Completing a Tax Return

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Whether it’s your first time or you're a seasoned veteran, lodging a tax return is never easy. Let finder.com.au walk you through the process step-by-step.

It’s nearing that time of the year again, tax time– well, for some anyway. Many of us put it off again and again because the task is just too daunting to face. But, the sooner you lodge that return, the sooner you’ll see that refund owing to you.

There are many different avenues you can go travel down when approaching your tax return, pay a tax agent, lodge a paper return or do it online. Whatever method you use, you’re going to need these few things before you begin…

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What do I need to get started?

  • Your TFN (Tax File Number). This can be found on your payment summary  (group certificate) or previous notice of assessment.
  • Your bank account details (if you’d like to have the refund deposited directly into your account)
  • Your MyGov login (if you’ve used e-tax or MyTax before)
  • PAYG payment summary

And if you plan to claim more than $300 in work-related expenses, you’re also going to need:

  • Paper or electronic copies of invoices or receipts
  • BPay receipt numbers
  • Credit card statements
  • Travel logbook
  • Home office logbook

Other information you may need:

  • PAYG summary for Centrelink payments
  • Information on investments (e.g. rental income)
  • Bank account interest accumulated
  • Other Tax Offset information (e.g. spouse’s income details)
  • Other income details (second businesses income)

Australian Taxation Office from Apple

The go-to app for individuals, small business owners and super fund trustees. The ATO app is an easy-to-use tax and super companion that allows you to keep your tax affairs in check anywhere you go.

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This is my first time lodging a tax return, what if I make a mistake?

Unfortunately, there isn’t much leniency if you make a misleading claim in your tax return. The only option you really have is to correct a mistake or amend a return by contacting the ATO. If you’ve made any particularly misleading claims, like not disclosing a secondary income, you do have the opportunity to make a voluntary disclosure. If you find yourself in this situation, make the disclosure as soon as possible, because if the ATO has to contact you about a misleading statement or claim, you could be severely penalised.

The many ways to complete a tax return

Lodging your tax return can be a hassle at the best of times, but with emerging technologies constantly changing the way we traditionally perform everyday tasks, tax time has become even more confusing for some. However, as much as you’d like to believe it, the ATO don’t want you to suffer, so they’ve provided multiple channels through which you can lodge your return. Whether you’re a digital native or pen and paper loyalist, there’s a tax return option for you.

Obtaining a paper return

In 2013 newsagents around Australia stopped stocking individual tax returns and information. Obtaining a copy is still easy enough, you’ll just have to prepare a little earlier. There are two ways you can order an individual paper tax return this year:

  • Call 1300 720 092 and order your forms through an automated service, or
  • Visit ato.gov.au/publications
  • Visit an ATO shopfront

Filing an individual tax return isn’t just for technophobes, many people who don’t own any businesses or property find an individual tax return much easier to digest, as you don’t have to filter through the endless options that you’re presented with in an online form.

If you decide to lodge a paper return, remember that it will take at least seven days to receive your documentation in the mail.

Lodging your return online

If you’re looking to lodge your tax online, you’ll be faced with one option: MyTax

  • myTax - The relatively new myTax app, which can be downloaded for iOS and Android, only asks questions relevant to a personal tax refund. Cutting down the process by eliminating irrelevant questions has reportedly cut down lodging time to as low as 10 minutes – a much needed option. for those who need to make a simple tax return.

The benefits to lodging online

  • 24-hour service
  • Options for pre-filling (myTax will roll over data from prior tax returns)
  • Accessibility for vision impaired
  • High-level security
  • Lodge from overseas
  • Multiple users can log in
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Hire a tax accountant

Every year, people are missing out on money that’s owed to them, simply because they do not understand the ins and outs of Australian tax– we’ve all been there. That’s where tax accountants come in.

Tax accountants have dedicated their profession to understanding how Australian tax laws work. They have an in-depth knowledge of taxes and deductions and can help find the deductions you would never even consider, ultimately maximising your return. They also use their vast bank of knowledge to ensure you don’t make any mistakes or misleading statements, potentially saving you from a hefty fine.

