Have you missed the deadline to lodge your tax return, or do you need a bit more time? Don't stress, you can get an extra six months if you lodge your return using a tax agent. The cost of using a tax agent is completely tax deductable regardless of when you lodge your return. If you haven't used a tax agent before, or if you've switching to a new tax agent, you do need to be on their books by 31 October to get the six month extension. This just means you need to contact them and either book an appointment or register your details on their online portal.
When do I need to lodge my 2018/19 tax return?
By October 31 2019 (if lodging yourself)
By as late as 15 May 2020 (if lodging through a tax agent – conditions apply, see text for details)
Individuals starting from $79*
Sole trader starting from $150*
Ride sharing tax returns start from $110*
FinTax Group Offer
Qualified to handle your tax and financial needs.
Help you complete your tax return if you have more than one job, or income from other sources such as investments.
Offers a wide range of services from tax advice to business setup and advisory.
*This is the minimum fee charged for income item tax returns. The price listed on this table is subject to terms and conditions. To find out more or to receive an accurate quote for your tax return, please visit the agent's website to submit an enquiry.
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When is the tax return deadline?
The tax return deadline if you’re lodging your tax return yourself is October 31. In other words, your tax return for the financial year from 1 July 2018 to 30 June 2019 must be filed by 31 October 2019 (this has passed, so if you haven't filed it yet you've missed the deadline!).
However, if you lodge your tax return through a registered tax agent, the rules are a little different. Tax agents have a special facility with the ATO that allows them to lodge a return on your behalf after the October 31 deadline – but you usually need to be registered with a tax agent by October 31 in order to take advantage of this extended deadline. If you haven't yet registered with a tax agent and you've missed the deadline, make an appointment to lodge your return anyway - it's better to lodge it late than to not lodge it at all.
While the deadline for lodging through a tax agent varies depending on your personal circumstances, you potentially have until May 15 the following year to lodge your return – an extension of more than six months when compared to the normal deadline. So when filing your return for the 2018-19 financial year, the deadline is 15 May 2020 when submitting through an agent.
However, different rules apply if you lodge through a tax agent and you had tax payable of $20,000 or more in the previous financial year. If this is the case, the deadline moves forward slightly to March 31 the following year.
And if you have one or more unlodged tax returns from earlier years, you will be ineligible for the extended tax deadline and will need to submit your returns (this year’s return and the outstanding earlier returns) by October 31.
Who sets the tax return deadline?
The income tax return deadline is set by the ATO. As the Australian Government’s principal revenue collection agency, it’s the ATO’s job to collect tax from all income-earning Australians. The deadline is in place to ensure that all taxpayers pay the money they owe the government in a timely fashion, and that you receive any refund you may be entitled to.
Possible reasons for missing the tax return deadline
There are several reasons why you might have missed the ATO’s tax return deadline, such as:
You were travelling overseas and didn’t submit your return in time
You didn’t realise you needed to file a tax return until it was too late
You forgot to file your return in time
You were worried you would be burdened with a tax debt that you’d be unable to afford
You failed to lodge because you were suffering from a serious illness
You failed to lodge due to a natural disaster
You failed to lodge due to a family breakdown
What to do if you miss the deadline
If the deadline has passed and you haven’t filed your return, the best thing you can do is lodge your return with the ATO as soon as possible. Unless there are extenuating circumstances, you may be hit with a late lodgment penalty – and this penalty increases the longer you wait to submit your return.
If you keep putting it off, the penalty you’ll be required to pay will only increase and you may eventually face prosecution. With this in mind, it’s worth your while to lodge your return as soon as possible and minimise the penalties that may apply.
The good news is that, if you have a good history of lodging your returns and paying any ATO debts on time, you may be able to avoid the late lodgment penalty. However, you will need to have a good reason for missing the deadline, and the sooner after the deadline you lodge your return the better.
What penalties apply if you miss the tax return deadline?
If you fail to lodge a return or statement with the ATO on time, you may need to pay a failure to lodge (FTL) penalty. For individuals, the FTL penalty is calculated at the rate of one penalty unit for each period of 28 days (or part thereof) that your return is overdue, up to a maximum of five penalty units. So if you’re late lodging your return for the 2018-19 financial year, the following fees could apply:
If your return is up to 28 days late: $210 fine
If your return is 29-56 days late: $420 fine
If your return is 57-84 days late: $630 fine
If your return is 85-112 days late: $840 fine
If your return is more than 112 days late: $1,050
If you’ve failed to lodge your return in time, the ATO will notify you in writing or over the phone. The ATO also doesn’t generally apply penalties in isolated cases of late lodgment, and will take your personal circumstances and history of compliance into account before deciding on the best course of action.
In addition, if you lodge your return after the deadline and incur a debt, the ATO will charge you interest on that debt from the date it was due until you end up paying it. The general interest charge (GIC) rate that applies to unpaid tax liabilities is reviewed quarterly, and for July to September 2017 was set at 8.73% p.a.
Frequently asked questions about the tax return deadline
You can lodge a return in three ways:
Online using the MyTax service
Through a registered tax agent
By completing and submitting a paper tax return by post
If this happens, you can lodge your return on the next business day.
Your employer needs to supply your group certificate, officially known as a payment summary, by July 14 each year.
The payment summary shows the payments your employer has made to you, and the tax amounts it has withheld from those payments throughout the financial year.
Contact the ATO as soon as possible – it has a range of payment options available to help. If you’re in “serious hardship”, the ATO may be able to release you from some or all of your debt.
Finder.com.au’s range of tax calculators can help you work out your tax refund or liability.
Tim Falk is a writer for Finder, writing across a diverse range of topics. Over the course of his 15-year writing career, Tim has reported on everything from travel and personal finance to pets and TV soap operas. When he’s not staring at his computer, you can usually find him exploring the great outdoors.
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