The Do’s & Don’ts of Claiming Self-Education Expenses

Claiming self-education expenses

Thinking about going back to school or taking a new course, and hoping to claim some costs on your tax return? Well, tread carefully! There are some expense deductions that the Tax Office won’t allow.

So, before you enrol or sign up for anything, pause for a moment and read this article. It could make all the difference.

Wondering what "self-education expenses" even means?

In simple terms, it's the money you spend on courses, conferences, or study trips, whether here in Australia or abroad.

To claim these costs, you must be able to show that there is a close connection between your course and your current work activities at that time.

You can claim a deduction if:

  • The course makes you better at your current job or gives you more in-depth knowledge
  • You can show that the course led to, or was likely to lead to, increased income in your present role

But here's the catch: there are times you can't claim these educational expenses. Specifically:

  • If you're not currently working
  • If the course is only loosely related to your current job or profession
  • If the course is designed to land you an entirely new job

Let's break it down with an example

Meet Louis. He's a computer science student taking subjects in system analysis, software design, and programming. On the side, he's also working at the university lab, setting up computers. While at first glance, his course and job seem related, the advanced skills he's learning from his course go way beyond what he needs for his lab job.

So, unfortunately for Louis:

  • His course doesn’t really make him any better at his current job
  • It's related to his job, but only in a broad sense
  • It could potentially set him up for a whole new career

Thus, he can't claim a deduction for his course. It’s these nuances that make understanding the rules so crucial.

So, what can you actually claim?

Let's get down to the details. It's important to know the ins-and-outs because it'll make the whole tax process clearer. Check out the easy-to-follow breakdown below of what you can and can’t claim when it comes to self-education expenses.

What you can claim What you can’t claim
Tuition fees if you're getting some help through FEE-HELP
Any contributions towards course fees under HECS-HELP
Tuition fees with VET Student Loans if enrolled in accredited VET courses
If you're making repayments under schemes like HELP, SFSS, SSL, TSL, or VSL, sorry, those don't count
Any expenses you've covered with an OS-HELP loan (for the ones studying overseas)
Lastly, no go on claiming against government help like Austudy, ABSTUDY, or Youth Allowance
The meals and stay-over costs during study trips or seminars
Other student expenses like textbooks, stationery, student union fees, course fees, etc.
The decrease of your computer value over time, but remember to split between personal and study use
Travel expenses between home and school or work and school

Need a guiding hand?

If you’re planning to commit to formal education to upskill, talk to us. We’ll break down the do's and don'ts of what the ATO lets you claim. We're here to help.

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