What can I claim after working from home during COVID-19?

At the start of the 2019–20 financial year, who could have predicted this tax season would look so incredibly different? The COVID-19 pandemic has affected more than just the health system — it’s had far-reaching consequences into our everyday lives and even our workplaces.

So, with so many Australians working from home for the past few months, what does that mean when it comes time to claim on your tax? The good news is you may be eligible for some serious tax breaks if you’ve been working from home. Let’s explore the finer details.

How and when to make a claim

There are a few different ways you can lodge your tax, as always. If you already use a tax agent, they’ll be able to take care of all your work-from-home (WFH) claims relative to COVID-19. If you prefer to do things on your own, you should be aware of what you may be able to can claim at the end of this financial year. Keep in mind that this is general information only and should not be taken as financial or tax advice. You should seek guidance from a tax advisor to ensure your circumstances are taken into account.

Here’s what you could be eligible to claim if you’ve worked from home during COVID-19 according to the Australian Taxation Office — some of them might just surprise you! Remember, though, that these items are claimable for a portion, not the entire cost. To work out what that portion should be, talk to your accountant or tax agent. It will depend on how much you use that item for work versus personal use. For example, you might claim that you use your mobile phone for work 30% of the time, and personal use 70% of the time. Speak to a tax expert for advice on how much you can claim in your situation.

1. Claim on your utility bills

You could claim for a portion of your electricity and gas bills (for all your heating, cooling and lighting needs during work hours) thanks to COVID-19 rules around working from home.

2. Phone and internet costs

If you use your phone and internet for work — and for most people, those are the two most-used items when you’re working from home –– then you may be able to make a claim on the bills for when you worked from your home.

3. Repairs for your home office

Using your own devices at home for work purposes (e.g. desk, chair, monitor, keyboard, mouse, phone and more) means you could make a claim against any required repairs.

4. Printer ink and office stationery

That’s right, even something as small (but expensive!) as printer ink is claimable. Similarly, a portion of all those pens, paper and other stationery supplies used for work can be claimed against.

5. Cleaning expenses for your home-office space

If you’ve worked from home before and made a claim for things in previous tax years, this one might have flown under your radar. Well now you know –– cleaning costs for your dedicated work area are claimable. Just make sure you have the receipts to prove it!

Tax time too much of a headache? There is a shortcut

If you can’t imagine spending hours poring over your last few months’ worth of bills just to make a tax claim, then you may want to consider using the shortcut method: you get to claim 80 cents for every hour worked from home from the period 1 March 2020 to 30 June 2020. That means a 10-hour day allows you to claim $8 per day you worked from home for a ‘COVID-hourly rate’–– just remember to keep a timesheet in case the ATO wants to conduct an audit!

The pandemic has affected all of our lives, but especially those who can no longer attend their workplace and had to set up a home office for the past few months. At least the taxman is making life a bit easier by allowing you to claim back a portion of your work-from-home costs.

No one could’ve predicted that our work lives would get turned upside down by COVID-19, just like you can never predict if an unexpected illness or injury could prevent you from working.

Working from home? Your home contains all your possessions and is somewhere you need to be able to feel secure, so it's important to find the right home and contents insurance to protect your home against unexpected damage or loss. Compare a range of home and contents insurance policies with Choosi today.

This article is an opinion only, provided for general information purposes and shouldn’t be considered or relied upon as professional or personal advice. If you have legal, tax, or financial questions, you should contact an appropriate professional.