Figures from the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) have revealed that only half of all eligible Australian families have lodged a claim, leaving more than $500 million in unclaimed benefits.

The Government is encouraging Australian families to keep their receipts from education related expenses so they can take advantage of the Education Tax Refund (ETR).

The Government introduced the $4.4 billion Education Tax Refund to take some of that pressure off family budgets but the take up has been far less than anticipated.

The Education Tax Refund provides  up to $375 per primary school student and $750 per secondary school student.

That means a family with two kids in high school and one in primary school could potentially get a refund of almost $2000 on eligible education expenses.
 
According to the ATO, as at 13 November 2009, 794,720 claims for the Education Tax Refund have been processed for 1,375,167 children of an estimated 2,669,000 eligible children.

Of the 1,375,167 eligible children, approximately 740,000 are primary school children and 635,000 are secondary school children.

Only $488 million of the projected $1.02 billion cost has been claimed in tax refunds.

Of the 794,720 ETR claims processed, 259,150 claims (32.6 per cent) were for the maximum entitlement and 535,570 claims (67.4 per cent) were for a proportion of the maximum entitlement.

The average amount claimed for primary school students was $246.99 while the average for secondary school students is $495.73.

Back to school expenses that parents can claim include the cost of buying, establishing, repairing and maintaining any of the following items:

  • school textbooks and other printed learning material, including prescribed textbooks, associated learning materials, study guides and stationery;
  • prescribed trade tools for secondary school trade courses;
  • laptop computers and home computers;
  • computer-related equipment such as printers, USB flash drives, as well as disability aids to assist in the use of computer equipment for students with special needs;
  • home internet connections; and
  • computer software for educational use.

Families can claim the ETR if they have eligible education expenses and received Family Tax Benefit (FTB) Part A for the child that the expenses relate to.

Families are also eligible if they have children in primary or secondary school who would be eligible for FTB Part A purposes, but for the fact that the child receives certain payments or allowances, including:

  • Youth Allowance;
  • Disability Support Pension;
  • ABSTUDY Living Allowance;
  • the Veterans’ Children Education Scheme;
  • Student Financial Supplement Scheme; and
  • the scheme to provide education and training under s258 of the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2004.

Taxpayers still have until March-April 2010 to claim out of pocket education expenses for the 2009 school year, if they lodge their individual tax returns through a tax agent.

  More information about the Education Tax Refund is available at: www.educationtaxrefund.gov.au