Despite our reliance on AirPods and Uber, Australia’s identity is still rooted in outdoor adventure. However, if this year’s outlandish ATO claims are anything to go by, we’re now a nation of lavish wedding cakes, stupidly expensive pre-schools and high-tech toys more than we are of Akubras and jolly swagmen.
As the ABC reported on Tuesday, “Almost 700,000 taxpayers claimed about $2 billion of ‘other’ expenses in the 2017 financial year, including non-allowable items such as a wedding, dental costs, child care, gambling losses, beer, and a Lego set, according to the Australian Taxation Office.”
“Assistant commissioner Karen Foat said a recent review of claims had found, and disallowed, the bulk of the ‘very unusual expenses’ claimed.”
“We do see a whole host of weird and wonderful claims,” Ms Foat told the ABC, adding, “it is concerning to us that 88 per cent of them [the 700,000 claims worth $2 billion for ‘other’ expenses] needed to be adjusted.”
She then said the ATO had seen an increase in the total value of claims when compared to ‘other’ deductions.
“The total value of claims has increased by 13 per cent over three financial years: from $1.74 billion in 2015, to $1.87 billion in 2016, to $1.97 billion in 2017.”
This all adds up. Which means government spending on essential community services may have reduced in recent years not only because of budget cuts but also because of your indulgent claiming of items like “essential” work clothes (for which there have been tax return requests to the tune of $1.5 billion).
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Foat also told the ABC the ATO believes illegitimate claims made by individuals have resulted in a $8.7 billion tax gap. To counter this, she revealed, the ATO have imposed a system of penalties to anyone found rorting the system, with guilty parties to be charged “anywhere between 25 per cent to 75 per cent of the shortfall amount” for making a false claim.
As for the most bizarre claims they have seen this year, $4,000 for a wedding comes up trumps (“we have also seen a previous example where a taxpayer tried to claim wedding expenses of approximately $58,000, claiming this was in relation to a work-related overseas conference,” Foat told the ABC) setting the tone for the rest.
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The rest included dental expenses (because, and we quote, having a nice smile is “essential to finding a job”), Lego sets bought as gifts, $20,000 being claimed for having twins (“the cost of raising a newborn is expensive”) and — our personal favourite — a man who claimed giving his old car to his mum as a “charitable deduction.”
Needless to say, they were all rejected, along with gambling losses, the costs of a daughter’s first birthday, a phone bill for calling parents, childcare costs, child support payments, private school fees, health insurance and medical expenses, “all of which are not allowable,” (ABC).
The takeaway? Spend your dough on adult braces and destination weddings if you like, but don’t expect the ATO to be enamoured by your easy-going smile.