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ATO streamlines tax return process

The Australian Taxation Office has announced a streamlined approach for tax time to allow people to easily claim tax deductions for work from home arrangements.

Assistant commissioner Karen Foat said the ATO has a range of different approaches to support taxpayers and the community through this tax time.

"We know many of our clients and their agents will have questions about how different types of income and expenses may affect their obligations this year. We're helping to make sure people know how to get it right," she said.

"This tax time the ATO expects to see a substantial increase in people claiming deductions for working from home or for protective items required for work," Foat said.

The ATO launched a temporary 'short-cut method' that applies from 1 March 2020 to 30 June 2020.

The ATO said the method makes it easier for Australians who have incurred some form of expense for working from home as a result of COVID-19.

It covers all deductible expenses and can be used by multiple people working from home in the same house.

Those with work from home expenses can include the amount under "other work-related expenses" on their tax return and include "COVID-hourly rate" as the description, allowing them to claim 80 cents per hour worked.

"If you use the shortcut method, all you need to do is keep a record of the hours you worked from home as evidence of your claim. But it is all inclusive, meaning you can't claim for any other working from home expenses," Foat said.

The ATO said taxpayers can still choose to use one of the other existing methods to calculate their expenses for working from home if they prefer.

Additionally, Foat confirmed those who withdrew funds from their superannuation will not be required to pay tax on the amount.

"If you received early access to your super this year under the special arrangements due to COVID-19, any amounts you've withdrawn from super under this program are tax-free and you do not need to declare them in your tax return," she said.

The ATO said another deduction some people might be claiming due to COVID-19 is expenses for protective items required for work.

"Taxpayers working in jobs that require physical contact or close proximity with customers or clients during COVID-19 measures may be able to claim a deduction for items such as gloves, face masks, sanitiser or anti-bacterial spray if they have paid for the items and not been reimbursed. This includes industries like healthcare, retail and hospitality," Foat said.

For those receiving the governments JobKeeper payments, tax returns will not be any different.

The ATO said the payments will be included as salary and wages and/or allowances, in their regular income statement, which their employer should provide directly to the ATO.

Sole traders who have received the JobKeeper payment on behalf of their business will need to include the payments as assessable income for the business.

Read our full COVID-19 news coverage and analysis here.

Read more: ATOERSCOVID-19Australian Taxation OfficeJobKeeperKaren Foat
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