Navigating the Maze of Tax Deductions: Real Estate Agent’s $150k Claim Denied by ATO

In a recent development, the ATO dealt a blow to real estate agent Robert Copley. The Tribunal aligned with the ATO, emphasizing the complexities of real estate tax deductions and the need for meticulous record-keeping.


As the managing director of a real estate agency, Copley pursued tax deductions for the years ending in 2018, 2019, and 2020, with initial claims of $28,773, $26,359, and $24,253. A pre-issue ATO audit triggered a comprehensive examination.

Audit Process:

The ATO requested supporting documents not furnished by Mr. Copley’s accountants. Amended assessments disallowed a significant portion of the claimed deductions. Undeterred, Copley’s tax agent objected, arguing for the legitimacy of expenses.

Tribunal’s Verdict:

Some objections found favor, but the ATO disallowed car expenses, work-related expenses, and gifts and donations. The Tribunal highlighted crucial issues, such as claiming expenses for a company-owned vehicle, insufficient logbook specificity, and lack of fuel receipts.

Lack of Substantiation:

The Tribunal raised a primary point of contention regarding Mr. Copley’s failure to provide adequate receipts and records to substantiate claimed expenses. The absence of clear evidence, especially for charitable donations and credit card interest, worked against him. The Tribunal determined the claimed expenses were not deductible under section 8-1 of the ITAA 1997.

Lessons Learned:

Dr. Evans-Bonner, a senior Tribunal member, emphasized the significance of maintaining proper records. He clarified that restructuring affairs would serve as a preventive measure, averting similar issues in the future.


Robert Copley’s case is a cautionary tale for real estate professionals seeking tax deductions, emphasizing meticulous record-keeping and a clear nexus between expenses and income. For tailored solutions, consider Endurego Tax’s comprehensive services in Inner West Sydney. If facing a similar situation or requiring expert guidance in real estate tax matters, contact us for dedicated assistance in navigating tax complexities and achieving optimal outcomes for your business affairs.

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