Should You Be Able to Claim Your Handbag as a 'Work Expense'?

What do you carry in your handbag? If it's anything work-related, you might be in for a rude shock.

Most women in our office here at LifeStyle use their handbag to carry things for work. They often carry laptops, mobile phones, notepads, reading glasses - all the things one needs on an average day in the office. 

However, while the guy who brings his satchel to work carrying the exact same items is eligible for a tax break - those who carry a handbag are not.

The Australian Financial Review recently discovered the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) unfairly favours men in its policies on tax-deductible "business luggage."

"[The ATO] said a taxpayer can claim a deduction for briefcases, satchels and other business luggage if they are used predominantly for work," the article reported.

"However, as a general rule, handbags will not be regarded as a tax-deductible work expense, the Tax Office says."

In summary: bags considered stylish and appropriate for men are deemed worthy of a tax break, while bags considered stylish and appropriate for women are not. Meanwhile, said bags are used, literally, for the exact... same... thing. 

As insurance broker Carolyn Roche explained to AFR, "Everything work-related goes into [her handbag]."

"It's got my iPad, two mobile phones, pens, my purse, make-up bag and probably paper clips. It's really no different to a man carrying a briefcase. It's professional as well as chic," she said. 

A policewoman also said she takes a handbag to her court cases carrying the same contents as any other officer might take in his or her briefcase. 

The ATO - which claims handbags have the "hallmarks of a private expense" - appears to presume a handbag is bought solely for style, while a man-bag is bought solely for practicality, which, as Carolyn explained, simply isn't true any more.

Meanwhile, a man can take his latest season Louis Vuitton satchel to work during the week and out to a cafe on the weekend and still receive economic benefits.

Hmm, go figure.

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