So, how much does it cost to hire a tax accountant? Well, it varies. A small, straightforward tax return should only cost around $50. Anything more complex than that can cost up to $180 when multiple incomes are involved. If you own a business with multiple employers, however, you’ll be looking at a few thousand dollars for your accountant’s troubles.

Try an online tax accountant

If you simply don’t have the time to visit a tax accountant, there are many online businesses who offer the same services from the convenience of your computer. Providers, like E-lodge and H&R Block not only allow you to submit your tax return online, but also email and phone support– super handy when you suspect your return is not reaching its potential.

Benefits of hiring a tax accountant

  • They get you prepared for your next tax return
  • They know how to claim deductions you never knew existed
  • You will usually cover the expenses paid for a tax accountants services with the boosted return you receive
  • They know how to make a claim by the books, so you won’t get stung by an audit
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Can I complete a tax return for someone else?

You may help a friend or family member lodge their return online, but you are not allowed to charge them a fee. If it’s an individual paper return that’s being lodged, you may sign the ‘Taxpayer’s Declaration’ on someone else’s behalf, so long as you have authority under a power of attorney. If this is the case, a certified copy of the current power of attorney must be included and mailed with your tax return.

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Do I need to complete a tax return for a deceased person?

If you happen to be the executor of a deceased person’s estate, it’s possible you will have to submit a final tax return on their behalf. You may be required to submit a tax return on someone else’s behalf if…

  • Tax was withheld from the income they earned
  • The person’s earned taxable income exceeds the tax-free threshold
  • The person lodged returns in previous years

You will need to determine whether or not submitting a tax return for the deceased party is necessary.

If it is not necessary you still need to complete a ‘Non-lodgement’ advice and send it to the ATO.

If a final tax return is necessary you, the executor, will need to submit in on their behalf. This will be the last time a tax return is required to be submitted for the deceased– it is known as the “date of death return”.


DISCLAIMER: Many of the comments in this article are general in nature and anyone intending to apply the information to practical circumstances should seek professional advice to independently verify their interpretation and the information applicability to their own particular circumstances.

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Frequently asked questions

Did e-tax work on Linux?

Unfortunately, e-tax is not available on Linux operating systems. We’d recommend downloading the MyTax app for your smart device.

Why am I required to link my myGov account to the ATO?

Linking your myGov account to the ATO not only verifies your identity, but also allows you to easily import your personal details and previous tax return data into MyTax.

How long will it take me to receive my tax return after I’ve lodged it through MyTax?

Usually, you should receive your notice of assessment within 12 business days of successful lodgement. This does fluctuate depending on the time of lodgement (if you’ve lodged at tax time, it could take longer due to the massive influx of claims). You can track the progress of your return through your myGov account (another benefit of linking it to the ATO). However, the ATO asks that you wait at least 30 days after successfully lodging your claim before contacting them.

This is my first time lodging, how do I apply for a Tax File Number (TFN)?

Applying for a TFN differs depending on your circumstances. Depending on your status, whether you’re an Australian resident, living outside Australia or a foreign passport holder, permanent migrant or temporary visitor the TFN application process varies. Follow this link for more information on how to apply for a TFN in your circumstance.

Brodie Fogg

Brodie is a staff writer at finder.com.au covering breaking tech and telco news. When he's not drooling over the latest comic book releases or grinding away at the newest time-devouring RPG, he's helping people choose between Australia's various streaming services.

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17 Responses to Completing a Tax Return

  1. Default Gravatar
    James | November 3, 2016

    Hi there, I just have lodged my return with myTax. It seems like I can only print a copy of the tax summary. Do you know how I can get a copy of the FULL TAX RETURN? My banker has been chasing me about this… many thanks

    Kind regards,
    James

    • Staff
      Harold | November 3, 2016

      Hello James,

      Thank you for your question.

      To request for a full copy of your tax documents you may find this link helpful.

      I hope that helps.

      Cheers,
      Harold

    • Staff
      Clarizza | November 3, 2016

      Hi James,

      Thanks for your question.

      You’ll need to download and fill out the ‘Copies of tax documents’ PDF form from the ATO website and return it to the ATO.

