Are Legal Fees Tax Deductible?

General principles

Deductible legal fees for business

To be tax deductible, legal fees must have a direct connection to the operation of a business and the generation of assessable income.

However, it’s essential to be aware of certain conditions and exceptions that determine the deductibility of these expenses. One key aspect to consider is the classification of costs as capital, revenue, private or domestic.

  • Legal fees arising from capital expenses, such as acquiring a business or business premises, are typically non-deductible.
  • Legal costs related to earning exempt income or private legal matters are also non-deductible.


  • When faced with a wrongful dismissal claim by former employees or directors, businesses can claim legal fees incurred in their defense as deductions.
  • Should a company board face a defamation action, the legal expenses involved can be claimed as deductions.
  • Businesses can seek deductions for legal fees to pursue workers’ compensation claims, ensuring their employees’ rights are protected.
  • If a neighborhood development potentially impacts a business, legal expenses incurred in opposing it can be claimed as deductions.
  • In cases where business funds have been misappropriated, the legal fees associated with their recovery are deductible.
  • Businesses can claim deductions for legal expenses incurred in evicting tenants who have defaulted on their rent payments.
  • Legal fees incurred in defending the unauthorized use of trademarks, and protecting a business’s brand identity, can be claimed as deductions.
  • Understanding these examples showcases the immense potential for businesses to turn legal expenses into tax-saving opportunities. Businesses can optimize their financial position and fuel their growth by strategically utilizing these deductions.

Non deductible legal fees for business

To ensure compliance with tax laws and make informed decisions, businesses must understand the types of legal fees that are generally not eligible for tax deductions.

Here are some key non-deductible legal expenses to be aware of:

  • Legal fees for negotiating employment contracts with a new employer are typically not tax deductible as they are considered personal expenses unrelated to your business operations.
  • Legal fees for defending driving charges unrelated to your company’s business activities are generally not eligible for tax deductions. These are personal expenses. They do not directly contribute to your business’s assessable income.
  • Expenses related to defending charges of sexual harassment or racial vilification that occur within your workplace are typically not deductible. Again, they are personal.
  • Legal expenses incurred for disputing redundancy payouts or attempting to increase them are generally not tax deductible. These expenses are considered personal matters between you as the employer and your employees rather than directly related to your business operations.

Deductible legal fees for individuals

Legal fees incurred by individuals that can be linked to the generation of assessable income are generally eligible for tax deductions. For instance, legal fees may be deductible if they are associated with business activities or investments that generate revenue.

Likewise, individuals who own investment properties can claim tax deductions for legal expenses directly related to the management, maintenance, or acquisition of these properties. It may include legal fees incurred for lease agreements, property disputes, or property-related transactions.

Non deductible legal expenses for individuals

It is important to note that legal expenses of a private nature are generally not deductible for individuals. These expenses are considered personal and do not meet the criteria for tax deductibility.

Non-deductible legal expenses include fees incurred for personal matters, such as family court proceedings or personal legal disputes unrelated to income-generating activities.


Specific legal fees

Legal expenses not deductible under general provisions

When it comes to certain legal expenses, the general provisions of tax law may impose restrictions on their deductibility. It’s essential to be aware of these limitations to assess your tax obligations accurately. Here are some legal expenses that are generally not deductible:

Preparation of income tax returns, disputing tax assessments, and obtaining professional tax advice
While meeting your tax obligations is essential, the costs associated with preparing your income tax return, challenging tax assessments, or seeking professional tax advice are not typically deductible under general provisions. These expenses are considered part of your responsibility as a taxpayer.

Preparation of lease documents
Legal fees for preparing lease documents, such as rental agreements, fall under non-deductible expenses. These costs are seen as capital or private and are not directly related to the production of assessable income.

Certain borrowing expenses and mortgage discharge expenses
Specific borrowing expenses, such as loan establishment fees or mortgage discharge costs, are generally not deductible under the general provisions of tax law. These expenses are considered capital and are associated with acquiring or disposing of assets rather than directly related to your business’s assessable income.

Legal fees with specific deductibility rules

While some legal expenses may not be deductible under general provisions, certain categories have specific rules that allow for deductibility.

Legal expenses with specific deductibility rules include:

Business Lease Expenses
If you incur costs for preparing, registering, and stamping a lease agreement, these expenses may be deductible if the property is used or will be used for earning assessable income. Keeping accurate records and ensuring a clear connection between the lease expenses and your business operations is crucial.

Valuation Expenses
When valuation fees are paid to assess the value of a business, they are generally considered capital costs and not eligible for immediate deduction. However, suppose the valuation is used to support a loan application for business purposes. In that case, the expenses can be claimed as borrowing costs immediately or over the life of the loan, depending on the specific circumstances.

Fines and Breaches of the Law
Generally, fines or penalties imposed due to a breach of any Australian or foreign law are not deductible. However, the costs incurred in defending such actions may be deductible, providing potential tax relief opportunities.


Summary of legal fees deductibility

Type of Legal Fees Deductibility Non-Deductibility Nature
Business-related fees Generally deductible Negotiating employment contracts with a new employer Revenue
    Defending driving charges unrelated to company business Revenue
    Defending charges of sexual harassment or racial vilification in the workplace Revenue
    Disputing redundancy payouts or seeking to increase them Revenue
Personal-related fees Deductible with nexus Expenses of a private nature Private
    (e.g., personal legal matters unrelated to income generation)  
Investment property fees Deductible with nexus Personal legal matters unrelated to income-generating property Private
    (e.g., personal property disputes)  
Tax-related fees Deductible for businesses Preparation of income tax return, disputing tax assessments, and obtaining professional tax advice Revenue/Private
  Deductible for individuals    
Lease-related fees Deductible with specific rules Preparation of lease documents (deductible over the term of the lease) Capital
Valuation fees Deductible with specific rules   Capital
Fines and law breaches Non-deductible

This article is general information only and does not provide advice to address your personal circumstances. To make an informed decision you should contact an appropriately qualified professional.