After the recent furore over the non-existent supply of rapid antigen tests (RATs) and the reduced availability of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests at many COVID-19 testing sites, the Federal Government is hoping for some good press with the announcement that it intends to legislate to make both PCR tests and RATs tax-deductible for individuals who buy them for a work-related purpose.

According to the government’s proposal, deductibility of tests would take effect from the beginning of the 2021–2022 tax year (that is, starting 1 July 2021) and would be ongoing. Individuals will also be able to deduct the cost of a test regardless of whether they are required to attend the workplace or have the option to work remotely. How much you might benefit from this proposal will depend on your individual tax rate and circumstances.

For businesses that can obtain enough RATs for their workforce, the government has also proposed to make COVID-19 tests provided by employers to employees exempt from FBT, if they are used for work-related purposes. This essentially means the tests would be excluded from the definition of a fringe benefit, and employers would not have to pay FBT on the costs of tests given to their employees in a work-related context.

With the Federal election fast creeping up, there doesn’t seem much time for this proposal to be introduced in Parliament and passed into law. There is also uncertainty as to whether a possible Labor government would champion this specific tax-deductibility measure, in particular due to Labor’s election pledge to provide free RATs to all Australians through Medicare.

TIP: In the interim, the ATO recommends that people and businesses incurring work-related expenses for COVID-19 tests keep clear records (eg receipts), to make claiming straightforward should the purchases become deductible in the future.