Doctors must be aquiver at the Rudd Government’s move to close a loop-hole on fringe benefits, which enables some people to reduce assessable income.

Any bill of $10 or more from a cafe, restaurant, caterer or the like, can be offset against taxable income, up to $10,000, with no questions asked.

If you engage a caterer to deliver dinner for your family once a week, that’s OK; if you take friends to an expensive restaurant for your 50th birthday, that’s OK; if you pay for your wedding, that’s OK; and so it goes ...

I know one young doctor who was working in a public hospital, who asked her mother to give her the bill for her grandmother’s wake, so she could add it to her wad of tax deductible entertainment bills.

Until about two years ago, a photocopy of a bill was all that was needed. Needless to say, bills could be photocopied many times and the rules were tightened. Thereafter, the ATO would accept only original bills (regardless of who paid it).

This perk is available to most health professionals working in public hospitals, but it is a rather jealously guarded secret, with few but doctors in the know.

Cash-strapped public hospitals may not be pleased if the perk is swept away in the Government’s push to close loop-holes, because it is one way of helping to keep doctors on site.

Margaretta Pos

It is little known, but doctors who work in public hospitals - employed on salaries or as visiting consultants - have long enjoyed a perk that allows them to claim up to $10,000 a year as an entertainment tax deduction. That’s entertainment in the form of food and beverages.