dishwashing products. Therefore this increase in expenses at the grocery store can be included in your return, as can bills for electricity and internet.

Even Australian cricket captain Tim Payne has resorted to his home office. Picture: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images
Even Australian cricket captain Tim Payne has resorted to his home office. Picture: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

 

But Mr Chapman said it's important to remember you can only claim the portion that is used.

For instance, if your toilet paper supplies are needed to be increased by 30 per cent, then you can only claim that 30 per cent. The same can be applied to paying for a cleaner, if you're a lucky little Vegemite who can afford the luxury.

"There are a lot of things that are potentially claimable if you're working from home," Mr Chapman told news.com.au.

"Normally that stuff would be provided for you by your employer at the office, and now you have to buy this stuff yourself."

IS THERE AN EASIER FORMULA?

If piecing together your household product usage sounds worse than the office job you're forced to do from your lounge room, you can always lean on the Australian Taxation Office's standard working from home allowance which is 52 cents per hour.

"You don't have to worry about claiming proportions of this and that, you just claim the flat fee," the tax expert said.

"It generally produces a lower claim but there's a lot less hassle."

HOW LONG WILL IT TAKE TO WRITE OFF MY LAPTOP?

For purchases made towards your home office that are under $300, the entire amount can be written off in one tax return.

The strict social distancing measures have even closed playgrounds across the country. Picture: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images
The strict social distancing measures have even closed playgrounds across the country. Picture: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

 

But for more expensive items such as a laptop, it may take two to three years for the entire amount to be cleared through your claims.

REMEMBER YOUR DATES

Your work from home tax claims can only be applied for the portion of the year when the population was forced to retreat indoors. Which, for many, would be about three months.

"You need to keep a record of all the hours you're working from home," Mr Chapman said.

"You also need to work out how much from your home you're using to work from. So if you have an office set aside, what is the floor area of that office compared to the size of your house.

"Using those two figures, the amount of time you're working from home and the amount of your home that you're using, you can then come up with a percentage that relates to your work-related use.

"You then apply that percentage to all of your costs."

WHAT IF I LIVE IN A SHARE HOUSE?

For those living with a partner or a housemate who are also working from home, it's important to remember you can't double dip on tax returns.

For example, the internet and lights would be shared between the two or three residents so the tax can't be claimed twice.

FINAL ADVICE?

"The number one tip is to make sure you keep all the records that you need for this claim from now.

"So keep a diary of your working hours, make sure you're keeping all your receipts. Don't think you'll work it out at tax time and think you'll be able to remember everything.

"That never works; just be proactive and keep all your receipts from now."

Originally published as How to maximise your WFH tax refund



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