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Self-Education Expenses You Can Claim As Tax Deductions

Have you recently started a course to improve your skills or knowledge in your current role? You may be eligible to claim education expenses on your Tax Return. 

The benefits of going back to study is that there are many self-education expenses that are tax deductible, such as travel expenses. This means you can claim back some money and boost your Tax Return come tax time. 

However, it’s not quite as simple as claiming everything and anything. You’ll first need to have met a strict criteria outlined by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO).

Here’s what you need to know before claiming self education expenses.

What are self-education expenses?

Self-education expenses are those related to educational courses or workshops provided by a university, college, school or any other place of education. They can also include work-related conferences and seminars conducted by commercial training providers. 

To be eligible to claim tax deductions, there needs to be a direct correlation between the course you’re studying and your job at the time. According to the ATO, you’ll need to meet one of the following: 

  • You can show that your study will lead to, or result in, an increase in your current salary.
  • If you’re a trainee, the course you take, will form part of your traineeship
  • Any direct connections between self-education and ongoing work activities
  • Maintaining or improving your skills and knowledge for your current role

Examples of Self Education Expenses

What can you claim as self-education expenses on your Tax Return?

According to the ATO, study expenses that are tax deductible include:

  • Student course and tuition fees
  • Student union and amenities
  • Textbooks and stationery
  • Professional and trade journals
  • Cost of software and consumables; printer cartridges, USB’s and photocopying
  • Home office running costs, internet usage
  • Interest on loans (used to purchase computers or pay fees)
  • Purchase of equipment or technical instruments ($300 or less)
  • Equipment repairs
  • Phone calls
  • Accomodation and meals, if you’re away from home for the night
  • Travel expenses, including car expenses
  • Parking fees (for work-related claims)
  • Depreciation on assets costing in excess of $300; computers and printers
  • Postage 

What can’t you claim as self-education expenses?

  • Tuition fees if they were paid by anyone else, such as your employer or a third-party that reimburse you
  • Student contribution amounts
  • Repayments from study or training support loans such as
    • Higher Education Loan Program (HELP) loans
    • Student Financial Supplement Scheme (SFSS)
    • VET Student Loans (VSL)
    • Student Start-up Loans (SSL)
    • Trade Support Loan Program (TSL)
  • Home office occupancy expenses; mortgage interest, rent or rates
  • Accommodation or meals; unless you spending a night away from home for study or to attend a course

Can I claim self education travel expenses?

The answer is yes you can, but only if your self-education and study expenses have a direct connection to your current employment.

  • To and from your home and place of education
  • To and from your work and place of education 

Situations where you can’t claim the cost of travel include:

  • Home to your place of education, and then work
  • Work to your place of education, then home

Can I claim my laptop if I use it for personal use as well as my studies?

Yes you can, but you can only claim back a percentage of the cost. For example, if you use your laptop 50% of the time for self-education and the other 50% for personal use, you can only claim half the cost of the computer. 

Claiming deductions for assets that lose value over time i.e. laptops

You may be eligible to claim a deduction for assets that cost more than $300 that lose their value overtime, such as laptops. If the asset cost $300 or less, you can claim an immediate deduction for the full cost of the asset to the amount that you used it for study in the financial year you bought it. 

What’s the $250 reduction in expenses?

In a nutshell, you essentially can’t claim the first $250 of self-education expenses on things including textbooks, stationery, tuition and student fees, student services and amenities, among other things

That said, you are able to offset other types of expenses against these to reduce or cancel out the $250 deduction, which include

  • Childcare when attending self-education activities 
  • Capital expenses related to your self-education, including purchase of a desk
  • Fares, travel or car expenses for journeys:
    • Work-related self-education, the second leg of a trip if you went from home to your place of education and then to work, or vice versa
    • If you receive a taxable bonded scholarship and are not an employee of the scholarship provider

The ATO certainly doesn’t make it easy when it comes to claiming self-education deductions. That’s why our friendly team of accountants make sure you claim all the expenses you’re entitled to. Then, we do one final check to make sure it’s ATO audit-proof, so you won’t get any unsuspecting calls.