Maximise your tax deductions for overseas travel

Heading overseas for a work-related conference? Here's what you can and can't claim.

Are you planning to attend an overseas conference and unsure which expenses might be tax deductible? Correctly claiming your travel expenses — from airfares and accommodation to meals — can significantly affect your tax obligations.

Our trusted advisors are here to help you understand the basics of claiming tax deductions for overseas conference attendance. Make sure you're well-informed when it comes time to complete your tax return.

What’s Deductible?

For professionals heading abroad solely for work-related conference participation, claiming deductions is relatively straightforward. Eligible expenses include:

  • Ticket costs for the conference or seminar session access
  • Travel costs, such as airfares, taxis and public transport needed to attend
  • Accommodation costs, such as hotel stays directly linked to conference duration
  • Meal costs, such as food bought (not provided) during the conference

However, deductions become more complex if the trip includes personal elements, such as family joining you or extending your stay for leisure. In such cases, only expenses directly related to the conference are deductible. 

Travel expenses incurred for your partner or spouse are generally not deductible, however, special rules may apply depending on your circumstances. If you have been accompanied by your partner or spouse, the Commissioner has accepted the following methods to calculate non-deductible costs:

  • 50/50 apportionment; or
  • Marginal cost (i.e. the difference in single vs double room rates); or
  • A mixture of these two approaches

For example, a full deduction for hotel room accommodation would usually be allowable where your partner stays with you if it would have cost you the same amount even if they hadn't. However, your partner’s airfares may not be deductible unless they also attended the conference in connection to their professional income. 

The ATO specifies that if the primary purpose of the trip is work-related, with personal activities being incidental, travel costs like airfares can be claimed in full. If private inclusions extend your travel, however, the deductible amount of your airfare costs correlates to the percentage of conference-related days during the trip. Conversely, if the trip is mainly for leisure with the conference being a minor component, none of the travel costs are deductible.

When it comes to accommodation and meals, deductions are allowed for the portion of the stay and meals directly associated with the conference. For example, if you're at a hotel for eight nights but only six are for the conference, you can claim the room fees and related meal expenses for six of the days.

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Additional Considerations

  • Any expenses reimbursed by an employer or another party cannot be claimed as a tax deduction
  • If you receive a travel allowance as part of your employment, the amount is included in your income and you can claim relevant expenses against it (specific rules apply)
  • Costs for business or first-class travel are still deductible as the decision on expense amount rests with you, but the ATO determines deductibility
  • The cost of travel insurance is not considered deductible by the ATO and rests solely with you

Record Keeping Essentials

For employees receiving an overseas travel allowance, the ATO provides guidelines on "reasonable amounts" for deductions without needing to keep detailed documentation. These amounts depend on your salary, travel destination, and sometimes occupation. However, actual expenditures exceeding these amounts require thorough recording, such as keeping all receipts. This only applies to employees, though, not sole traders and business operators.

For sole traders and business operators, it's crucial to keep comprehensive records, including invoices and receipts for all expenses, and to maintain a travel diary if your work-related travel exceeds six consecutive nights. This documentation supports the work-related portion of your trip and substantiates your deductions.

Navigating tax deductions for overseas conference attendance involves understanding which expenses directly relate to your professional development and ensuring you keep proper records for claims. By focusing on the primary purpose of your travel and maintaining accurate documentation, you can maximise your tax deductions within ATO guidelines.

Unsure what else you can claim at tax time? Check out our Tax Deduction Guide for a comprehensive list.

Looking to take the guesswork out of your deductions and Tax Return? Speak to our team today for trusted advice.

About The Author

Jarrod is the Managing Partner of Cutcher & Neale and heads up the Medical Accounting Services division within the firm. He has a passion for creating strong partnerships with clients that allow him to provide tailored advice so they reach their goals.

Jarrod has niche experience working with medical practitioners. His expertise allows him to guide clients from the initial stages of wealth creation as doctors in training, through to long-term wealth protection, tax planning, and retirement strategies.

The information in this publication contains general advice only. It has been prepared without taking your personal objectives, financial situation or needs into account. You should consider whether the information contained within this publication is appropriate for you. Where we refer to a financial product you should obtain the relevant Product Disclosure Statement or offer document and consider it before making any decision about whether to acquire the product.