Call for Tax Breaks for Disability Support Workers
18 January 2017 at 2:02 pm
South Australian Dignity Party MP Kelly Vincent has called for increased tax deductions for disability support workers to assist with the costs of travel, vaccinations and police clearances in a submission to the federal government’s May budget deliberations.
“Disability support workers, also known as personal attendants, enable independence for people with disabilities, supporting us so that we can engage in work and the community,” Vincent said.
“Disability support work has long been undervalued and offers low pay. So, it is unacceptable that some support workers also effectively incur out-of-pocket costs in conducting their everyday work activities.”
Vincent, who has cerebral palsy, said disability support workers were currently unable to claim a tax deduction for travel between clients’ homes if they go to their own home in between shifts.
“Support workers should be entitled to a deduction for their travel costs when they are travelling between their first and last client of the day, including when they visit their own home in between shifts,” she said.
“This is a simple move that could encourage more workers to enter, or stay in, the industry, so that we people with disabilities are guaranteed the assistance we need to continue contributing to our state.
“We are offering a practical solution for disability support workers rather than the absurd work around advised by the tax office. Suggesting a worker park somewhere along the route and then walk home to ensure that leg of the journey qualifies for a deduction is worthy of Monty Python or an episode of Utopia.
“My suggested changes would also be timely given the rollout of the National Disability Insurance Scheme across Australia. Currently, we have half the required support workers needed for full implementation of the NDIS by 2020 – there has been, and will continue to be, a substantial increase in demand for support workers in the disability sector.”
Vincent said in her budget submission that the Australian Taxation Office does not currently allow for vaccination costs to be reimbursed for disability support workers or health care workers.
“This is particularly crucial for people working with clients who may not be able to be vaccinated, and or may be especially susceptible to illness, due to disability or health conditions,” she said.
“Vaccinations are crucial to ensure that infectious diseases are not passed on and should be encouraged in both the disability and health sectors. I believe it would be of benefit to many support workers if their vaccination costs were made tax deductible. It is possible that removing this cost barrier could also act as further encouragement to ensure support workers keep their vaccinations up to date.”
She said disability support workers and aged care workers were generally required to complete a federal police clearance and comprehensive screening process as a prerequisite for their employment.
“This is currently not covered as a tax deduction by the Australian Taxation Office. I have concerns that the cost of undergoing necessary police clearances may prevent some individuals from considering employment in the disability sector.
“I believe it would be of benefit if support workers, where they incur this cost, could claim a deduction for this outgoing expense.
“With the rollout of the National Disability Insurance Scheme underway, it is important that the government encourages new workers into the disability sector.”
The independent MP said increased tax deductions for disability support workers would assist to break down financial barriers that may deter individuals from entering the sector, at a time when demand for workers is at an all-time high.
“These changes will also ensure that we continue to value the important role of support workers by acknowledging the additional costs they often experience,” she said.
“These small changes have the potential to assist disability support workers by ensuring they receive fair reimbursement for being available to do the work they do.”