Easy tax breaks set up for home offices

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Katina Curtis, AAP Senior Political Writer
(Australian Associated Press)

 

Thousands of Australians finding themselves working from home will get a shortcut to claiming expenses when it comes to tax time.

The tax office has created special rules for anyone who has been working at home since March 1 because of measures to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Instead of having to calculate costs for specific running expenses, such as the proportion of internet time used for work or entertainment, they can claim a flat 80 cents per hour worked at home.

Assistant Commissioner Karen Foat says people are only required to keep a record of how many hours they work from home to use this new tax deduction.

“This recognises that many taxpayers are working from home for the first time and makes claiming a deduction much easier,” she said on Tuesday.

Nearly half of working-age Australians have either changed their hours or shifted their work to home in response to the spread of the virus, polling from Essential Research released on Tuesday shows.

If there are multiple people working from the same home, they can all claim the new rate.

The tax office has also dropped the requirement to have a dedicated office area, with many people setting up ad hoc arrangements, especially if everyone in their household is at home.

People can still use the old method of calculating proportion of use and depreciation if they prefer.

The new arrangement is only in place between March 1 and June 30, but the tax office will keep an eye on the coronavirus situation and decide if it should continue into the next financial year.

Assistant Treasurer Michael Sukkar said the decision was another demonstration of how every arm of government was working to keep Australians in jobs and businesses in business.

Meanwhile, the Australian Bureau of Statistics has revealed two-thirds of businesses have seen their cash flow or turnover drop because of the coronavirus crisis.

Nearly half of all businesses have made workforce changes, including cutting hours or, in some cases, increasing them, and moving people to work from home.

Fewer than half of businesses in the arts and recreation services were running last week, statistics showed.

Accommodation, food services, and the information media and telecommunications sector, which includes cinemas, libraries and the television industry, were also hit with only about two-thirds of businesses operating.

A quarter of all retail businesses had also shut down.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said all governments were very conscious of the heavy economic impact of measures needed to control the virus when making decisions about the future.

“And as you know, the economic lifeline that is being provided through the many things that are being done, particularly at the federal level, but also at the state level, they have a finite life,” he said.

“Because that is finite, that cannot go on forever, that will revert, that will go back to where it was before.”

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