see attached for ATO brochures on the topic.

Self-education expenses are a tricky area and often gets audited by the ATO. Here are some tips


Connection to work

In TR 98/9 the ATO sets out the criteria for self-education expenses.

You can't claim a deduction for self-education expenses for a course that doesn't have a sufficient connection to your current work activities even though it (Last modified: 15 Jun 2020QC 31970):

  • might be generally related to it – such as undertaking a full-time fashion photography course and working as a casual sales assistant on the weekends
  • enables you to get new employment – such as moving employment as a nurse to employment as a doctor.

Other examples include Last modified: 04 May 2020QC 20811

  • can't claim due to limited use in current role
    • e.g. Ling is a registered nurse working in an aged care facility while studying to become a specialist nurse in midwifery. The study will primarily provide skills for a new position, which means she'll have to seek new employment.

      Ling isn't eligible and can’t claim her self-education expenses because her specialised study has only limited use in her current work and therefore lacks sufficient connection to the duties performed.

  • study isn't relevant to current duties
    • e.g. Claire is a personal carer working in a nursing home. Her duties include giving personal care to residents, assisting with daily living activities and reporting to a registered nurse about the patients. She doesn't take temperatures, blood pressure or administer medications. Claire decides to complete a Bachelor of Nursing to become employed as a registered nurse, which will involve different duties.

      Claire isn't eligible to claim a deduction for her self-education expenses because the course isn't relevant to her duties.

  • If you are a casual employee. - (TT ref) or working to support study rather than studying to increase skills
    • e.g. Duong is employed on a casual basis as a carer through a nursing agency to support himself whilst studying for a Bachelor of Nursing. Once he has his degree, Duong will be able to work as a registered nurse.

      Duong isn't eligible to claim his study expenses as a tax deduction because he was working to support his study rather than studying to increase his skills, knowledge or income from his work activities as a casual carer.

Paid via loan/HECS/HELP

You can only claim a deduction when you paid the fees upfront. You CANNOT claim when you deferred it to HECS. 

Expenses You Can’t Claim

You cannot claim the following expenses in relation to your self-education:

  • repayments of Higher Education Loan Program (HELP) loans (although the fees paid by some HELP loans are)

  • Student Financial Supplement Scheme (SFSS) repayments
  • home office occupancy expenses
  • meals where you're not sleeping away from home


- ref