Tax Deductions For Police Officers

(last updated 01/05/2014)

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If you are a police officer, here is a checklist of the tax deductions you may be able to claim on your personal tax return.

TAX WARNING - The ATO considers the following expenses are NOT deductible:
  • Conventional clothing - "Plain Clothes" police officers are not able to claim the costs of conventional clothing used in their work. 
  • Club membership - A deduction is not allowable for club membership fees.
  • Relocation expenses - A deduction is not allowable for storage, removal and depreciation expenses incurred by police officers when transferring from one district to another.

Allowable Deductions Specific to Police Officers

  • Ammunition - Police officers are issued with ammunition in the normal course of duty. They may also attend official testing courses or train during their own time to improve firearm proficiency, but only sufficient practice rounds are issued to enable them to maintain their validation for operational purposes. The cost of additional ammunition purchased by police officers for work-related training purposes is an allowable deduction.
  • Bulletproof jacket/vest or body armour -  A deduction is allowable for the cost of lightweight bulletproof jackets/vests or soft body armours bought for work, as they are considered to be protective equipment.
  • Conventional clothing (undercover Police Officers) - A deduction may be allowable for the cost of additional clothing bought by police officers who are required to perform undercover work. For a deduction to be allowable, the police officer will have to establish that there is a sufficient nexus between his or her income-earning activities and the expenses incurred (Taxation Ruling TR 94/22).
  • Equestrian equipment - A deduction is allowable to Mounted Police officers who purchase additional equestrian equipment or protective gear (e.g., back protectors, knee and shin pads), boot pullers and boot trees, that are work related.
  • First aid course - A deduction is allowable if it is necessary for a police officer, as a designated first aid person, to undertake first aid training. If the cost of the course is met by the employer, or is reimbursed to the police officer, no deduction is allowable.
  • Fitness Expenses - Although generally not allowable, fitness expenses will be allowable where a police officer's income-earning activities involves strenuous physical activities on a regular basis. For example, members of special emergency squads, a diving squad, and police officers who work regularly with police dogs and train them, may be able to demonstrate that their income-producing activities demand a high level of physical fitness. Similarly, Police Academy physical training instructors may be able to prove that fitness expenses they incur are directly related to their income-producing activities.
  • Guns and related equipment -  These items are normally supplied and replaced by the Police Department. A deduction is allowable for the cost of additional and/or more sophisticated equipment used for income-earning purposes.
  • Pistol club membership -  A deduction is allowable for membership fees paid to the Federal Police pistol clubs. A deduction is not allowable for membership fees paid to other pistol clubs
  • Licences and certificates - A deduction is allowable for the cost of renewing licences and certificates held by a police officer in respect of his or her employment. A deduction is not allowable for the cost of obtaining the initial licence or certificate.
  • Police dogs -  A deduction is allowable for expenses incurred in maintaining and training police dogs.

When Can Police Officers Claim Car Expenses?

Our experience with police officers is they often, if not always, use there private car for work. In many cases those work related car expenses are an allowable deduction.

Transport or car expenses include public transport fares and the running costs associated with using motor vehicles, motor cycles, bicycles, etc., for work-related travel. Following is a brief checklist of car expenses specifically for police officers - see 4 ways of Claiming Car Expenses for the different methods of claiming car expenses.
  • Travel between home and work - A deduction is generally not allowable for the cost of travel between home and the normal work place as it is generally considered to be a private expense. This principle is not altered by the performance of incidental tasks en route.
  • Travel between home and work - transporting bulky equipment - A deduction is allowable if the transport expenses can be attributed to the transportation of bulky equipment rather than to private travel between home and work. A deduction is not allowable if the equipment is transported to and from work by the police officers as a matter of convenience. A deduction is not allowable if a secure area for the storage of equipment is provided at the workplace - see this post for more details Travel Between Home and Work with Bulky Tools and Equipment.
  • Travel from the site security gate to parking area -  A tax deduction is NOT allowable for this travel as the ATO considers it as part of your normal travel from home to work. An exception to this would apply if you transport bulky tools and or equipment as discussed above.
  • Travel between home and work where home is a base of operations and work is commenced at home - A deduction is allowable for transport expenses if they can be attributed to travelling on work, as distinct from travelling to work, i.e., where the police officers home is used as a base of operations and his or her work has commenced before leaving home.
  • Travel between home and shifting places of work - A deduction is allowable for the transport expenses incurred in travelling between home and shifting places of work, where the police officers is required by the nature of the job itself to do the job in more than one place. The mere fact that a police officers may choose to do part of the job in a place separate from that where the job is located, is not enough.
  • Travel between two separate work places if there are two separate employers involved - A deduction is allowable for the cost of travelling directly between two places of employment.
  • Travel from the normal work place to an alternate work place while still on duty and back to the normal work place or directly home - A deduction is allowable for the cost of travel from the normal work place to other work places. A deduction is also allowable for the cost of travel from the alternate work place back to the normal work place or directly home. This travel is undertaken in the course of gaining assessable income and is an allowable deduction.
  • Travel from home to an alternate work place for work-related purposes and then to the normal work place or directly home - A deduction is allowable for the cost of travel from home to an alternate work place and then on to the normal work place or directly home.
  • Travel between two places of employment or between a place of employment and a place of business - A deduction is allowable for the cost of travel directly between two places of employment or a place of employment and a place of business, provided that the travel is undertaken for the purpose of carrying out income-earning activities.
  • Travel in connection with self education  - See Self education. 

