ATO targets Real Estate employees in 2011

The Tax Office has Real Estate employees in their sights in 2011. So it’s more important than ever for these workers to know exactly what they can claim for and what records they need to keep before lodging their tax returns this year.

Tracey Collins, from Personal Tax Specialists, says “the Tax Office has decided to target Real Estate employees because of the high amount of work related expenses they claim compared to other occupations. In particular they will be reviewing claims for motor vehicle and travel expenses as well as home office, mobile phone and internet expenses”.

But just because the Tax Office is targeting your occupation this year, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t claim any deductions in your tax return. But you should be careful.

Tracey says “it is important that you continue to claim for legitimate work expenses, because the Tax Office will be looking closely at people whose deductions change significantly from last year. Just make sure you don’t claim for expenses that are not allowable or that you don’t have the records to prove.”

To help Real Estate employees working in sales or management, who are not sure what they can claim or what records they need to keep, Tracey has provided a summary of the key areas the Tax Office will be checking in 2011.

Motor vehicle expenses

Real estate employees can claim for using their car to:

  • Travel to potential clients’ properties for inspections and valuations
  • Travel to inspect properties with potential purchasers or renters
  • Travel to inspect properties managed by the agency
  • Travel to organise repairs to properties managed by the agency
  • Travel to install signage at properties for lease or for sale
  • Travel to take photos of properties for marketing
  • Travel to deliver marketing materials such as flyers or letterbox drops
  • Travel to attend training courses, conferences and workshops
  • Travel to attend meetings
  • Travel to pick up supplies for work

The records you will need to keep will depend on the type of vehicle you own and the number of kilometres you travel during the year. At the very least, if you only occassionally use your car for work travel, you should keep a diary record of all of these trips. If you use your car every day for work you should keep receipts for all of your car expenses and also keep a log book for at least three months during the year to prove the work related proportion of your car usage. These records will be required even if you receive a car allowance from your employer.

Travel expenses

Travel expenses, including public transport, airfares, tolls, parking fees or car hire costs, can be claimed:

  • To travel for any purpose listed under motor vehicle expenses above

Accomodation and/or meal expenses can also be claimed, but only when:

  • You stay away overnight to attend training courses and conferences
  • You stay away overnight for any work purpose
  • You receive an overtime meal allowance from your employer

You must keep receipts for all of your travel costs to prove your claims.

Home office expenses

If you need to complete any work at home, e.g. if you are studying, have to do paperwork, update websites, contact clients by phone or email, you can claim:

  • The extra cost of heating, cooling and lighting you have to pay because you work from home
  • The cost of office furniture, including desk, chair and filing cabinets
  • The cost of computer equipment, including laptop, printer and scanner

Rather than having to keep receipts, the Tax Office allows you to claim 34c for every hour you work at home. This covers the cost of electricity and gas and the purchase of office furniture. You will need to keep a diary for at least four weeks each year to show how you calculated the number of hours you work from home. If you also want to claim for computer equipment, you will need to keep receipts for these items.

Mobile phone expenses

If you use your mobile phone for work, you can claim:

  • The cost of any work related phone calls
  • The cost of any phone calls related to your training courses
  • The phone rental cost if you are required to be on call or if your employer requires you to carry a mobile phone

You will need to keep all of your itemised phone bills or if you use a prepaid phone you should keep all of your recharge vouchers. You will also need to keep a diary record for at least four weeks, showing the number of work or study calls you made and received, to prove your claim.

Internet expenses

If you use the internet for your work, e.g. to send and receive emails, conduct research, or to complete your training courses, you can claim:

  • The work related portion of your monthly account

You will need to keep a diary record for at least four weeks, showing the number of hours you spend on the internet for work and how many hours you, and all of your family members, use the internet for personal use. You can then claim the proportion that relates to your work as a tax deduction.

These are only a few of the tax deductions that Real Estate employees can claim. For a complete list of the work related expenses, have a look at the Personal Tax Specialists’ website http://personaltaxspecialists.com.au/what-deductions-can-you-claim or contact Personal Tax Specialists Pty Ltd (admin@personaltaxspecialists.com.au or 1300 335 675) to get help with preparing your tax return this year.

As long as you know exactly what you are allowed to claim, you fill in your tax return correctly and you have kept the proper records, then you shouldn’t have anything to worry about.

Tracey Collins, for the Personal Tax Specialists team

Personal Tax Specialists Pty Ltd
Your time and tree friendly tax accountants

Phone 1300 335 675 – Email admin@personaltaxspecialists.com.au
www.personaltaxspecialists.com.au