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Overtime meal allowances, whilst available to most employees, are most common with transport, construction, and factory workers who work over a certain time in overtime (usually 2 hours) and are paid under an industry award.

Many workers are not aware of their taxation entitlements when preparing their income tax returns. Following are some tips and tricks.

Claiming Overtime Meal Allowance

There are two ways that taxpayers can claim a tax deduction for overtime meal expense:

  • Substantiated – actual cost of the overtime meal but must be supported with evidence of the expense, i.e., a receipt.
  • Un-substantiated – Special substantiation rules apply to overtime meal expenses if you receive an overtime meal allowance paid under an industrial award. A deduction is allowable without substantiation for expenses incurred, provided the claim does not exceed the amount considered “reasonable” by the ATO.

Note that if a tax deduction is claimed for more than the “reasonable” amount, substantiation is required for ALL of the claims. A recent court case has also highlighted the need to use a “reasonable” method of arriving at the actual claim made in your tax return. For example, in many cases, the “reasonable” amount set by the ATO is usually higher than the actual amount paid by employers. In these cases, you can’t just claim the higher “reasonable” amount – the claim must be arrived at in a logical and practical method.

Overtime Meal Allowance Rules

The overtime meal allowance is commonly paid at the rate of $11 – $15 each allowance and varies depending on various industry awards (check with your employer for your award rate). The allowance is usually shown separately on the Annual PAYG Payment Summary in the Allowances box and must be included as assessable income in your tax return.

You can claim a deduction for overtime meal expenses incurred if you worked overtime and you received a genuine overtime meal allowance paid under an industrial law, award, or agreement.

Employees must be careful to ensure their meal allowance is paid under an award and not folded into a workplace agreement or EBA. In this case, there is no receipt of an overtime meal allowance necessary to meet the un-substantiated rule above.

In practice, some employers’ payroll systems don’t show the meal allowance separately on their certificates but are included in the “Gross Payments” instead. In these cases, providing the allowance is paid under an award, we ask the client to obtain a letter from their employers confirming the payment of an allowance and the daily rate or check payslips for details. Alternatively, if an overtime meal allowance is shown separately on your payslip, that will be sufficient evidence of receipt of a genuine overtime meal allowance (providing it is paid under an industrial award). In this case, you should keep copies of payslips in case of an ATO review.

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