What Car Expenses Can Police Officers Claim?

  • The cost of using your own car for work, including travel to attend meetings, attend training courses, pick up supplies and driving between or around job sites (to claim for car costs it is usually best to keep a diary record of the number of kilometres you travel during the year for work purposes and then we can calculate the amount of your tax deduction at the end of the year)  - see Claiming Work Related Car Expenses.
  • The cost of parking, tolls, taxis and public transport if you are required to travel to attend seminars, meetings and training courses not held at your usual place of work (if you need to stay away overnight you can also claim for the cost of all meals and your accommodation)  
  • The cost of bridge and road tolls paid while driving between your depot and your client’s depot (but NOT while driving to and from work)
  • You can claim the cost of using your own car to travel to and from work, BUT only if you are required to carry bulky tools and equipment for your work AND there is no secure area to leave these items on site overnight.

How Can Police Officers Claim Car Expenses

The following is a checklist of the 4 different methods of claiming motor vehicle or car expenses:

Meals and Overnight Travel Away From Home

 It is not common for police officers to travel to travel away from home. If you do, the following is a summary with links on what can be claimed as a tax deduction:
  • Overnight Travel Away From Home - the cost of buying overtime meals when you work overtime, provided you have been paid an allowance by your employer. Providing the deduction for overtime meals does not exceed the ATO's reasonable allowance, substantiation is not required - for the current rate see Claiming Overtime Meal Allowance.
  • Overtime Meal Allowances - the cost of buying overtime meals when you work overtime, provided you have been paid an allowance by your employer per meal without having to keep any receipts, provided you can show how you have calculated the amount you spent - the ATO determines a yearly "reasonable" amount you can claim without substantiation - see the following post for the rate applicable to the current financial year - Claiming Overtime Meal Allowance.

Keeping Records for Overnight Travel

The following tables explain what records you need if you are claiming domestic or overseas travel expenses for accommodation, food, drink or incidentals.
If you did not receive a travel allowance:

Domestic travel
Overseas travel
Written evidence
Travel diary
Written evidence
Travel diary
Travel less than 6 nights in a row
Yes
No
Yes
No
Travel 6 or more nights in a row
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes

If you received a travel allowance and your claim does not exceed the reasonable allowance amount:

Domestic travel
Overseas travel
Written evidence
Travel diary
Written evidence
Travel diary
Travel less than 6 nights in a row
No
No
No*
No
Travel 6 or more nights in a row
No
No
No*
Yes
*Regardless of the length of the trip, written evidence is required for overseas accommodation expenses but not for food, drink and incidentals
If you received a travel allowance and your claim exceeds the reasonable allowance amount:

Domestic travel
Overseas travel
Written evidence
Travel diary
Written evidence
Travel diary
Travel less than 6 nights in a row
Yes
No
Yes
No
Travel 6 or more nights in a row
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes

