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How to make your 2020 tax return simpler

  • June 12 2020
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How to make your 2020 tax return simpler

By Cameron Micallef
June 12 2020

The ATO believes tax time does not need to be overly complex this financial year, issuing a raft of changes to make it easier for Australians to get their return.

make your 2020 tax return simpler

How to make your 2020 tax return simpler

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  • June 12 2020
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The ATO believes tax time does not need to be overly complex this financial year, issuing a raft of changes to make it easier for Australians to get their return.

make your 2020 tax return simpler

Assistant commissioner Karen Foat said the ATO has a range of different approaches to support taxpayers and the community through this tax time.

“We know many of our clients and their agents will have questions about how different types of income and expenses may affect their obligations this year. We’re helping to make sure people know how to get it right.

“We have published information on our website to help you get it right when lodging this year, including the ‘Tax Time Essentials’ page, which is a one-stop shop for the things that are a little different this year and how they impact your return,” the ATO said.

The Tax Office has given advice for Australians in five different scenarios:

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  • Working-from-home expenses

The ATO has announced a shortcut method to Australian taxpayers who are looking to claim working-from-home expenses this financial year. 

Taxpayers can choose one of three methods to claim working-from-home expenses, with the ATO’s shortcut method being 80 cents an hour for individuals working from home.

It covers all deductible expenses and can be used by multiple people working from home in the same house. People claiming their working-from-home expenses using the shortcut method should include the amount at the “other work-related expenses” question in your tax return and include “COVID-hourly rate” as the description.

“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. But it is all inclusive, meaning you can’t claim for any other working-from-home expenses,” Ms Foat said.

  • Protective clothing

Another deduction some people might be claiming due to COVID-19 is expenses for protective items required for work.

“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. This includes industries like healthcare, retail and hospitality,” Ms Foat said.

  • Those wanting to claim travel from home to work

Despite changes to how Australians are getting around, taxpayers are being advised that they still cannot claim travelling from home to work. 

“Generally, most people cannot claim the cost of travelling to and from work and working from home as a result of COVID-19 does not change this. For example, if you are working from home because of COVID-19 but need to go to your regular office one day per week, your home to work travel is still private travel and cannot be claimed,” Ms Foat said.

  • Reduce claims that aren’t relevant for part of the year

Ms Foat reminds taxpayers that it is important to only claim actual expenses. With more people working from home, working reduced hours or unfortunately not working at all, they expect to see claims for laundry expenses or travel expenses to decline this year. 

“If you aren’t travelling for work, you can’t claim travel expenses. If you aren’t wearing your work uniform, you can’t claim laundry expenses. It’s still important to meet the three golden rules: you must have spent the money and not have been reimbursed, it must relate directly to earning your income, and you must have a record to prove it.

“What you can claim really depends on your circumstances. While we are trying to make it easier for people to claim what they are entitled to, we are also asking people to take a bit of extra care if their circumstances have changed this year,” Ms Foat said.

  • JobKeeper and JobSeeker

Taxpayers who have received JobKeeper payments from their employer don’t need to do anything different. The payments will be included as salary and wages and/or allowances in their regular income statement, which their employer provides directly to the ATO. 

“Your income statement can be accessed via myGov, and the information is automatically included into your tax return by the end of July. If you use a tax agent, they also have access to this information. The figures in your income statement should already include any JobKeeper you have received. If you aren’t sure, check with your employer.

“Sole traders who have received the JobKeeper payment on behalf of their business will need to include the payments as assessable income for the business.

“If you have received JobSeeker, the ATO will also load this information into your tax return at the ‘Government Payments and Allowances’ question once it’s ready. If you are lodging before this information is included for you, you will need to make sure you include it. Leaving out income can slow your return down or result in a bill later so it’s definitely best avoided.”


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About the author

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Cameron is a journalist for Momentum Media's nestegg and Smart Property Investment. He enjoys giving Aussies practical financial tips and tricks to help grow their wealth and achieve financial independence. As a self-confessed finance nerd, Cameron enjoys chatting with industry experts and commentators to leverage their insights to grow your portfolio.

About the author

Cameron is a journalist for Momentum Media's nestegg and Smart Property Investment. He enjoys giving Aussies practical financial tips and tricks to help grow their wealth and achieve financial independence. As a self-confessed finance nerd, Cameron enjoys chatting with industry experts and commentators to leverage their insights to grow your portfolio.

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