A normal financial year sees $10 billion in unclaimed expenses at tax time. Thanks to the coronavirus, this is set to soar.

Australians could miss out on billions of dollars this tax time.
  • Australians are heading for an atypical tax time after COVID-19 saw millions of people work from home.
  • This year, there is expected to be a surge in deductions as workers claim everything from COVID-19 protective clothing to home office gear.
  • The ATO has encouraged Australians to take their time completing their return and consider using the “shortcut method”.
  • Visit Business Insider Australia’s homepage for more stories.

Millions of Australians are about to encounter a tax return unlike any other.

This year there is expected to be a surge in deductions as workers claim everything from COVID-19 protective clothing to home office gear. Billions, meanwhile, could be left unclaimed as workers forget to include them in their tax return.

A survey conducted by Officeworks – one of the major beneficiaries of the woking from home trend – found that one in three Australians are still at their dining room table instead of their office cubicle.

With half of those workers splashing out more than $100 to bring their home office up to speed, the ATO expects the number of deductions to soar this year.

A normal financial year produces $10 billion in unclaimed expenses. This tax time could see it climb even higher, given just one in six Australians claims to have a good understanding of their tax return, according to Officeworks’ research.

In anticipation of this, the ATO has introduced a “shortcut method” to cover extra deductions and split them between households.

“If you use the shortcut method, all you need to do is keep a record of the hours you worked from home as evidence of your claim,” ATO Assistant Commissioner Karen Foat said in a statement. “But it is all-inclusive, meaning you can’t claim for any other working from home expenses.”

Healthcare, retail and hospitality workers, meanwhile, may have a whole host of new claims to make this year.

“Taxpayers working in jobs that require physical contact or close proximity with customers or clients during COVID-19 measures may be able to claim a deduction for items such as gloves, face masks, sanitiser or anti-bacterial spray if they have paid for the items and not been reimbursed,” Foat said.

There is, of course, another group likely to have a very different kind of tax time, as COVID-19 sees real unemployment enter double-digits.

“With more people working from home, working reduced hours or unfortunately not working at all, we expect to see claims for laundry expenses or travel expenses decline this year,” Foat said.

One in two Australians is expected to have lost income due to COVID-19, with 41% working reduced hours.

Those stood down are advised to check that any lump payments or redundancy packages have been paid out correctly. One-off or regular payments for stood down workers for example are still taxable.

No matter your situation, if you have any queries, the ATO advises you check its website for new information or contact a tax agent for more complicated circumstances.

Disclaimer: This article contains general information only and is not intended to be used as personal advice.


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