ATO “puts the brakes” on dodgy car claims

ATO “puts the brakes” on dodgy car claims

The ATO is making work-related car expenses a key focus again during Tax Time 2019. Assistant Commissioner Karen Foat said over 3.6 million people made a work-related car expense claim in 2017/18, totalling more than $7.2 billion.

“We are still concerned that some taxpayers aren’t getting the message that over-claiming will be detected and if it is deliberate, penalties will apply,” she said. “While some people do make legitimate mistakes, we are concerned that many people are deliberately making dodgy claims in order to get a bigger refund. We see taxpayers claiming for things like private trips, trips they didn’t make, and car expenses their employer paid for or reimbursed them for.”

One in five car claims are exactly at the maximum limit that doesn’t require receipts.

Under the cents per kilometre method, taxpayers don’t need to keep receipts, but they do need to be able to demonstrate how they worked out the number of kilometres they travelled for work purposes.

The ATO’s sophisticated analytics compares taxpayer claims with others earning similar amounts in similar jobs. Where the ATO identifies questionable claims, they will contact taxpayers and ask them to show how they have calculated their claim, and in some cases the ATO may even contact employers to confirm whether a taxpayer was required to use their own car for work-related travel.

Case studies

The ATO’s sophisticated data analytics found a range of unsupported claims in 2018, including:

  • When the ATO asked a taxpayer to provide the logbook to support a claim of $4,800, they found the taxpayer was referring to a car service logbook rather than a logbook kept for calculating their work use car percentage (the taxpayer had not undertaken any work-related car travel during the year).
  • Another claim was flagged by the ATO’s analytics indicating a taxpayer, a retail worker, had incorrectly claimed $350 for the cost of public transport to and from work.
  • The ATO also identified an office worker claiming $3,300 for 5000 kilometres of work-related travel using the cents per kilometre method, but it turned out the taxpayer’s claim was based on trips he