Tax Guide: Defence Force -
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Tax Guide: Defence Force

There are a number of tax deductions specific for the defence force. Below we have broken these deductions down into categories to provide you clear advice for your tax preparation.


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You may claim the cost of parking, tolls, taxis and public transport, attending meetings, seminars, conferences, or training that is not being held at your usual place of work.


If you are required to stay away from home overnight for the purposes listed above, you may be eligible for a tax claim for the cost of accommodation and any meals consumed.


You may claim the cost of your personal car if it is used for work purposes, including travel to between and/or around military bases, attend meetings, conferences or training that is not held at your usual place of work.


You may also be able to claim your travel from home to work if you have to carry bulky tools or equipment, If you do plan on claiming the cost of using your personal vehicle, it is best to keep a diary of the number of kilometres travelled for work purposes.


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Defence Force members may claim the cost of meals when working overtime provided you have received a meal allowance from your employer which is based on an Industrial Award and that allowance is shown separately on your PAYG certificate.


You can claim the actual cost of the meal or up to the Australian Taxation Office allowable limit without retaining receipts. Amounts claimed over that amount will need to be supported with receipts.


Compulsory mess subscriptions
You can claim a deduction for the part of your compulsory mess subscriptions that is related to work activities. You can obtain details of the amount paid for mess subscriptions from mess accounts provided by your mess committee.


You cannot claim a deduction for amounts paid for food, drink or entertainment.


Attendance at mess functions
You cannot claim a deduction for costs incurred in attending compulsory or non- compulsory mess functions. This includes functions such as dinners, dances and cocktail parties.

Uniforms and protective clothing

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You can claim the cost of a purchasing and repairing Australian Defence Force or other military uniforms.


You can claim the cost of protective clothing and footwear that may be required to perform your duties such as:


  • wet weather gear, safety coloured vests, gloves, goggles, masks, steel-capped boots, gum boots or sun protection clothing
  • The cost of buying sun protection items, including sunscreen, hats and sunglasses, if you are required to work outdoors
  • The cost of laundry or dry cleaning of your uniforms


If your tax deduction claim for laundry is under $150, no written documentation is required. The Australian Taxation Office calculates the cost of laundry at $1 per load of work-related clothing, or 50 cents per load if other laundry items are included.


If you are claiming dry-cleaning or clothing repairs, you are required to keep receipts.


Watches and timepieces
You cannot claim a deduction for the cost of purchasing and repairing an ordinary wristwatch, including waterproof watches. However, if your watch has special characteristics that you use for work, you can claim a deduction.

Training and study

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The cost of work-related short training courses, provided the course directly relates to your job at the time of study, for example you can claim a deduction for the cost of first aid training courses if you are required to undertake first aid training to assist in emergency work situations.


The cost of university or TAFE courses can be claimed if:


  • You pay for the course upfront rather than use HECS or HELP.
  • The course is related to your current employment


You can also claim for the cost of travel, accommodation, meal expenses, home office expenses incurred as a result of the study. For any books, stationery, photocopying and equipment required for your study and you can also claim for interest on loans for course fees or equipment.

Equipment and tools

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You can claim a deduction for the cost of buying and repairing equipment and tools used in your course of work duties, such as:


  • Tools and equipment specific to your role
  • Computers, tablets and mobile phones
  • Backpacks and laptop carry bags
  • The cost of a stopwatch or other watch with special characteristics
  • Costs you incurred to purchase additional or more sophisticated weapon related equipment – rifles, ammunition and cleaning equipment
  • The cost of insuring your tools and equipment


You can claim a tax deduction for work related equipment and tools that cost less than $300 each. Items worth more than $300 each must be depreciated over the useful life.

Other work related expenses

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The cost of maintaining your fitness, but only if you are required to maintain a very high level of fitness, well above the ADF general standard, and you earn your ADF income by performing a range of duties designed to keep you physically prepared. This generally only applies to physical training instructors and respective members of the Australian Special Forces.


The cost of extra regimental duties (ERD) if the ERD forms part of your income-earning activities


The cost of renewing licences, but not including your normal drivers licence

General expenses

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There is a range of general tax deductions, available to all Australians, regardless of profession or occupation, including:


  • Membership fees related to your work
  • The cost of work-related reference books or subscriptions to professional journals and magazines
  • Telephone and internet fees (for the work related portion only)
  • Home office costs
  • Tax agent fees
  • The cost of travelling to see your tax agent
  • Donations to registered charities
  • Income Protection Insurance
  • Bank fees charged on any investment accounts

Medicare exemption

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If you are entitled to full medical treatment under the Australian Defence Force program, then you are eligible to receive an exemption from the Medicare levy charge. This exemption applies for the number of days during the year for which you were covered by the Australian Defence Force program.


If you are an Australian Defence Force Reserves members, you can receive an exemption for the number of days for which you were in continuous full-time service.


Based on your specific circumstances you may be entitled to either a full or half exemption.

Zone rebate

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If you reside for more than 183 days in a specifically identified remote area of Australia, you may be eligible to receive a tax benefit known as a Zone Offset. This benefit may also apply if the aggregate time you’ve spent in a remote area exceeds 183 days during a two-year period.


There are three zones that may attract an offset benefit:


Zone A: Includes specific locations such as Norfolk, Macquarie, Cocos, Christmas, Lord Howe, Heard and McDonald Islands (does not include offshore oil platforms).


Zone B: Includes islands that are adjacent to the coastline of the mainland and Tasmania.


Special Zone: – includes areas that are more than 250km from the nearest town centre, with a population of less than 2,500.

Overseas forces tax offset

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A special Overseas Forces Tax Offset is available to members of the Australian Defence Force if:


  • You served in a specified overseas location as a member of the Australian Defence Force.
  • Your income for that service was not specifically exempt from tax.


There is no minimal length of time required to ensure that you are entitled to this tax offset.


The offset will however be apportioned for time periods less than 183 days.


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The following allowances are commonly received by Defence Force members to recognise expenses that you may incur in doing your job. Income tax applies to these allowances and, depending on your individual circumstances, you may be able to claim a deduction for expenses, for:


  • flying allowance
  • language proficiency allowance
  • special action forces allowance
  • uniform maintenance allowance
  • vehicle allowance.

Supporting your claim

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If your total claims for work-related expenses add up to more than $300 – excluding claims for car, meal allowance, award transport payment allowance and travel allowance expenses – you must keep written evidence, such as receipts. You must keep written evidence for the full amount of your claim, not just the amount over the first $300.


If the total amount you are claiming for work-related expenses is $300 or less, you do not need to keep receipts, but you must be able to show how you worked out your claims.


You need to keep written evidence of your work-related expenses for five years from the due date for lodging your tax return. If you lodge your tax return after the due date, the five years start from the date you lodged your tax return.