ATO warns taxpayers about shady WFH claims, wash sales and more as Aussies try to combat higher living costs

ATO tax wash sales

ATO Assistant Commissioner Tim Loh. Source: Australian Tax Office

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has warned taxpayers ahead of June 30 about making false claims that could see them facing a review or an audit. 

Despite inflation hitting both Australians and Australian businesses hard, the ATO has warned individuals not to consider over-claiming work-related expenses this end of financial year to combat the rising cost of living. 

ATO assistant commissioner Tim Loh told ABC News that people trying to push the boundaries on work-related expenses and those failing to reveal, or downplaying, cryptocurrency investments would be the ones targeted. 

Working from home expenses have been at the top of the ATOs watchlist for quite some time, with CPA Australia’s resident tax expert Elinor Kasapidis warning against trying to claim for Tim Tams, doggy day care, or Ugg boots back in May. 

Earlier this week, the ATO also released a statement urging taxpayers to not engage in ‘asset wash sales’ in an effort to artificially increase their losses and reduce gains. 

The ATO says it is “cleaning up dirty laundry”, with wash sales a form of tax avoidance it will be keeping a particular lookout for as the end of the financial year approaches. 

Wash sales typically involve disposing of assets before the EOFY, such as crypto or shares. 

After a short period of time, the taxpayer then reacquires the same or substantially similar assets, which is done to create a loss and offset against any gain  already derived — or expected to be derived — in a tax return. 

A wash sale is different from normal buying and selling of assets because it is undertaken for the artificial purpose of generating a tax benefit for the current financial year,” the statement reads. 

“The taxpayer disposes of and reacquires the asset for the deliberate purpose of realising a capital gains loss and obtaining an unfair tax benefit.” 

“Don’t hang yourself out to dry by engaging in a wash sale. We want you to count your losses, not have them removed by the ATO,” Loh said in the statement. 

Among the working from home claims and warning against wash sales, Australians have also been reminded that the shortcut method — introduced in 2020 during the pandemic — will be ending on June 30, 2022.

Australians who continue to work from home, or in a hybrid manner, following this month will be required to use either the fixed rate method or the actual cost method to claim work from home expenses in the 2022-23 financial year.


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