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Deductible motor vehicle expenses

Motor vehicle expenses incurred in the course of deriving assessable income or in carrying on business are allowable deductions (ITAA97 s 8-1). Such expenses include petrol, oil, repairs, servicing, new tyres, lease charges, interest on a car loan and car washes and polishes. Guidelines for determining when an employee can claim a deduction for transport expenses are set out in TR 2021/1.

The cost of a driver’s licence is not an allowable deduction (Case R49 84 ATC 387), even if the holding of the licence is a condition of employment, but any premium on top of the cost of a standard licence would be allowable (TD 93/108). Bridge or road tolls, car registration, third party insurance, insurance excess (ID 2004/393), comprehensive insurance and annual fees for membership in motorists’ associations also form part of deductible motor vehicle expenses (but parking fines are not deductible).

The calculation of car expense deductions where a car is jointly owned, jointly leased or jointly hired under a hire purchase agreement is discussed in PS LA 1999/2.

Taxpayers who choose to use their own private car for work purposes, even though they could have free use of a company vehicle, are still entitled to claim a deduction for the costs of business travel in the car (Case V112 88 ATC 714; [1988] AATA 210). These may include damages or compensation paid for damage caused to a third party vehicle involved in an accident where an employee used their own car in the course of employment (Expenses for parking, tolls, accidents, licence and fines, ATO website).

For the special substantiation rules that apply to car expenses, see ¶16-320.

Car parking expenses

Generally, a deduction is allowable for parking fees incurred while travelling in circumstances where the travel expenses are deductible (¶16-230) (TR 98/14). However, deductions are not allowable for parking fees incurred by an employee where the car is used to commute from home to work and is parked at or near the employee’s main workplace for more than 4 hours during the day between the hours of 7 am and 7 pm (ITAA36 s 51AGA; ID 2005/246). A deduction for car parking expenses is not denied if the employee is the driver of, or a passenger in, the car and is entitled under state or territory law to use a disabled person’s parking space and a valid disabled person’s car parking permit is displayed on the car (ITR15 reg 8).

Depreciation

A deduction may be available for depreciation of a vehicle owned by the taxpayer (¶17-010). Depreciation may also be claimed on radios, air conditioners, etc, attached to a vehicle at the time of purchase. Car phones qualify for depreciation whether installed before or after delivery. Special rules apply if the vehicle is being acquired under a hire purchase agreement (¶23-250).

Leasing charges

Rentals under car and truck leases are deductible as rent only to the extent that they meet the usual requirements of revenue outgoings under the general deduction provisions, so that any part of the rentals that represents private use or partial payment towards the ultimate purchase is not deductible (see generally IT 28). This is also the case for any other plant, machinery or equipment leasing arrangements. In particular, IT 28 contains the Commissioner’s views about acceptable leases and minimum residual values (as updated in TD 93/142 and ID 2002/1004).

No deduction is allowed to an employee for lease payments made by an employer to a finance company in a partial novation under a motor vehicle lease novation arrangement (TR 1999/15; Jones 2005 ATC 2236; [2005] AATA 691). In a full novation, the employer is entitled to a deduction for lease expenses where the vehicle is used in the business or provided as part of a salary package (there are no income tax consequences for the employee). In the case of a luxury car, the deduction is based on an accrual amount and depreciation, subject to the car depreciation limit (¶17-200, ¶17-220). See ¶35-150 for the FBT consequences.

Entitlement to private use

If an employer provides a car for the exclusive use of an employee or the employee’s relatives in circumstances where the employee or relatives are entitled to use the car for private purposes, expenses incurred in connection with the car by the employee are not deductible (ITAA36 s 51AF). The section applies to both the provision of a leased vehicle (the lease terms of which are paid for by the employee) and the provision of a vehicle at will by the employer for use in specified duties (Pierce 98 ATC 2240). However, it does not apply where, under a partial novation entered into after 17 June 1998, the lease payments are incurred by the employer, rather than by the employee (TR 1999/15; Jones 2005 ATC 2236; [2005] AATA 691). Expenses such as parking fees and bridge tolls that are linked to a car but are not involved in its direct operation, and are not otherwise factored into an FBT valuation, are not caught by s 51AF and thus are deductible (Case Y43 91 ATC 412; ID 2004/613). Note that parking fees may be disallowed where s 51AGA applies — see above.

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