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ATO tax return deadline

Get your tax return in on time and avoid being penalised by the Australian Tax Office.

Filing your income tax return is one of those annual chores that always seems to come around again far too quickly. It’s also one of those chores that many of us put off for as long as possible, leaving it until the last possible moment to finalise our returns.

However, if you don’t lodge your return before the ATO’s deadline, you could face a stiff fine.

When do I need to lodge my 2017/18 tax return?

  • By October 31 2018 (if lodging yourself)
  • By as late as 15 May 2019 (if lodging through a tax agent – conditions apply, see text for details)

Choosing a tax agent

Updated October 24th, 2018
Name Product Fee for unlimited income items (Wages) Deduction Item Fees Payment Options Online tax returns On-site tax returns
$19*
Included in total income item fee
Credit/Debit card
Pay with your tax refund (no upfront payment)
Australia-wide
N/A
Complete your tax return online with assistance from H&R Block's accountants for as little as $19. Option to pay with your tax refund for an extra fee of $20. A fast and easy option to complete all types of returns online.
finder Exclusive: $99 flat fee
Included in flat fee
Credit/Debit card
Bank Transfer
Pay with your tax refund (no upfront payment)
Australia wide
Melbourne
finder Exclusive: This discounted fee is only available to customers who apply for a tax return with A One Accountants through finder. Students, seniors and non-permanent residents enjoy a further discount with a $77 flat fee. Click 'Go to site' and complete the contact form to find out more. T&Cs apply. Option to pay with your tax refund for an extra fee of $22. Lodge returns online, via phone or in person.
$69*
$0 for up to $1000 of deductions
$41 for more than $1000 of deductions
Credit/Debit card
Cash
Australia wide
Sydney
Lodge individual & company tax returns online or in-person. Fast online form with additional options to complete tax returns for investment properties, sole trader tax and share investments.
$79*
$0 when you purchase the $49 income package
Credit/Debit card
Pay with your tax refund (no upfront payment)
Australia wide
N/A
Option to pay with your tax refund for an extra fee of $10 for basic returns. Lodge individual & company tax returns. Fast online form & free live chat.
$80*
$0 for up to $1000 of deductions
$30 for more than $1000 of deductions
Credit/Debit card
Cash
Australia wide
Sydney
Fast and reliable tax returns for individuals, businesses and self-managed super funds (SMSFs).
$80*
Business tax: starting from $250
General deductions: $0
For motor vehicle expenses: $15
Credit/Debit card
Australia wide
Perth
A boutique firm that provides personalised experiences for all customers. Ideal option for individuals and small businesses based in Perth.
$135*
Included in total income item fee
Credit/Debit card
Pay with your tax refund (no upfront payment)
Australia-wide
N/A
An ideal option if you're looking to lodge a complex return or want to maximise your refund with the help of a tax professional, but still want the convenience of doing your return online. Option to pay with your tax refund for an extra fee of $20.
One Minute Tax
One Minute Tax
$99*
$0
Credit/Debit card
Pay with your tax refund (no upfront payment)
Australia wide
Melbourne
Option to pay with your tax refund for an extra fee of $20. Lodge individual & company tax returns. Fast online form & free live chat.
$99*
$0 for up to 2 deductions
$29 for additional deductions
Credit/Debit card
Pay with your tax refund (no upfront payment)
Australia wide
Sydney
Option to pay with your tax refund for an extra fee of $29. Online and in-person tax services for individuals, sole traders and companies.
$99*
Business tax: starting from $179
$29 for up to 2 deductions
Additional $29 for extra deductions
Credit/Debit card
Bank transfer
Pay with your tax refund (no upfront payment)
N/A
Melbourne
Option to pay with your tax refund for an extra fee of $29. Basic tax returns over the phone Australia-wide. In-person individual and business tax returns in Melbourne.
$135*
Included in total income item fee
Credit/Debit card
Pay with your tax refund (no upfront payment)
N/A
Australia-wide
Visit one of 470 conveniently located office locations across Australia for a personalised service to maximise your tax return. Option to pay with your tax refund for an extra fee of $20.
$155*
finder Exclusive: $5 discount
$0 for all work related deductions
Bank transfer
Credit/Debit card
Australia wide
Canberra
finder Exclusive: $5 discount when you apply for a tax return with Bennetts Tax through finder. Click 'Go to site' and complete the contact form to find out more. Income item fee includes returns on interest, dividends, Superannuation and pension. A flexible option for individuals, sole traders and companies.

Compare up to 4 providers

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 2017 to 30 June 2018 must be filed by 31 October 2018.

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 must be registered with a tax agent by October 31 in order to take advantage of this extended deadline.

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 2017-18 financial year, the deadline is 15 May 2019 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.

Why might you miss 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. This fine is calculated in multiples of a penalty unit, which currently stands at $210 but differed in previous years as per the table below:

When infringement occurredPenalty unit amount
Up to 27 December 2012$110
28 December 2012 – 30 July 2015$170
31 July 2015 – 30 June 2017$180
On or after 1 July 2017$210

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 2016-17 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

Tim Falk

A freelance writer with a passion for the written word, Tim loves helping Australians find the right home loans and savings accounts. When he's not chained to a computer, Tim can usually be found exploring the great outdoors.

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