ATO meal claims U-turn 'common sense' says industry

TRUCK drivers will again be able to claim meal-by-meal expenses after 'common-sense' won out following a major U-turn by the Australian Tax Office.

Earlier this year, the ATO announced that employed drivers would only be able to claim $55.30 per day for meal allowances without detailed receipts.

But after consultation with various industry groups, the ATO has revised its decision, returning the meal-by-meal approach to reasonable meals.

The new structure for 2017-18 is:

  • Breakfast: $24.25
  • Lunch: $27.25
  • Dinner: $47.40

These amounts are isolated to each meal, cannot be combined for a single amount or moved from one meal to another. 

Australian Trucking Association Chair Geoff Crouch said the backflip from the Government showed they no longer viewed drivers as "second class citizens".

"The new determination mean that truck drivers can claim, without detailed receipts, the same amount for meals as other comparable employees in what are called tier 2 and other country centres," Mr Crouch said.

"One of the ATA's highest priorities is to make sure that government agencies never treat truck drivers as second class citizens. Our drivers are professionals and deliver the goods for Australia.

"We took this argument into our initial discussions with the tax office. The decision reflects our approach."

The Australian Road Transport Industrial Organisation said the decision was a win for drivers, their families and their wellbeing.

"The ATO's revision means drivers will have more to spend on healthy meal options, which are typically much more expensive than fast-food alternatives," ARTIO secretary and treasurer Peter Anderson said.

"It also will reduce the financial pressure on drivers and their families, who are dealing with rising living costs at a time when wage growth is generally flat."

Other important reminders:

  • The ATO does not limit the amount a taxpayer can claim when travelling away from home overnight for work.
  • Drivers do not have to keep receipts for every meal if their claim is no more than the reasonable amounts that the Commissioner publishes each year.
  • Drivers can only claim for amounts actually spent and not just the Commissioner's reasonable amount.
  • Should drivers be asked to explain their claims, records such as bank statements for purchases can be relied on to show how much was spent.
  • The ATO will also ensure that any truck driver who has been using, or wishes to continue using the published previous daily amount of $55.30, could continue to do so and would not be disadvantaged.

Topics:  ato australian tax office australian trucking association geoff crouch

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