      Regards

  2. Default Gravatar
    raj | August 19, 2016

    Can i lodge my tax return by paper for 2016, as i have using paper return from last few years, i have downloaded the paper form..portable document from ato.gov.au for 2016..its in red color..Does ato accepting paper returns for 2016.

    • Staff
      May | August 19, 2016

      Hi Raj,

      Thanks for your inquiry.

      Yes, you can use the paper Tax return for individuals and the Individual tax return instructions to lodge your paper tax return by mail. However, most refunds are issued within 50 business days of lodgment compare to 2 weeks when you lodge you tax return via online.

      Cheers,
      May

  3. Default Gravatar
    misskate72 | August 12, 2016

    I am self employed and chose to pay PAYG to the ATO for the first quarter of the FY. Where do I enter the amount I have paid within the MyTax? Or is this auto calculated by ATO once lodged?

    • Staff
      Shirley | August 15, 2016

      Hi misskate72,

      Thanks for your question.

      Unfortunately we’re unable to assist with any navigational enquiries related to MyTax, since we don’t have access to the system.

      In this case, we’d recommend that you speak to someone from the ATO who can provide further instructions.

  4. Default Gravatar
    misskate72 | August 12, 2016

    Self employed as well as part time employee. I chose to pay some PAYG for the first quarter against my self employed income to the ATO. Where do I enter this in the ATO My Tax program or is something they will calculate once lodged?

    • Staff
      Clarizza | August 15, 2016

      Hi Kate,

      Thanks for your question.

      If you intend to claim this as a tax deduction, you will have to notify your superfund or complete a notice of intent form via the ATO website. Once this has been completed and your superfund confirms receipt of this letter, you can claim it as a deduction through ‘My deductions’ in MyTax. Our tax returns guide might also help.

      If you would like to discuss your personal situation, we recommend you speak to an online tax agent. Please note, we are a comparison website and provide general advice only.

      Hope this has helped.

      Clarizza

  5. Default Gravatar
    Teresa | July 18, 2016

    I have worked at 2 places. How do I separate the dates on Mygov tax lodgement on line?

    • Staff
      May | July 19, 2016

      Hi Teresa,

      Thanks for your inquiry.

      When using the MyTax app to lodge your tax online, some of your contact and financial institution details including your employment information may have already been provided by your employer or employers to ATO – this is to simply the process for you. If you may need to enter details like dates or other information manually, you can select the add/edit buttons.

      I have emailed you the link to the ATO page where you can find the process on how you can lodge your tax online through MyTax.

      I hope this has helped.

      Cheers,
      May

  6. Default Gravatar
    Jonesy18 | July 7, 2016

    I’m doing my tax return through the mygov website but where do I put the interest from my bank accounts in my return. Thank you

    • Staff
      Clarizza | July 7, 2016

      Hi Jonesy,

      Thanks for your question.

      Are you lodging your tax through the ATO’s myTax web-based service? If so, you can personalise your tax return by selecting a series of items that apply. You will be able to see these options once you log in to myTax.

      Hope this helps.
      Clarizza

  7. Default Gravatar
    sonny | June 21, 2016

    We relocated to Australia in Feb 2016 and are not employed yet, and living off savings. we get centrelink payments for our 7 yr old child every f/night of around 398$.
    do we still need to file a tax return? if so, will our savings be treated as income for tax purposes?

    • Staff
      Elizabeth | June 23, 2016

      Hi Sonny,

      Some Centrelink payments are not taxed but others are, so you may still need to lodge a tax return. Your savings will not be treated as income unless you have earned them in the last financial year as taxable income. When you lodge your tax return your Centrelink income will be pre-filled for you if you fill out your tax return online.

      You can check if your Centrelink income is tax deductible here.

      Hope this helps,

      Elizabeth

  8. Default Gravatar
    martin | February 19, 2016

    if i have a investment property currently giving me 200 dollars weekly how much tax will i pay

    • Staff
      Belinda | February 19, 2016

      Hi Martin,

      I’ve sent you an email to follow up with this enquiry.

      Regards,
      Belinda

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