Small Business Tax

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Kofi Annan, the recently departed former secretary-general of the United Nations and one of the recipients of the 2001 Nobel Peace Prize, had this to say about education: “Education is the premise of progress, in every society, in every family”. Nelson Mandela too had nothing but good things to say about education in general: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

Dig through any of the great minds in history and they’d be mostly in agreement that education is important. All of these sentiments are great but they fail to mention the one key factor in education, teachers. Being a teacher is a thankless and often costly job. In 2014 alone, teachers from New South Wales spent almost $2,000 of their own money to pay for school essentials. Teachers can’t always rely on financial or tax advisor due to their limited budget even though those people might be able to help them in managing their finances.

Tax tips for teachers

The truth is, teachers have numerous tax deductions available to them but since teaching as an occupation can regularly last long past the last bell and even into the weekends, they don’t always have the time to explore these deductions. The alternative is to get the assistance of a professional but again, budgetary concerns mean that that’s now always an option. In light of this, here are some common tax tips and deductions for teachers to help you get started.

Deduction for teaching supplies

Schools go through the same motions every year and there’s always a possibility that the teaching aids you’re using right now was used for the same purpose last year and is going to be used again next year. In other words, they’re hand-me-downs that will only be replaced one they stop working. The problem is, schools operate on a strict budget, which is one of the reasons why teachers often use their own money to pay for school essentials.

The good thing is, these expenses are deductible and as long as they’re used for work and are not reimbursed by the school. This category runs the gamut from simple stationery and class handouts to musical instruments, art supplies and educational computer programs.

Home office expenses

As has been mentioned before, it’s not uncommon for teachers to bring their work home after hours and sometimes well into the weekends. Creating a lesson plan or grading papers don’t have to be done at school, in fact, given how hectic the school atmosphere can be, doing those at home might just be more productive. Whenever these things happen, teachers should properly document just how long they took their time off to work.

The reason is, it is possible for teachers to use those documents as a basis to claim deductions on home office expenses, even if they don’t have a dedicated home office. Things like computer usage, internet costs and depreciation for desks can be claimed as deductions. The ATO has a tool to help you calculate these expenses.

Self-education and professional expenses

If you are enrolled in a course or applying for any kind of certification that is relevant to your current teaching role, the fees for those courses are eligible for deductions. Additionally, if you purchase any books or subscribe to technical publications that are relevant to your role, those expenses are also deductible. Membership fees to any relevant professional organization are also deductible.

Extraneous costs from field trips

Playing chaperone for kids outside of school can be daunting, not to mention costly. Accommodation and meals are usually covered by school but for any other incidental costs that aren’t, you can claim those as deductions. For small excursions that aren’t planned that far ahead, any expenses are also deductible.

One last thing to note, always keep a receipt for every single one of your purchases. Home office expenses can be claimed without a receipt but for other expenses, you’re going to need them. Generally though, it’s always in your best interest to be diligent with your bookkeeping. The ATO has been rather strict in enforcing deductions claim lately and any claims that are deemed to be above average will warrant a closer look from the ATO.


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