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Traveling while “on call”

I’m “on call” so my travel to and from work is not private… Wrong… Sometimes…

According to Draft Taxation Ruling TR 2019/D7, titled “Income tax: when are deductions allowed for employees’ transport expenses?”, travel of an employee while ‘on call’ may not be private, even if it is between home and a regular place of work. Importantly, just awaiting a call from their employer to attend a regular place of work, does not stop the travel to work being private. To not be private, the employee’s duties must have “substantively commenced at their home and the employee is required to travel to a regular place of work to complete those particular duties.”

For example…

Christine is a highly trained computer consultant who is involved in supervising a major conversion in computer facilities which her employer provides for its customers. This requires her to be on call 24 hours a day. In order to assist in diagnosing and correcting computer faults while she is at home after her normal work hours, Christine’s employer installs specialised equipment at her home. Typically, matters can be resolved by Christine at home with the use of this equipment but if the problem cannot be resolved at home, Christine travels to the office in order to progress the matter further.

Christine’s travel between her home and the office every day is private travel between her home and her regular work location. The costs of this travel are not incurred in gaining or producing her assessable income. However, in circumstances where Christine is called to correct a fault after hours and where she commences work on that fault at home but has to travel to her employer’s premises because she cannot rectify it at home, the cost of travel between her home and the office will be deductible. Although this travel is between her home and a regular work location, the cost of these abnormal journeys are deductible because Christine commences substantive work prior to leaving home and then completes that work once she attends the office. Christine does not choose to do part of the work of her job in two separate places, but rather the two places of work are a fundamental part of Christine providing specialised support arising from the nature of her special duties. The expenses she incurs in travelling to the office in such circumstances are incurred in gaining or producing her assessable income.

But travel remains private where an employee awaits at home for advice from their employer whether they are required to work, in a sense on ‘standby’, and does not commence any substantive duties at the place where they receive the call or request from their employer.

Linda is a nurse. Sometimes Linda is required to be on standby duty. If Linda is called by her employer while she is on standby duty, she travels from her home to the hospital and starts her shift once she gets there. Linda’s travel is between her home and a regular work location with short notice of her start time. The travel does not occur on paid work time and accordingly, the expenses are a prerequisite to Linda’s income earning activities. The transport expenses Linda incurs in travelling from her home to the hospital are private and not deductible.

At call to work where you are (business) or at call to come into work (private). You can’t just say its not private because I am “on call”.

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