Work Clothing  

A deduction is allowable for the cost of buying, renting or replacing clothing, uniforms and footwear ('clothing') if:
  • the clothing is protective in nature
  • the clothing is a compulsory uniform and satisfies the requirements of Taxation Ruling IT 2641 - for example corporate wardrobe
  • expenditure on shoes, socks and stockings is essentially of a private nature and, even when these items are worn at the request of the employer, their cost will only be deductible in limited circumstances. To qualify for deduction, the items must firstly form an integral part of a distinctive and compulsory uniform the components of which are set out by the employer in its expressed uniform policy or guidelines. In addition, the employer's uniform policy or guidelines should stipulate the characteristics of the shoes, socks and stockings that qualify them as being a distinctive part of the compulsory uniform, e.g., colour, style, type, etc. The wearing of the uniform must also be strictly and consistently enforced, with breaches of the uniform policy giving rise to disciplinary action. It is only in strict compulsory uniform regimes that expenditure on shoes, socks and stockings is likely to be regarded as work-related rather than private in nature
  • the clothing is a non-compulsory uniform or wardrobe that has been entered on the Register of Approved Occupational Clothing of the TCFDA. Details of registered corporate wardrobes can be obtained either from your employer or from the Department of Industry directly on 03 9268 7944. NOTE, there is no longer a public register available on the web. See out post on Non-compulsory Corporate Uniform for additional information.
  • A deduction is allowable for the cost of cleaning, laundry and maintaining clothing that falls into one or more of the categories of deductible clothing above.
  • The cost of buying other personal protection equipment (PPE) that is not supplied by your employer (including overalls, gloves, goggles, masks, steel-capped boots, high visibility vests and winter outdoor jackets)

Training

  • The cost of work-related short training courses (for example first aid, OH&S, truck and heavy equipment driving, vehicle maintenance) that are not run by a University or TAFE. You can claim for the cost of any course fees, books, stationery, Internet connection, telephone calls, tools or equipment and travelling to and from the course. You can also claim any accommodation and meal expenses you have to pay if you are required to stay away overnight for your course - see Tax Deduction for Self Education
  • The cost of self-education courses run by a University (not including HECS/HELP fees) or TAFE that directly relate to your current work. If you are studying you can also claim for the cost of books, stationery, equipment and travel required for your course - see Tax Deduction for Self Education

Work Tools and Equipment  

  • The cost of buying and repairing equipment you use at work (including tools, CB radio, portable refrigerator, sleeping bag, electronic organisers, laptop computers and mobile phones)
  • The cost of any repairs to your employers vehicle, maintenance, spillage or cleaning (provided you are not reimbursed by your employer for these costs)  
  • The cost of any materials or supplies that you buy for use at work (for example safety gear, first aid equipment, backpack or belt bag) 
See this post for details on Tax deductions, Employer Reimbursements and Allowances.

Other Work Expenses 

  • The cost of annual memberships or union fees (for example Transport Workers Union fees)  
  • The cost of renewing machinery or other licences and tickets that are required for your work, but not including your normal drivers licence  
  • The cost of work-related books, magazines and journals   
  • The cost of work-related mobile or home telephone calls and rental (you should keep a diary record of the number of phone calls you make for work for one month and then we can use that to estimate your usage for the whole year)  
  • The cost of work-related Internet connection fees (you can only claim the proportion of your monthly fees that relate to work use, which could include emailing, research relating to your job and research for your training courses)

General Expenses

There are some tax deductions that all employees can claim on their personal tax returns:
  • The amount of any donations to registered charities (as long as you haven’t received anything in return for your donation, such as raffle tickets or novelty items)  
  • The cost of bank fees charged on any investment accounts  
  • The cost of income protection or sickness and accident insurance premiums (this type of insurance covers you if you hurt yourself (including when you are not at work) or become sick and you are unable to work. It will pay you your normal wage until you are fit to return to work – if you don’t have this insurance you should see a financial adviser or ask us and we will refer you to someone who can organise it for you. It is definitely worthwhile)  
  • Your tax agent fees (the amount you pay to your accountant to prepare your tax return each year)  
  • The cost of travelling to see your tax agent (you can claim the cost of travelling to see your accountant to have your tax return prepared. You should keep a record of the number of kilometres you travel and any other incidental costs such as parking, meals, accommodation etc)
We suggest that you keep receipts for all purchases that are work related, even if they are not listed above. That way, when we prepare your tax return, we can decide whether you are allowed to claim a tax deduction for them or not.

For a FREE fact sheet/checklist of allowable tax deductons (pdf) see - Tax Deducions Fact Sheet Police Officers.

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See these posts with tips, calculators and checklists to help you prepare your eTax Return (and get a better refund) with less hassle:
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