What can I claim on tax without receipts?

Many taxpayers are collecting their receipts to help boost their next tax refund. But what happens if you lost a receipt for a tax-deductible purchase you made during the year, or you can’t get a receipt for certain claims this tax time? Liz Russell, Senior Tax Manager at Etax, explains.

If you’ve lost a receipt for a tax-deductible purchase, don’t worry too much about it. All hope is not lost. There are some options available which will still allow you to claim the item, and there are even some other deductions where receipts aren’t always required. In this article, we cover:

Rules for claiming deductions

First, we should cover the four key rules for a deduction to be allowed on your tax return:

  1. It must be directly work-related
  2. You must have paid for the expense out of your own pocket
  3. You must not have been reimbursed for the expense
  4. You must have evidence to support your claims

If you don’t have a receipt for a potential deduction, this means you may have difficulty proving you meet the second and fourth requirements in this list, but this will depend on the particular deduction involved. So, let’s split this into two key areas. First, we explore some of the options available if you’ve lost your receipt and then, we talk about what sorts of deductions you don’t actually need a receipt for in the first place.

Options if you’ve lost your receipt

1.   Bank statements are a handy substitute

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) will generally allow you to use a bank statement in place of a receipt, as long as the statement clearly shows the purchase amount and has a note next to the item detailing what it was for. If you also have a photo of the packaging showing a matching price, that’s even better. If the purchase contains some items you are allowed to claim and some you aren’t, you need a way to distinguish between them on your statement (such as photos or notations on the statement).

2.   Ask your accountant to check your income statement

If you choose to use an accountant or tax agent, it could be worth asking them to check your income statement for additional deductions you may be able to claim. For example, if you’re a member of a union and you pay union fees out of your weekly pay, these fees are usually listed as a line item on your income statement. This means you’ll be able to add them as a deduction on your tax return, which reduces your taxable income and gives you a handy refund boost.

3.   Check your online account or ask the retailer for another receipt

If the item in question is a large purchase, it could be worth the effort to try and track down a replacement receipt, so you can include the claim in your tax return.

If you purchased the item online, check your emails or online banking account, as you can often download a replacement invoice there. Alternatively, give the retailer a call and ask them to check their records and see if they can supply a duplicate receipt instead.

Deductions you don’t need a receipt for

There are also a range of deductions available to eligible taxpayers where receipts aren’t possible or required. These can include:

1.   Petrol usage (with a logbook)

If you use your own car for work, you may be able to claim your work-related petrol costs as a tax deduction, even if you don’t have any receipts. As long as you can demonstrate the number of work-related kilometres you travelled via your logbook, the ATO allows you to claim petrol at a nominal rate per kilometre (the rate varies depending on the size of your car).

2.   Car expenses (without a logbook)

Don’t have a logbook? You may still be in luck. As long as you can demonstrate how you calculate the number of kilometres you’re claiming, you can claim car expenses at a set rate – 72c per-work-related kilometre travelled for the 2020/21 financial year. Here’s a hypothetical example to illustrate how this works:

Mary is an office administrator. Five times per week, she drives to and from the post office to do the office mail. The trip is 7km each way. Mary can claim:

7km x two trips (to and from the post office) x five return trips per week x 48 weeks (she took four weeks of leave) = 3,360km

3,360 x $0.72 = $2,419.20 in extra deductions on her tax return

3.   Home office expenses

The ATO has several methods for claiming home office expenses at a fixed rate. You just need to keep a record of the hours you worked at home (or check your payslips).

Important note: you may want to check with your accountant which home office tax deduction method is best for you, as depending on your circumstances, you could miss out on hundreds of dollars each year here if you claim using the wrong method.

What the ATO does not allow

It’s important to note there are some reasons the ATO generally will not allow you to claim a deduction when you don’t have a receipt to support your claims:

  • Paying in cash: The excuse of ‘I paid in cash’ is not a valid reason for not having a receipt and your claim won’t be allowed by the ATO.
  • Just having a photo of the item: If all you have is a photo of the item with a price tag, but you don’t have a receipt or bank statement to support the photo, the ATO won’t allow the claim as there’s no evidence you actually bought the item.
  • An advertisement or catalogue: Like the photo example above, an advertisement alone doesn’t actually prove you bought the item, so the claim would be denied.

What to do if you are not sure you’ve got it right

While the ATO does allow a number of claims for deductions when you don’t have a receipt, it can sometimes be tricky to make sure you’re following the rules.

My advice is to speak to your accountant before claiming any items on your tax return without a receipt. If you claim something incorrectly and the ATO finds out, not only will you have to pay back any extra amount the ATO gave you in your refund, you could also face additional financial penalties as well.

On the other hand, it’s your accountant’s job to ensure you’re doing everything within the rules. and who knows, they might even find some additional deductions to help you boost your refund.

Cover image source: Hugh Adams/Shutterstock.com.

Liz RussellLiz Russell is a Senior Tax Manager at Etax. Liz has been with Etax since it launched in 1998 and brings more than 40 years of tax experience. Her expertise lies within complex individual tax returns and ensuring her clients walk away with the best possible tax outcomes, while staying within ATO rules and regulations.

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This content was reviewed by Sub Editor Tom Letts and Sub Editor Jacqueline Belesky as part of our fact-checking process.

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