Travel Between Home and Work - Bulky Tools and Equipment

(last updated 28/04/2014)

Related Posts:
Tax Warning - Travel relating to transporting bulky or heavy tools and equipment is on the ATO's 2014 hit list - see our post ATO's 2014 Hit List of Tax Deductions.

Travel Between Home and Work - Allowable Tax Deduction When Transporting Bulky Tool and or Equipment

A deduction is allowable if the travel relates to the transportation of bulky equipment rather than to private travel between home and work, and is supported by case law.

In order to establish that the deduction is allowable, the employee's circumstances must meet two tests:
  1. demonstrate that the tools and or equipment is bulky and;
  2. it must be established that the workplace is not secure enough to store the tools and or equipment outside of working hours.
If the tools and or equipment are transported to and from work as a matter of convenience or personal choice, it is considered that the transport costs are private and no deduction is allowable.

Examples Where Travel Between Home and Work is an Allowable Tax Deduction

Building and construction worker claiming for car expenses:
  • Allowable  -  Charlie, a bricklayer, uses his car to travel to the work site each day in order to transport his trowels, levels, lines, hammer, mortar boards and other equipment. There is no secure place on site for storage of these items. Because of the bulk of this equipment, Charlie would be entitled to claim a deduction for his car expenses.
  • Allowable - Fred, a bricklayer, usually leaves his bulky tools and equipment in a secure area at the work site. His employer requires him to go to a different site the next day, so he takes the tools and equipment home . The cost of Fred's travel home and to the work site the next day is an allowable deduction as it can be attributed to the transport of bulky equipment.
  • Not Allowable -  Geoffrey, a builder's labourer, carries only his steel-capped boots to work in his car. Geoffrey's car expenses are private as his travel from home to work is not attributable to carrying bulky equipment.
Teacher claiming for car expenses:
  • Allowable - On a particular day, Belinda, an employee drama teacher, drives from home to her regular school with bulky props and costumes needed for the school play. She is entitled to a deduction for her travelling costs. Her travel that day relates to getting the costumes, and not herself, to work. 
  •  Allowable - On Saturday afternoon, the school rugby union team plays a competition match at the sporting field located on the school's grounds. As part of his duties as a coach, Winston collects several players on the trip from home to the sporting field. After the match, he then takes the players home and continues his journey home. The teacher is entitled to a deduction for the cost of travel between his home and the sporting field. The cost is an allowable deduction in this circumstance because it is attributable to the transport of the players rather than to his travel to and from home. 
  • Not Allowable - Maureen is employed at the same school where her children and the neighbour's children are students. As a matter of convenience, she transports the children to and from school. The travel is attributed to her relationship to the children and not to the transport of the students in the course of producing assessable income. The cost of this travel is not an allowable deduction. 
  • Not Allowable - An employee teacher is not entitled to a deduction for transport costs if, as a matter of convenience, work is performed at home and items such as papers, books and material (whether bulky or not) are transported between home and work for that purpose. In Case Q1 83 ATC 1; (1983) 26 CTBR (NS) Case 65 , the use of a car by a school principal in these circumstances was treated as private use as it was travel from home to the place of employment. 
Sales Representative claiming for car expenses:
  • Allowable - Mchael is a sales representative who keeps bulky carpet samples in his car. Michael carries the samples each day to work and often visits customers while travelling to and from work. Because of the bulk of the carpet samples, Charlie would be entitled to claim a deduction for his car expenses.
  • Not Allowable - Sue is a sales manager who uses a laptop computer in the office and when she visits clients. She carries the computer to and from work in her car. As the computer is not considered bulky equipment she cannot claim a deduction for her travel costs to and from work.
Cleaner claiming for car expenses:
  • Allowable - Charlie is an employee cleaner who uses his car to travel to his work place each day in order to transport a vacuum cleaner, polisher, mop and bucket. There is no secure place at his work place for the storage of his equipment. Because of the bulk of this equipment a deduction is allowable for Charlie's car expenses. 
  • Not Allowable - Geoffrey, an employee cleaner, carries only his overalls to work in his car. Geoffrey's car expenses are private as his travel from home to work is not attributable to carrying bulky equipment. 

Travel Between Home and Work - When it is Not an Allowable Tax Deduction

Travel between home and work, and performance of incidental tasks en route, is generally not an allowable tax deduction because it is considered a private expense. The ATO contends, supported by case law, that travel between home and work puts a worker in a position to perform work duties, rather than in the performance of those duties.

The same principle applies where an employee:

  • required to have a car available at work
  • used their car because there is no public transport
  • is required to travel to work outside normal working hours.
I saw an example of this principle some years ago where a miss guided accountant claimed a deduction for travel between home and work for meat workers based on the premise that transport of knives was illegal on public transport. The ATO didn't agree and all the accountant's meat worker clients received adjustment notices.

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