I am Chartered Accountant who is married to a doctor. We met while she was studying at university. Over the years I have witnessed the different work-related expenditure required during the course of her internship, residency and registrar stages.

My wife is now approaching the end of her final year as a registrar.

Last year she attended her first overseas conference in San Francisco. Once we started planning the trip, we quickly learned the total cost of the air fares and accommodation would easily surpass previous work-related expenditures.

There are a lot of guides and tips available to medical practitioners about what you can claim when attending an overseas conference. However, I want to share our personal experiences and recommendations.

Golden Gate with San Francisco city view

1. Plan ahead and be organised

Obtain a credit card that comes with complimentary travel insurance and waives foreign transaction fees. Use the card to pay for the following expenses:

  • Air fares;
  • Accommodation;
  • Taxi fares (from home to airport, while overseas and airport back to home);
  • Other transportation expenses (hire car, parking, petrol, train, bus, etc);
  • Meals (where practical to pay with a credit card);
  • Conference, course and seminar fees;
  • Any work related resources purchased at the conference; and
  • Any other incidentals during the travel.

The Australia Tax Office (ATO) will only accept overseas travel expenses that are supported by written evidence.

Your credit card statement will show any transaction details and the Australian currency conversion. A statement can be used as written evidence for the ATO in case you lose any receipts.

We recommend asking for a receipt for any expenses paid in cash. Handwrite what the expense was for on the back of the receipt if it is not self-explanatory.

2. Dear (travel) diary…

Keep a travel diary if your overseas travel involves six or more consecutive nights. The travel diary should include:

  • The nature of activity;
  • Dates;
  • Places; and
  • Times and duration of each activity.

The medical conference’s itinerary can also complement the travel dairy.

3. Eat. Beach. Sleep. Repeat

If you intend to stay longer for a holiday, remember to include your additional leisure time in your travel diary. That way your accountant can accurately decipher the work-related and private elements of your travel. Only the work-related portion of your overseas trip can be claimed as a tax deduction.

4. How to keep your post holiday glow

When claiming any work-related deductions, there must be a sufficient connection to your current place of work. From experience, we believe the ATO places additional scrutiny on claims related to overseas travel.

In my wife’s case, we took comfort knowing that we had taken all of the steps above. We have not since heard from the ATO.

If you have an upcoming international conference and you are in doubt about what to claim, please speak to your advisor.

This article was written by Nathaniel Indarta, an accountant in Pilot’s Business Advisory division. Nathaniel works closely with Kristy Baxter and Angela Stavropoulos who lead the medical services team.