87 ATC 741
R Balmford SM
JE Stewart SM
HC Trinick M
Administrative Appeals Tribunal
Judgment date: 3 June 1987.
R. Balmford (Senior Member), J.E. Stewart (Senior Member) and H.C. Trinick (Member): This is an application for review of a decision of the respondent disallowing an objection by the applicant to the inclusion in the respondent's assessment of her taxable income for the year ended 30 June 1984, of an amount which was described as follows in her income tax return for that year:
"Purchase of glasses used solely for work to avoid glare of VDU screen $204."
2. The applicant's tax agent lodged a notice of objection on 26 November 1984, stating:
"We draw to your attention that the Taxpayer purchased the glasses solely for work with the Health Insurance Commission. It was necessary according to medical advice to purchase the said glasses in order to avoid glare from the computer's V.D.U. screen. We further point out that the Taxpayer is not required to use the said glasses in any other daily functions other than those specifically related to her occupation. For this reason, the Taxpayer seeks an amendment of $204 in respect of her Assessment for the year ended 30th June, 1984."
3. That objection was disallowed on the ground that:
"The claim for eye glasses is essentially private in nature and therefore not an allowable deduction."
4. The applicant's tax agent, on 11 February 1985, requested that the matter be referred to a Board of Review. The material before the Tribunal does not indicate when that request was complied with by the respondent. By virtue of sec. 223(1) of the Taxation Boards of Review (Transfer of Jurisdiction) Act 1986 and sec. 189(2) of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1936 ("the Act") that referral of the decision on the applicant's objection is deemed to constitute the making by the applicant of an application to the Tribunal for review of the decision.
5. The applicant was unrepresented at the hearing. She gave evidence as to the facts already stated by her agent and quoted in para. 1 and 2 above, and produced the glasses in question for the Tribunal's inspection. While employed as a cashier and claims officer at the Health Insurance Commission she was working at a visual display unit ("VDU") for eight hours per day under fluorescent lighting. Her eyes became sore and she consulted an optometrist who prescribed the wearing of tinted glasses. She purchased and wore the glasses. Not only did the condition of her eyes improve, but she worked better and was happier and healthier. Some of her fellow workers also needed to wear glasses for the same reason: others did not. At the end of the working day she would leave the glasses in her desk drawer. Since leaving that position she has not worn the glasses. Although in her present position she uses a VDU from time to time, she has not needed to wear the glasses. She did not and does not wear or need to wear these or any other glasses at any other time. The Tribunal accepts the applicant's evidence unreservedly.
6. The applicant relied on the first limb of sec. 51(1) of the Act, which reads:
"All losses and outgoings to the extent to which they are incurred in gaining or producing the assessable income... shall be allowable deductions except to the extent to which they are losses or outgoings of capital, or of a capital, private or domestic nature, or are incurred in relation to the gaining or production of exempt income."
7. For the respondent, it was submitted that the cost of the glasses was an outgoing of a private or domestic nature. On the evidence before us we find that that submission cannot
87 ATC 743
be sustained. The applicant had no need to wear glasses other than to protect her eyes when at work. That being so, the glasses cannot be equated with conventional clothing, or with glasses intended to correct defective vision: they are protective equipment. If the applicant were to continue in the employment by which she gained assessable income, without suffering discomfort, it was necessary for her to protect her eyes by wearing tinted glasses.
8. The respondent did not seek to argue that the cost of the glasses was an outgoing of capital or of a capital nature, and in the circumstances of this case, given the amount of the cost involved and the ephemeral nature of glasses, that would appear to be appropriate. (See, for example, Case A45,
69 ATC 270, where a Board of Review found that a blast furnace worker should be allowed a deduction for the cost of woollen clothing, worn only at work, to protect him, by virtue of its fire-resistant qualities, from the intense heat of the furnace and flying sparks.) The question of exempt income does not arise.
9. For the reasons given, we find that the cost of the glasses was an outgoing incurred in gaining or producing the assessable income and did not fall within any of the exceptions to sec. 51(1). Accordingly, the objection decision under review will be set aside and the taxpayer's objection allowed.