Australians are always looking to save any money they can come tax time by claiming deductible expenses, but this has led to some overzealous tax returns.
Every year stories filter through of the bizarre things people have tried to claim on their tax returns and they often beggar belief.
Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand tax leader Michael Croker said he has seen and heard about some crazy stories over the years.
“Our members usually think they have seen and heard it all before, but every now and then a real doozy can come up,” Mr Croker said.
“Some funny, some creative, but all non-deductible.”
Using pet dogs proved to be a popular option after two people respectively claimed their animals as a “business mascot” and “guard dog”.
“One tax agent had a client try to underwrite their pet expenses – arguing their pet pug was a ‘business mascot’ which ‘welcomed customers and staff’,” Mr Croker said.
“One tax agent reported a client trying to pass off dog food as ‘security costs’ for their business. While feeding a guard dog may be deductible in some cases, your household pet doesn’t quite make the cut.”
Australians were at least diverse in what they tried to claim.
“A tax agent caught their client trying to pass off their child’s piano lessons as ‘staff training’ – it’s safe to say, this tax agent put a swift stop on that,” Mr Croker said.
“Another tax agent reported a client saying he was an ‘entertainment consultant’, trying to claim his video games and streaming services. He was actually a checkout worker at a well-known technology retailer.
“And perhaps not as altruistic as they thought, another person sought to claim travel to Cairns as a ‘gift or donation’ for tax deductible purposes because they gave a blood donation.”
An overly optimistic footy fan thought his club membership was crucial to his family’s wellbeing.
“One Western Australian-based tax agent had a client try to claim a Fremantle Dockers membership for their family. The client argued it was for ‘stress relief’,” Mr Croker said.
A West Australian couple also thought their cosmetic surgery was tax deductible.
“One of our members also shared a story of a couple in Western Australia that tried to claim the costs of his and hers cosmetic surgery,” Mr Coker said.
“You might be the world’s most famous Instagram model – but cosmetic surgery isn’t an appropriate deduction.”
One male “entertainer” attempted the extraordinary feat of claiming expenses while not declaring his cash income.
“Another tax agent had a client who worked as a male ‘entertainer’ and asked whether he could not declare his cash income at the same time as claiming expenses for the job,” Mr Croker said.
“Safe to say, our tax agent politely pointed out that this wouldn’t be possible, and he needed to report his income to the ATO or potentially face some hefty fines.”
But amid all of these ridiculous examples, Mr Coker had a simple message for Australians to steer clear of any issues with the Australian Taxation Office (ATO).
“While these are a few hilarious examples of people getting creative with their tax claims, our advice as chartered accountants is pretty simple: Don’t take the mickey or you’ll land yourself in hot water with the ATO,” he said.