retail tax deductions


Running a business is hard enough without getting caught up in the complexities of the tax system. To make things simpler, here’s a beginner’s guide to the tax deductions all retail businesses should be looking to claim.

1. Stock purchases

Everything you purchase to sell in your store is tax deductible as a cost-of-sale. In addition, you can also claim for associated costs of getting stock delivered from suppliers as well as other costs of sale such as delivery charges to customers (if you pay them rather than the customer), packing, etc.

If you travel to trade fairs to examine new products, those costs are also deductible.

Write-off any lost, damaged or obsolete stock before the year ends in order to claim a tax deduction.

2. Immediate write-off of capital purchases

Until 30 June 2018, your business can claim an immediate tax deduction for all capital purchases that cost less than $20,000, rather than writing off the cost over several years. That could be a great way to refresh your store and generate some extra cash flow. To qualify, your business must be a small business (i.e. with an aggregate turnover of less than $10 million).

The items you could look at claiming include:

  • Cash registers and other POS devices;
  • delivery vans;
  • store fittings and fixtures;
  • computers, laptops and tablets;
  • in store security systems; and
  • accounting software.

3. Advertising and marketing costs

Advertising and marketing to sell stock, gain publicity and hire employees is all tax deductible. Costs incurred in entertaining clients and suppliers, sadly, are not deductible.

4. Property costs

Rent, mortgage interest, rates and land tax for your business premises are all tax deductible.

5. Salary and superannuation expenses

You have to pay staff wages and you also need to contribute compulsory superannuation payments for everyone on the payroll. All these costs are tax deductible. If you can get your June quarterly super payment in before 30 June, you might be able to accelerate that deduction into the current tax year (the actual deadline is in July, after the next tax year has started).

6. Tax expenses

All tax and accounting related expenses should be tax deductible, including the cost of hiring a bookkeeper to prepare your business records, having tax returns or BAS prepared, and costs associated with attending to an ATO audit or objecting to a tax assessment you think is incorrect. 

7. Fringe benefits

A fringe benefit is a benefit provided to an employee (or their associate) because that person is an employee (or a former or future employee) and can include items such as cars and car parking spaces. Employers can generally claim an income tax deduction for the cost of providing fringe benefits and for the Fringe Benefits Tax they pay on those benefits.

8. Business insurance

Premiums you pay for business insurance are generally tax deductible, provided they are connected to your business’ capacity to earn an income or to protect its assets.

This means premiums for workers compensation insurance, professional indemnity insurance, fire damage, theft cover, public liability insurance, loss of profits and commercial motor vehicle insurance are all tax deductible.

Premiums for key person or key man insurance, a type of policy that offers a benefit payment when an important company employee is incapacitated and no longer able to work, can also generally be claimed as a tax deduction provided the key person cover is/was taken out to protect your business’ revenue.

Reorganising your business tax-free

Not a tax deduction as such, but a tax relief that applies to small businesses, the government has recently introduced new measures that allow businesses to reorganise themselves without incurring unexpected income tax consequences, such as capital gains on asset transfers.

This is particularly valuable for new and expanding businesses that are looking to change their legal form to allow greater asset protection for the owners or greater freedom to expand, for instance by changing from a sole trader to a trust or company.


The above guide is a brief overview of what your retail business should be claiming. As a general rule, any cost incurred in generating income for your business is deductible, either straight away or over time.

If you need help getting your taxes right, it’s always best to talk to a tax adviser.

Mark Chapman is director of tax communications at tax accounting group H&R Block.


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