Do I need to lodge a tax return?

If you’re an Australian resident and you earned money during the previous financial year, you’ll most likely need to lodge a tax return.

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If you earned some form of income during the previous financial year, whether you're an Australian resident or not, it's very likely that you need to lodge a tax return. However, there are certain scenarios and circumstances when you may not need to send a return to the ATO.

Who needs to lodge a tax return?

You’re required to lodge a tax return with the ATO if any of the following circumstances apply:

  • Tax was deducted from payments made to you during the financial year, for example wages from your employer.
  • You are an Australian resident and your taxable income exceeded the tax-free threshold (check the current income tax rates) for that particular financial year.
  • You are a foreign resident and you earned more than $1 in Australia during the financial year.
  • You are leaving Australia permanently or you are leaving Australia for more than one financial year.

However, even if none of the above criteria apply to you, there are still many circumstances under which you are required to lodge a return. Examine the checklist below to find out how you can tell whether you need to file a tax return with the ATO.

How to tell if you need to lodge a tax return – basic checklist

The information in the checklist below is taken from the ATO website. Use it to work out whether you need to complete a tax return this year. It is a basic checklist only, and you should consult the full list on the ATO’s website for more detailed information.

You will need to lodge a tax return if any of the following apply to you in the past year:

  • You were an Australian resident and you paid tax or had tax withheld on your behalf
  • You were eligible for the seniors and pensioners tax offset and your rebate income exceeded $28,974
  • You were not eligible for the seniors and pensioners tax offset but had a total taxable income of over $20,542
  • You were not eligible for the seniors and pensioners tax offset, and you didn’t receive a payment listed at question 5 or 6 of your tax return, but...
  • Your taxable income exceeded $18,200 for the entire financial year or $416 if you were under the age of 16
  • You earned over $1 if you were a foreign resident
  • You had a reportable fringe benefits amount on your pay-as-you-go (PAYG) payment summary
  • You had reportable superannuation contributions on your PAYG payment summary
  • You were entitled to the private health insurance rebate
  • You carried on a business during the past financial year
  • You made a loss or you can claim a loss from a previous year
  • You received a superannuation lump sum that included an untaxed element, or a death benefit
  • You were involved with a trust or partnership
  • You received income from dividends exceeding $18,200
  • You made personal contributions to super or a retirement savings account
  • You received child support or a government allowance

When is my tax return due?

The due dates for 2020-21 tax returns are as follows:

  • If you lodge your return yourself, it will need to be submitted by 31 October 2021.
  • If you lodge through a registered tax agent, you may have until 15 May 2022 to lodge your return. However, you must register with a tax agent before 31 October, and you will not be able to access this extended deadline if you had tax payable of more than $20,000 in the previous year or if you have any unlodged tax returns from previous years.

When you may not need to lodge a tax return

There are also specific situations when there may be no need for you to lodge a tax return. These include:

  • If you earned less than $18,200 (the tax-free threshold) and there was no tax withheld from that income
  • If you are a foreign resident and the only Australian-sourced income you earned in the financial year was interest, dividends or royalties from which non-resident withholding tax has been correctly withheld
  • You were eligible for the seniors and pensioners tax offset and your rebate income was less than: $32,279 if you were single, widowed or separated at any time; $31,279 if you had a spouse but one of you lived in a nursing home or you had to live apart due to illness; or $28,974 if you lived with your spouse for the entire year.

There are many more circumstances which may mean that you don’t need to lodge a tax return, but working out whether they apply to you can be a confusing process. If you’re at all unsure about whether you need to lodge a return, ask your accountant or registered tax agent for advice that takes into account your unique financial situation.

If you’re certain that you do not need to file a tax return for or the previous income year, you will usually need to complete a “Non-lodgment advice” form. This form is available for download from the ATO website or can be submitted through online services, and must be sent to the ATO by 31 October.

How to tell if you need to lodge a return for a previous year

Do you think you may be required to lodge a return for a previous financial year that you may have missed? To find out whether you need to submit a return, you can use the ATO’s interactive “Do I need to lodge a tax return?” tool.

This tool can help you understand your obligations for any financial year dating back to 2012-13, and the ATO also offers links to older tools to help you check your return requirements for earlier years.

Choosing a tax agent to help lodge your tax return

Name Product Fee for unlimited income items (Wages) Deduction Item Fees Online tax returns
FinTax Group
$79*
$0 for up to $1000 of deductions
$65 for an investment property
Australia wide
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.
Refund Express
$79*
$0 when you purchase the $49 income package
Australia wide
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.
Everest Tax & Business Advisors
$80*
Business tax: starting from $250
General deductions: $0
For motor vehicle expenses: $15
Australia wide
A boutique firm that provides personalised experiences for all customers. Ideal option for individuals and small businesses based in Perth.
One Minute Tax
$99*
$0
Australia wide
Option to pay with your tax refund for an extra fee of $20. Lodge individual & company tax returns. Fast online form & free live chat. Special offer for business owners: Register your new company for only $499 (includes $488 worth of government fees and $100 cashback into your new business bank account). Click 'Go to site' to find out more. T&Cs apply.
Taxgain
$99*
$0 for up to 2 deductions
$29 for additional deductions
Australia wide
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.
Hotman & Brown
$99*
Business tax: starting from $179
$29 for up to 2 deductions
Additional $29 for extra deductions
N/A
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.
Bennetts Tax & BAS service
$155*
finder Exclusive: $5 discount
$0 for all work related deductions
Australia wide
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.
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Frequently asked questions about tax returns

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