ATO’s shortcut method could save you time and money if you are working from home

- May 7, 2021 3 MIN READ

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) is reminding people working remotely that the temporary shortcut method is still available to claim work from home deductions this year.

The shortcut method was introduced last year in response to the rapid rise of people working from home.

ATO says shortcut method the simplest way to claim

Assistant Commissioner Tim Loh said while many Australians have returned to workplaces over the past few months, many still continue to work remotely at least one or two days a week. To streamline their expense claims, Loh suggests using the shortcut method.

The working from home shortcut method allows claims at the all-inclusive rate of 80 cents per hour, rather than the need to calculate expenses for specific work items and requires little record keeping.

“The shortcut method is straight forward; just multiply the hours worked at home by 80 cents,” Mr Loh said. The only proof you need is a record of the number of hours you’ve worked from home, such as a timesheet.”

How to claim the shortcut

The temporary shortcut method can be claimed by multiple people living under the same roof and, unlike existing methods, does not require a dedicated work area.

The shortcut is all-inclusive. You can’t claim the shortcut and then claim for individual expenses such as telephone and internet costs and the decline in value of new office furniture or a laptop.

Taxpayers can still claim under the existing arrangements if they choose.

“If you decide to go with an existing method, I would encourage you to do your research and keep good records. Keeping track of each individual expense and calculating the work-related use of each one can be fiddly so be organised. So, make sure you’ve read the guidance on our website or chat to your registered tax agent”, Loh said.

Using the shortcut…don’t claim these expenses

If you chose to claim your working from home expenses through the fixed rate or actual cost methods, remember you still can’t claim:

Personal expenses like coffee, tea and toilet paper. While they might normally be supplied by your employer, they still aren’t directly related to earning your income.

Expenses related to your child’s education, such as online learning courses or laptops

Large expenses up-front. Any asset that costs over $300 (either in total or per item), such as a computer, can’t be claimed immediately. Instead, these claims should be spread out over a number of years

Employees generally can’t claim occupancy expenses such as rent, mortgage interest, property insurance, land taxes and rates. Working from home does not mean your home is a place of business for tax purposes.  If you claim occupancy expenses, you may have to pay capital gains tax when you sell your home, even if it is your main residence.

Other ways to claim

You can choose one of three ways to calculate your additional running expenses for this tax time:

  • claim a rate of 80 cents per work hour at home for all your working from home expenses;
  • claim a rate of 52 cents per work hour at home for the heating, cooling, lighting and cleaning of your dedicated work area and the decline in value of office furniture and furnishings. Then calculate the work-related portion of your telephone and internet expenses, computer consumables, stationery and the decline in value of a computer, laptop or similar device.
  • claim the actual work-related portion of all your running expenses, which needs to be calculated on a reasonable basis.

Remember, to claim any work-related expense, you must have spent the money yourself and not been reimbursed, the expense must be directly related to earning income (not a private expense), and you must have kept any necessary records (a receipt is best).

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