Tax tips for teachers 2023 – what you can and can’t claim for

We’re heading into tax time here in Australia, and that means you’ll be thinking about what to include in your return. So, what are the common expenses incurred by teachers and education professionals that you can claim for, and what are some of the things that aren’t tax deductible?

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has specific guides for different occupations, including for teachers. Before we look at some examples, remember that when it comes to claiming a deduction, there are 3 golden rules:

  1. You must have spent the money yourself, and not been reimbursed by your employer.
  2. It must be directly related to earning your income.
  3. You must have a record to prove it – this could, for example, be a receipt, a logbook or a journal entry, depending on the expense your claim relates to (in some circumstances, there are record keeping exceptions).

Travel expenses

One area people can get confused about is travel-related expenses. You can’t claim for your travel to and from home and work (even if that’s outside hours, such as coming in on the school holidays or weekend to set up your classroom for the new year), but you could claim for travel to and from an alternative workplace for the same employer.

For example, if you drive from your school to another school to supervise an exam, or drive some of your students from your school to another school for a robotics competition. Remember, you can’t claim for the portion of the trip that’s from home to your regular workplace; if you went home after a normal day and returned to school later for a teacher-parent evening, that wouldn’t count either.

You may be able to claim for transporting bulky equipment that’s connected to your employment. The ATO gives an example of a high school drama teacher who’s been working on props and costumes at home for the annual production. There’s no secure storage at school. The teacher can claim for the trip transporting these bulky items between home and school. What can’t you claim for? If you take students’ books home for marking, that doesn’t count as a travel expense – you’re choosing to take them home and they don’t have to be transported by a vehicle.

What about travel expenses for school trips and camps? Yes, you can claim if the trip has an educational benefit related to school. So, the ATO gives an example of a teacher flying from Brisbane to Rockhampton for an interschool sports competition. They stay in camp-like accommodation, which provides breakfast and dinner. The teacher can claim a deduction for the flight, the accommodation and daily lunch costs. You can also claim a deduction for the cost of entrance fees for school excursions. What can’t you claim for? If you’re on your holidays in Italy, for example, and you take an excursion to the Colosseum (a site you teach students about in the classroom) it’s still a private trip and it doesn’t count.

Purchases for work and the classroom

This is a big one for most teachers – buying those bits and pieces for your classroom can certainly add up over the course of a year. You can claim a deduction for the cost of ‘teaching aids’ you use for work. This includes things like stickers, stationery (for example diaries you use for work, pens, cardboard), maps and posters for your classroom displays, whistles and stopwatches if you’re a PE teacher (no, you can’t claim for the watch you wear that happens to have a stopwatch function), and calculators (if it relates to you teaching job – you’re a maths teacher rather than a history teacher).

You may be able to claim a deduction for a bag or case you use for work items. The ATO gives an example of a secondary teacher who buys a laptop bag for a school-issued laptop (which is being used for lesson planning and reviewing student work). Sometimes the teacher also puts work-related documents into a larger handbag, which carries personal items like phone, keys and packed lunch. This teacher can claim a deduction for the laptop bag because it’s designed for an item that needs to be transported to work each day. The bag isn’t designed for documents and this work-related use is incident, so doesn’t count.

Professional learning and registration expenses

If you’ve attended a seminar, education conference or a training course relating to your work then you can claim for fares to the venue, registration costs, and if you need to stay away from home you’ll also be able to claim for accommodation and meals. If you go on holiday and, during the trip, you attend a conference you can only claim direct costs (such as registration) because the main purpose of your trip was not work-related.

Can you claim for your teacher registration? You can’t claim for the initial cost of applying for your teacher registration, but the good news is you can claim a deduction for the cost of renewing your registration. The difference? The former enables you to start earning an income, whereas the latter is needed for you to continue to perform your work duties.

Working from home

Although you may no longer be working remotely, you can claim the work-related portion of expenses relating to things like phone and internet use while at home. The ATO gives an example of a teacher who uses their personal computer and internet connection to access work emails and grade assignments. A diary shows 10% of their internet time is spent on work-related activities, and 90% for private use. This means the teacher can claim 10% of the annual internet service provider charge as work-related use.

Private expenses

Examples of private expenses that you can’t claim, include: the cost of flu shots and other vaccinations; meeting students’ personal expenses (buying them lunch, for example); and gifts for students (different from student rewards such as stickers, which can be claimed for – see the section on purchases for the classroom above).

For more information on income and work-related deductions for teachers and education professionals, visit