You might be thinking that postgraduate study is expensive. And if you’re toying with the idea of further study, it’s likely you’ve reached a point in your life where you already have a lot of big expenses – a mortgage, a car loan, a family.

But postgraduate study can also be the difference between the mediocre job you’re in, and the job you want. In 2018, QILT’s graduate employment data showed that people with postgraduate degrees earn 33% more than those with undergraduate degrees.

Look at it this way: it’s the equivalent of trading up from a $65k per annum position to an $87k one. That’s a big difference.

More good news is that you can claim deductions for a wide range of things as ‘self-education expenses’ – if your course is related to your current work. You’ll be surprised how much you can actually claim.

Are you eligible?

To be eligible the course must lead to a formal qualification that directly relates to your current job.

According to the Australia Taxation Office (ATO), in order to claim deductions, your area of study must either:

  • “maintain or improve the specific skills or knowledge you require in your current employment, or
  • result in, or is likely to result in, an increase in your income from your current employment.”

If you’re an accountant looking to study Osteopathy to do a complete re-career, that’s not going to fly. 

You’re also not allowed to claim a deduction without “sufficient connection” to your current work, even though:

  • “it might generally be related to it, or
  • it will enable you to get new employment.”

But if you’re a currently employed accountant looking to upskill in global economics, an MBA would be a logical next step.

Will your studies relate to - and enhance - your current career?

What exactly can you claim?

Some things you can claim include:

  • tuition fees
    This includes fees payable under FEE-HELP, but does not include expenses paid under HECS-HELP. (Find out the difference between the two.)
  • student service and amenities fees
  • textbooks
  • internet usage (excluding connection fees)
  • parking fees (only for work-related claims)
  • technical instruments or equipment less than $300
  • repairs to equipment
  • computers and accessories
  • stationery
  • photocopying
  • home office running costs
  • trade, professional or academic journals
  • travel to and from uni, but only for work-related claims.
  • accommodation and meals (if you’re away from home overnight)

See the full list of claimable items.

Your home office is one of many expenses you can claim.

What you can’t claim

Even if these expenses are related to your self-education, you‘re not allowed to claim:

  • Higher Education Loan Program (HELP) loan repayments
  • Student Financial Supplement Scheme (SFSS) repayments
  • Student Start-up Loan (SSL) repayments
  • Trade Support Loan Program (TSL) repayments
  • home office occupancy expenses.

Do your research on what you can and can't claim.

Online calculator

The ATO offers this handy online calculator so you can get an idea of how much you may be able to claim.

Key in a few quick details about your income, your study activity and self-education expenses, and get an estimate based on the information provided.

The online calculator could provide even more surprises.

An investment in your future?

Time and again, studies have shown that people with postgraduate degrees earn more than those with undergraduate degrees only. And they’re more likely to get the job in the first place, too.

And when you crunch the numbers, postgraduate study can be a really wise investment in your future, and your family’s.

Find out more about postgraduate studies at VU

 

 

Writer: Jessie Burns