tax help with back to school costs

PLEASE NOTE: This benefit is no longer available (as from the 2011-12 year)

Getting your kids ready for school each year is always expensive. So to help relieve some of the burden, the government have implemented the Education Tax Refund scheme.

Tracey Collins, from Personal Tax Specialists, says there are a few ‘catches’, but provided you are eligible for the education tax refund it can save you hundreds of dollars on your back to school costs each year.

To be eligible, you must receive Family Tax Benefit Part A for your children or they must receive Youth Allowance (or a similar payment), your child must attend primary or secondary school and you must keep receipts for all of your childrens’ eligible education expenses.

Once you satisfy the eligibility criteria, you can receive a refund this year (2011) of up to $397 for each primary school child and $794 for each secondary school child.

So how does it work?

  • For every dollar you spend on eligible education expenses you will receive a refund of 50c (up to the maximum for each child) when you lodge your annual tax return. If you don’t need to lodge a tax return, Tracey says that you can still make a claim for your education expenses in July each year and receive your refund directly from the Tax Office.
  • Eligible education expenses include:

√ home computers and laptops

√ computer equipment, such as printers, scanners, USBs, disability aids for computers for students with special needs

√ computer repairs and maintenance

√ home internet connections

√ computer software (for educational use), including anti-virus and internet filter software

√ textbooks, study guides, stationery (pens, pencils, paper, ink, geometry sets, calculators, glue, exercise books, folders, highlighters etc) and related learning materials

√ trade tools for secondary school trade courses (eg metal work, hospitality)

  • Expenses that are NOT currently eligible include:

× School fees

× School uniforms (although this may change from 1 July 2011, so keep your receipts anyway)

× Tutoring costs

× Excursion costs

× Sporting equipment and musical instruments

× School subject levies

× Transport costs

× Computer games and consoles

  • Where more than one child uses an item (such as a computer or the internet connection) the cost can be split between them, so you can maximise your refund
  • There is also no need to deduct the private use of an item when claiming for education expenses, so if you purchase a new computer for your children and they use it for school work and for playing games or surfing the internet, you can claim 100% of the cost (unless you claim a tax deduction for any part of the cost, then that part can’t be included)
  • If your child starts primary school this year, then you will be entitled to 50% of the education tax refund for that child (so up to $199 this year)
  • But where a child goes from primary school into secondary school this year, you are able to claim the maximum for a secondary school student for the whole year (so up to $794 this year)
  • If you spend more than the maximum allowed in any year, you are able to carry forward the excess to be claimed in the next year.

So the best advice, Tracey says, is to keep receipts for all of the items you buy your kids for school, both now and throughout the school year, and then when it comes time to make your claim you will maximise your refund.

For help with maximising your educational tax refund or preparing your personal tax return, contact Personal Tax Specialists Pty Ltd on 1300 335 675, email: info@personaltaxspecialists.com.au or www.personaltaxspecialists.com.au.

Tracey Collins, for the Personal Tax Specialists team

About Personal Tax Specialists
• Offers personal tax returns for investors and people working in professional occupations
• Specialises in preparing tax returns for: the defence force, nurses, police, ambulance & emergency services, travel consultants, airline industry, real estate, rental property owners and share investors
• Established in 2009 by tax professionals Tracey Collins and Christine Snelson

Personal Tax Specialists Pty Ltd

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