The short answer is no.
The tax law says travelling between home and your usual workplace is a private expense. This doesn’t change even if:
- you do incidental tasks on the way, such as stop at Officeworks to buy some stationery for your employer, or
- you work outside usual business hours or are on call.
However, there are some exceptions.
Travel to earn your income
- you travel directly between two separate places of employment, as long as one of them is not where you live.
For example, you work as a receptionist in a medical centre during the day and as a waitress in a restaurant at night. After finishing reception work, you drive directly from the medical centre to the restaurant. As the travel is between two workplaces, you can claim a deduction for that travel.
However, if your second work is conducted from your home, you cannot claim the travel to/from your first job.
- you attend work-related conferences, training or meetings away from your usual workplace. The travel can be either from/to home or your usual workplace.
- you travel from your regular place of work to an alternative place of work (a place of work you don’t regularly travel to) and back to your regular place of work.
For example, your employer has two offices (A & B) and you usually work in office A. Occasionally when office B needs an extra hand you would be asked to attend office B. As office B is not your regular workplace, you can claim a deduction for the travel to/from office B.
However, if you are under the arrangement of working Monday to Wednesday in office A and Thursday to Friday in office B, then both offices are your regular places of work and you cannot claim any of the travels to/from A or B.
- you travel to and from your home to an alternative place of work such as a construction site (for an engineer) or external audit client’s office (for an auditing staff) or your employer’s other office that you don’t usually work at.
Bulky tools and equipment
Where the nature of your job creates a practical necessity to transport bulky tools or work equipment by car between home and work, the journey may be a deductible work journey rather than ordinary private travel to and from work. This will only apply if:
- the tools or work equipment are essential for the performance of your employment duties
- the tools or work equipment are bulky, meaning they are of such large size or weight that transportation by car or other private vehicle is the only realistic option, and
- transporting the items between home and work is a practical necessity (for example, there is no appropriate storage for such items at the workplace, or the items need to be transported to a different work site on a subsequent day).
These requirements are necessary for the cost of the trip to be deductible. It will not be sufficient if you transport items merely as a matter of choice. For example, if your employer provides reasonably secure storage, your decision to transport items home will be a matter of choice and not a practical necessity. The cost of the trip will not be deductible.
Daniel is employed to play double bass in an orchestra. The orchestra plays in a number of locations and he often travels directly from home to the various venues. He practices regularly at home, which is also the only place available to store his instrument when not being used. The double bass is over 2 m tall and is awkward to transport which makes it not ordinary home to work travel. Going by car is the only realistic option. Therefore, Daniel can claim a deduction for the car travel between home and work venues.
If you have shifting places of work, you will be able to claim the travelling costs between home to work. The ATO looks at the following indicative factors to decide if you do itinerant work:
- travel is a fundamental part of your work.
- you have a web of workplaces you travel to throughout the day, that is you have no fixed place of work. Note that it’s not itinerant if you go to only one workplace in a day, even if it’s not a fixed place, even if you don’t know the location in advance.
- you continually travel from one work site to another
- you are often uncertain of the location of your worksite
- your home is a base of operations that is, you start work at home and must go to another site to complete it
- your employer provides an allowance in recognition of the need to travel between different work sites.
It is important to also note that travel needs to be fundamental in earning your employment income. If the travel is merely a matter of convenience for you or the employer, it will still be considered a private expense.
Home as your base of employment
Your home may be a base of employment if:
- you commenced work at or before the time of leaving home to travel to work, and
- the responsibility for completing that work is not discharged until you attend the worksite.
Undertaking the work in two locations must be a necessary obligation arising from the nature of your duties, not merely a matter of convenience.
For example, you are a sales rep and have been given a work phone to make sales phone calls. You don’t have a fixed desk in the office and your employer expects that most of your work (sales calls) is performed at home or outside meeting with potential clients. In this case, your home is your base of employment, and if you make a trip from home to the office for a team meeting, it is not a private expense, therefore, can be claimed as a deduction.
Travel expenses between home and your workplace is usually a private expense except for the following situations:
- Travel to earn your income
- you travel directly between two separate places of employment
- you attend work-related conferences or meetings away from your usual workplace
- you travel from your regular place of work to an alternative place of work (a place of work you don’t regularly travel to) and back to your regular place of work
- you travel to and from your home to an alternative place of work.
- You have to transport bulky tools and equipment to work by car
- Your work is itinerant
- Home is your base of employment
If you are still unsure if your travel falls into any of these exceptions, you may want to consider speaking to a tax professional.
Please note that this post is intended to be a general guide only, and should not be seen to constitute legal or tax advice. Where necessary, you should seek a second professional opinion for any legal or tax issues raised in your personal or business tax affairs.