What expenses can I claim for my business?

looking at an expense receipt

It’s in every business owner’s best interest to track and claim all of their expenses. The higher your expenses, the lower your profits. And that means less tax to pay.

With that in mind, we use a rule of thumb for identifying which costs can be claimed as business expenses:

If an expense is related to the generation of revenue, it can be claimed.

The nature of your business is also a factor. For example, a media production company will be able to claim Netflix and Sky TV subscriptions as expenses (they are critical for research), but a construction business won’t.

With that broad understanding, let’s break down examples of what’s claimable and what isn’t:

Typically claimable
Sometimes claimable
Definitely not claimable
International travel
Rental properties
Industry specific considerations

Typically claimable

  • Anything you purchase to sell to clients and/or customers
  • Accounting fees
  • Accident Compensation levies
  • Advertising
  • Bank fees and credit card charges
  • Commission paid to others to sell your products/services
  • Computer / software / internet expenses
  • Consultancy fees
  • Contractors and subcontractors
  • Depreciation on business assets
  • Freight
  • Health and safety costs
  • Insurance on business assets
  • Interest on loans and overdrafts
  • Legal fees – if less than $10,000 and business-related
  • Licenses, registrations, and subscriptions
  • Office expenses
    • Light, heat, and power
    • Milk, tea, coffee, biscuits for staff
    • Cleaning and toiletries
    • Telephone
  • Postage 
  • Printing and stationery
  • Protective clothing
  • Rent and lease of assets
  • Salaries and wages
  • Training and courses
  • Travel (national and international)

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Sometimes claimable

  • Gifts (and vouchers) of food and drink – 50%
  • Social events – 50%
  • Office shouts – 50%
  • Sports or cultural events – 50%
  • Light meals for meetings – 100%
  • Food and drink provided at a conference or similar event – 100%
Repairs and maintenance
  • Repairing an asset to return to its original state
  • Maintaining an asset to ensure its continued operation
  • Rectifying general wear and tear
  • Cleaning, rubbish disposal

If the transaction increases the asset’s value beyond the initial purchase price, it cannot be claimed as an expense. It’s instead considered to be part of the asset and depreciated.  

Assets used in the business

Assets costing less than $1,000 can be deducted immediately from income. Items above this threshold must be capitalised in your fixed asset schedule, and depreciated (written off over a number of years).

Use of (part of) your home as an office

If you can show there is part of your home used primarily for your business, you can claim a portion of your house-related expenses. These can include

  • Rent
  • Mortgage interest
  • Electricity
  • Rates
  • Insurance (home and contents)
  • Telecommunication bills 

The amount you can claim is dependent on the floor area dedicated to business. For more info, check out our article on claiming home expenses.

Motor vehicle expenses
  • Fuel, servicing, WOF, road user charges (RUC), and insurance can all be recorded as business expenses. That said, you must make an adjustment if the vehicle is available for personal use or being used privately
  • You can reimburse employees if they personally pay for any motor vehicle expenses.
  • If an employee uses their own vehicle for business, you can reimburse them based on the number of business kilometres travelled, or on actual costs incurred.
  • You can provide your employees with a vehicle allowance.

Because adjustments and reimbursements can be difficult to calculate, this is one of the times where it pays to have an accountant!

Legal fees
  • If less than $10,000 and for business purposes – deductible 
  • Advice on property leases and registration fees – deductible, even if above $10k
  • Tax advice, calculations, and litigation costs – deductible, even if above $10k
Expenses paid personally

Perhaps you’ve used a personal credit for business expenses like travel or online purchases. All you need to do is make a list and send it to your accountant.

Make sure to keep the invoices. While they might not be necessary for your financial statements, the IRD still requires that they be kept for at least seven years.

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Definitely not claimable

Many people believe some of the expenses below are business related. They aren’t!

  • Drawings
  • Doctor and medical bills
  • Physiotherapy (even if you’re injured at work)
  • School fees and childcare costs
  • Vet bills
  • Shoes and clothing if they are suitable for general wear
  • Gym subscriptions
  • Personal travel and accommodation

There are also a few business expenses that can’t be claimed for GST or tax deductions:

  • Parking and motor vehicle fines
  • Late payment penalties
  • Any other fines or penalties

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International travel

You can claim any business expense that’s linked to the production of your business income. However, you won’t be eligible for GST deductions on any part of an overseas trip.

Because your accountant or Inland Revenue could ask for proof that your trip was for business purposes, it’s a great idea to record the following:

  • the reasons for the trip
  • the date of the trip
  • your itinerary
  • the cost of car hire, and air, bus and taxi fares
  • the cost of accommodation, meals and incidentals
  • the time spent on business and non-business activities.

 As with any business expense, you should retain copies of invoices or tickets.

If a trip is part business, part pleasure, you simply need to claim the relevant percentage or direct costs of the business part of the trip. For example, if your Fiji trip included a week on the beach and a week of client meetings in Suva, you can claim all of the Suva expenses and half of the travel costs (like the air fare).

Don’t hesitate to ask us any questions you have about international travel claims. [email protected] or 0800 755 333

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Rental properties

Income from residential property rental should not be declared for GST, and any costs shouldn’t be claimed for GST, either.

Property-related expenses
  • Rates
  • Insurance
  • Property management fees
  • Repairs and maintenance
  • Travel to and from your property for inspections and repairs
Financing expenses
  • Mortgage repayment insurance
  • Loan fees
  • Interest on mortgage*
Legal and consulting fees
  • Legal fees incurred when buying a rental property (if less than $10,000)
  • Legal action to recover unpaid rent
  • Costs for evicting a tenant
  • Preparation of a tenancy agreement
  • Accountancy fees
  • Valuation fee to obtain a mortgage (but not insurance valuations)
  • Legal fees for selling the rental property (if your total legal fees are less than $10,000)
Non-deductible costs
  • Mortgage repayments (except interest*)
  • Interest*
  • Repairs and maintenance, if it increases the value of the asset
  • Insurance valuations
  • Legal fees for selling the rental property (if your total legal fees exceed $10,000)**
  • Advertising the sale of a rental property**
  • Real estate commission**

* With the government’s new housing plan announced on 23 March 2021,  claiming interest against residential rental income has become severely restricted. If you’re purchasing a rental property, assume that interest cannot be claimed. Read more about this here, in the interest deductibility section.

** While not deductible as expenses, these costs will reduce the property’s selling price for tax purposes, which may lead to a decrease in taxable profit.

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Industry specific considerations

Inland Revenue has some ‘reader-friendly’ guidance on expenses to be claimed, based on what they’ve identified within specific industries. The links below take you to the relevant page.

Working in the real estate industry

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If you’d like help figuring out your claimable expenses, our support team would love to give you a hand. Contact us at [email protected] or 0800 755 333.

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