University students around Australia can now claim millions of dollars in educational deductions, and they have Symone Anstis to thank for it. Margie Dimech spoke to the primary school teacher about taking on the taxman.
Symone was completing a Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Teaching at ACU's Melbourne Campus in 2006, when she tried to claim $920 as self-education expenses incurred in gaining her Youth Allowance income.
The claim included textbooks and stationary, student administration fees, computer depreciation and supplies for students during teaching rounds. As a part-time sales assistant, Symone had earned $14,946, and received $3,622 in Youth Allowance payments.
However the Tax Office rejected her claim, and Symone and her solicitor father Michael decided to take the matter to the courts - fighting all the way to the Federal Court, which in November 2009 ruled in their favour.
The Taxation Commissioner appealed to the High Court, but the appeal was dismissed last year and the commissioner ordered to pay Symone's costs.
Symone said she was elated the court had ruled in her favour, but still bemused her relatively small tax claim had resulted in a landmark judgment.
"When I lodged my tax return I was just hoping I would get that little bit extra back," she said. "I was happy to fight it as I felt I was entitled to the deduction, and I'm obviously very happy with the result, but I never ever imagined it would go all the way to the High Court."
More than 400,000 students receive Youth Allowance, and the ruling now means those students who are also full-time can now claim a deduction for their study expenses including the cost of text books.
"I'm really pleased that students can claim the costs of their study related expenses against their Youth Allowance," Symone said. "I know first-hand that studying can be quite difficult financially and every little bit helps.
"I just hope that parliament keeps further education a priority and doesn't change the laws regarding deductible expenses."