Decision Impact Statement
WTPG and Commissioner of Taxation
 AATA 971
2016 ATC 1-086
Venue: Administrative Appeals Tribunal
Venue Reference No: 2015/6427
Judge Name: Deputy President S A Forgie
Judgment date: 30 November 2016
Appeals on foot: No
Decision Outcome: Favourable to the Commissioner
Administrative Treatment (Implication on current Public Rulings and Determinations)
This decision has no impact for ATO precedential documents or Law Administration Practice Statements
Outlines the ATO's response to this case, which concerns whether travel expenses incurred by a person for their spouse to accompany them to a work related conference as their carer are deductible under section 8-1 of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1997 (ITAA 1997), denied under section 26-30 of the ITAA 1997, and whether the Commissioner's decision breached the Disability Discrimination Act 1992.
Brief summary of facts
During the income year ending 30 June 2014, the Applicant paid for his wife to travel with him to London so that she could be his personal carer while he attended two work-related conferences. The Applicant suffers from medical conditions that mean he is unable to walk any distance without assistance and cannot stand for any length of time.
The Applicant's employer was aware of his disabilities but did not provide him with a carer or assistant to travel with him. None of the employer's other staff members were willing to accompany him to act as his carer.
The Applicant's wife acted as his carer both on the flights to and from the United Kingdom and during his time there. During that time, she helped him to dress, assisted him with his personal hygiene, showering and toilet needs and supported him when he was walking and standing. Her assistance was necessary to enable the Applicant to travel to, and attend, both conferences. The Applicant's wife did not perform any tasks relating to the duties he performed in the course of employment. She was not employed by the Applicant's employer and did not receive any payment for the assistance that she gave him.
The Applicant sought a private ruling on whether the travel expenses, being his wife's airfares amounting to $9,767.52, were deductible for the 2014 year. The Commissioner made a private ruling that the travel expenses were not deductible.
The Applicant objected to the private ruling and the Commissioner agreed to treat the objection as an objection to the Applicant's assessment (which had been issued) and disallowed it in full. The Applicant applied to the Tribunal for review of that objection decision primarily on the ground that it constitutes discrimination under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992.
It is noted that the Tribunal decision refers to the objection decision relating to the private ruling. However this is not considered to affect the decision, as the facts relied on by the Tribunal were agreed by the parties.
Issues decided by the court
The issues before the Tribunal were whether:
- the travel expenses were deductible in the 2014 year under section 8-1 of the ITAA 1997
- section 26-30 of the ITAA 1997 operates to deny the Applicant a deduction for travel expenses
- the Commissioner's objection decision was in breach of the Disability Discrimination Act 1992.
Application of section 8-1 of ITAA 1997
The Tribunal concluded that the travel expenses were not deductible, as paragraph 8-1(1)(a) of the ITAA 1997 was not satisfied. The Tribunal found that the expenses were incurred in the course of enabling the Applicant to undertake his duties rather than in the course of his undertaking those duties. The Tribunal noted that the Applicant did not pay his wife's expenses so that she could carry out tasks associated with his employment so that he could be said to have incurred the expenditure in the course of gaining his assessable income.
Although the Tribunal did not need to then consider whether the travel expenses were of a private or domestic nature under paragraph 8-1(1)(b) of the ITAA 1997, the Tribunal concluded that the principles in Re Frisch and the Federal Commissioner of Taxation  AATA 462, (2008) 72 ALJR 1 applied in the present case. The nature of the personal assistance required by the Applicant equated with the expenses being of a private or domestic nature.
Application of section 26-30 of ITAA 1997
The Tribunal was not required to make a finding on the operation of section 26-30 of the ITAA 1997, as it had concluded that the travel expenses were not deductible under section 8-1 of ITAA 1997. However, the Tribunal considered that section 26-30 of the ITAA 1997 imposes a blanket prohibition upon claiming a relative's travel expenses as a deduction, but it is a prohibition that is ameliorated if the relative performed substantial duties as the taxpayer's employer's employee or as the taxpayer's employee and it is reasonable to conclude that the relative would have accompanied the taxpayer even without the personal relationship between them.
Discrimination under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992:
The Tribunal also held that that the Commissioner's objection decision was not in breach of the Disability Discrimination Act 1992. There was no discrimination within the meaning of that Act in the Commissioner's application of section 8-1 of the ITAA 1997.
ATO view of decision
The Tribunal's reasoning is consistent with the Commissioner's view on the deductibility of travel expenses under section 8-1 of the ITAA 1997, and the operation of section 26-30 of the ITAA 1997.
The Commissioner considers that the Tribunal's decision that that there was no discrimination within the meaning of the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 in the Commissioner's application of section 8-1 is correct.
Implications for impacted ATO precedential documents (Public Rulings and Determinations)
Implications for impacted Law Administration Practice Statements
We invite you to advise us if you feel this decision has consequences we have not identified, or if a precedential decision such as a Public Ruling or an ATO ID requires reconsideration or amendment. Please forward your comments to the contact officer.
| Date Issued:
||23 February 2017
| Due Date:
||23 March 2017
| Contact officer:
| Email address:
||(03) 8601 9851
Income Tax Assessment Act 1997
Income Tax Assessment Act 1936
Disability Discrimination Act 1992
Abbott v. Transport Accident Commission
 2 VR 116
Commissioner of Taxation v. Finn
 HCA 61
(1961) 106 CLR 60
Commissioner of Taxation v. Payne
 HCA 3
(2001) 202 CLR 93
177 ALR 270
(2001) 75 ALJR 442
46 ATR 228
2001 ATC 4027
Federal Commissioner of Taxation v. Anstis
 HCA 40
(2010) 241 CLR 443
272 ALR 1
76 ATR 735
85 ALJR 122
2010 ATC 20-221
Federal Commissioner of Taxation v. Maddalena
(1971) 2 ATR 541
45 ALJR 426
71 ATC 4161
Fortescue Metals Group Limited v. The Commonwealth of Australia
 HCA 34
(2013) 250 CLR 548
300 ALR 26
87 ALJR 935
89 ATR 1
Lodge v. Commissioner of Taxation
 HCA 49
(1972) 128 CLR 171
3 ATR 254
46 ALJR 575
72 ATC 4174
Lunney v. Federal Commissioner of Taxation
 HCA 5
(1958) 100 CLR 478
(1958) 11 ATD 404
Project Blue Sky v. Australian Broadcasting Authority
 HCA 28
(1998) 194 CLR 355
72 ALJR 841
153 ALR 490
Purvis v. New South Wales
 HCA 62
(2003) 217 CLR 92
202 ALR 133
78 ALJR 1
77 ALD 570
Re Frisch and Federal Commissioner of Taxation
 AATA 462
(2008) 72 ATR 551
2008 ATC 10-031
Re Gilbert and Federal Commissioner of Taxation
(1982) 82 ATC 141
(1982) 25 CTBR (NS) 715
Saraswati v. The Queen
 HCA 21
(1991) 172 CLR 1
100 ALR 193
65 ALJR 402