Civil servants are known more for their leisurely processing speeds and cheap nylon shirts than they are for fashion. However, the wall of bureaucracy is now set to crash down upon Australia’s overdressed citizenry, who have made a habit of claiming upwards of $1.5 billion dollars a year in ‘uniform’ expenses.
The problem is, according to ATO stats, there’s no way that many Aussies work in a profession that qualifies them for a uniform claim. In fact, unless you are a tradie or a chef, any ‘uniform’ claim you have previously made has probably been illicit.
But that hasn’t stopped Sydney’s overdressed office workers from trying to claim their Patagonia jackets and wireless headphones, nor Melbourne’s hipster-baristas from trying to get a rebate on their monthly ASOS order of black t-shirts (head on over to the ATO’s website if you don’t believe us; these are both illegal claims).
As the Sydney Morning Herald reported yesterday, “Six million Aussies claimed a whopping $1.5 billion in clothing deductions last year — a figure that would mean one in two taxpayers must wear specific uniforms or protective gear to work.”
However, “You only really need to look around the people that you know to know it’s not half the population that can claim, ATO assistant commissioner Karen Foat told the SMH.
“It’s pretty rare that anyone in an office would have a legitimate claim.”
She then said that “clothing and laundry” claims have been targeted by the ATO ever since $1.8 billion was claimed in 2017.
“We’ve seen people who are stockbrokers claiming for their suits — their everyday suits,” she added, explaining that for something to be tax deductible “it has to be occupation-specific… like a chef’s outfit, or protective, like steel-capped boots.”
Another point of confusion is the hospitality industry, where you can claim for a “full outfit” with distinctive markings or logos, but not for a pair of jeans and a black shirt (the ubiquitous, non-claimable uniform of most cafes in the country).
“To qualify for a deduction,” the SMH added, “You must have also spent the money (or done or paid for the laundry) yourself and not been reimbursed at work.”
Feeling guilty about outsourcing all your dry cleaning? You’re not alone.
“One quarter of these ($1.5 billion in) claims sit right at $150, which is the threshold at which you have to provide a receipt.”
Sound like you? This is what you could be up for.
“If we find that people are actually misleading us on purpose, then penalties can be applied,” Ms Foat told the SMH.
How much exactly?
“Fines vary depending on the individual case.”
Seems worth the risk. I mean: watch yourself. The ATO is as slow-moving as fashion is fickle. But once you get their attention they pursue like Ramsay Bolton’s bloodthirsty hounds.
Don’t believe us? Just ask Paul Hogan. So dress how you like — just don’t claim your Yeezy’s at EOFY.