Lodging your tax return yourself online via myGov is free, but a professional tax agent can help you maximise your refund and save you time.
You have two options when lodging your tax return: do it yourself online or use a tax agent. The main advantage of filing your tax return yourself through the ATO's online tool myTax, which is available though your myGov account, is that it's free of charge. However, it can be a time-consuming and difficult task if you don't know what you're doing or if you have a complex tax return to lodge.
On the other hard, one of the key advantages of using a tax agent is that they know the ins-and-outs of the tax system, so can often help you claim more deductions you're eligible for that you might not be aware of to help maximise your return. However, unlike lodging your return yourself, you'll need to pay the tax agent a fee (although this fee is tax-deductible).
Should you do your tax yourself or use a tax professional?
If you're unsure which option to go with, take a look at the following table where we've compared both options side by side so you can see which is right for you.
|DIY online tax return through myGov||Tax agent (online or in person)|
|How it works||You can lodge your tax return yourself with the ATO's myTax service, available by logging in to your myGov account online. If you don't have a myGov account yet you'll need to create one to lodge your return. This process involves you reviewing your income (this should be pre-filled for you) and adding any deductions for the financial year.||You can lodge your tax return with a tax agent in person, online or over the phone. A lot of tax agents offer an online service for you to complete your return yourself, then they'll review it to ensure it's all correct and lodge it with the ATO for you. If you want a bit more support, many also offer the option to work with you over the phone or via email to fill in your return and claim any deductions, before they lodge it with the ATO on your behalf.|
If you'd prefer, you can also see a tax agent in person who will complete your return with you and help you claim any eligible deductions.
|Price||It's free to lodge your tax return yourself using myTax via your myGov account online. Anyone can file their tax return online, including if you're a business owner or sole trader.||It can cost as little as $19 to lodge your return with a tax agent, using their online service. If you want to to go see a tax agent in person and get help claiming more-complex deductions this can cost hundreds of dollars, depending on your particular tax needs. Just remember the cost is tax-deductible, as is the cost of travel to and from their office.|
|Deadline||The deadline to lodge your tax return via myTax is 31 October. Most Australians will receive their income statements by late July for the financial year just gone, giving you a bit over three months to complete your return if you're doing it yourself.||The deadline to lodge your tax return if you're using a tax agent is in May the following year (the exact date in May changes each year), giving you a six-month extension. However, if you're using a tax agent for the first time you need to make sure you've made an appointment, or are at least on their books, by 31 October. The appointment doesn't need to be until months later, but you need to have contacted them by this date.|
|How long does it take?||It depends on how simple or complex your return is, how many deductions you're claiming and how organised you are. If you've got a straightforward return, for example you just have income from a salary and no deductions, it can take less than one hour as most of your details should be pre-filled or easy to find.|
But if you've got lots of deductions to fill in, and if you need to find a bunch of receipts or add income that isn't already pre-filled it can take hours. If you're claiming things like your car or a home office, it can be time-consuming doing all the calculations yourself as to how much you can legally claim.
|Again, it depends how complex your tax return is. If you've got a few deductions to claim and if you've earned income from several different sources throughout the financial year, it can be quicker using a tax agent who knows what they're doing rather than trying to figure it out yourself. Tax agents know the ins and outs of the tax system, so not only can they help you claim more and claim correctly but they can do this much quicker than the average person can.|
You can expect to spend anywhere between 30 minutes and an hour in their office if seeing them in person. It'll take about the same amount of time to file your return online with the support of a tax agent too, minus the travel time, making this a good option if you're time-poor.
|Ease and convenience||You can lodge your tax return with myTax from the comfort of your home without getting off the couch, provided you have access to the Internet and a computer, tablet or smartphone device. Your income, health insurance and Medicare information should be pre-filled for you so you'll just need to review it. However, it can be quite difficult completing your tax return yourself if you've got some tricky deductions to claim.||You can file your tax return with a tax agent from the comfort of your home, too. Many tax agents offer an online service where they'll communicate with you over the phone or by email to get your tax return completed, then they'll lodge it with the ATO on your behalf. This is really convenient if you don't have time to go into their office or if you live in a more remote area. If you're based in a city, you'll have no issues finding a tax agent near you and you might prefer to speak to someone in person.|
|Claiming basic deductions||Claiming basic deductions is a straightforward process using myTax if you've got your receipts handy. If you're only claiming a few things, for example the odd conference ticket, some tools you've purchased specifically for your job or some charity donations, you can do this fairly easily yourself.||A tax agent will also easily claim any basic deductions you're entitled to and they might even know a few more you're not aware of. Just remember, for deductions above $300 you still need to show receipts, even when you're lodging your return with a tax agent.|
|Claiming more-complex deductions||If you're claiming more-complex deductions like a portion of your bills if you work from home from time to time, your car that you sometimes use for work-related travel or if you intend to claim, say, depreciation expenses of home office furniture, it can get a bit tricky to do this yourself.|
You'll need to do your research to make sure you're up-to-date with the current legislation around these specific deductions, and you'll need to do the calculations to determine the correct amount you're legally entitled to claim. Plus, you need to be able to show your workings and calculations to the ATO in case you're audited.
|If you've got complex tax deductions to claim, it's definitely easier to do this with a professional tax agent (unless you're particularly savvy about tax!). Tax agents will tell you what you're entitled to claim, including things you didn't even know you were entitled to, so they can help you maximise your return (or reduce the tax you need to pay).|
They'll also do all the working and calculations for you for things like home offices and car use, saving you time and ensuring you're claiming what you're legally entitled to.
|Capital gains taxes (or capital losses)||If you've made a capital gain or loss in the financial year, for example by selling assets like shares or an investment property, you need to make sure you're claiming these correctly when filing your tax return yourself. If you've just got the one to claim you shouldn't have any issues doing it yourself, but it can become tricky if you've sold several assets within the year, as some of the losses might offset some of the gains.||A tax agent will be able to correctly claim any capital gains or losses you've made throughout the financial year, making it a stress-free process for you. Not only will they help you claim correctly, but they can also offer professional advice around the best way to claim to offset any of your gains and reduce your tax bill. They can also offer advice around future assets you're planning to sell, so you can take advantage of any potential tax offsets available.|
|Support and advice||Doing your tax yourself using myTax is a great way to save money as it's a free service, but in terms of professional support and advice you're pretty much on your own. If you've just got a basic tax return, you might find this isn't an issue.||If you think you need a bit of support lodging your tax return correctly, a tax agent would be a better choice. As well as making sure it's lodged correctly, a tax agent can give advice around what you can and cannot claim (as well as exactly how to claim things).|
|Receiving your refund||If you're entitled to get some money back, you can expect to receive your refund within two weeks of submitting your return. If there's an issue with your return or the ATO needs further documentation or proof of deductions, this will delay the process.||It shouldn't take any longer to receive your return when you lodge it via a tax agent, so you can still expect the money to land in your bank account within two weeks unless there's an issue with your claim.|
|Final responsibility||When you're filing your tax return yourself with myTax, you take full responsibility for lodging it before the deadline and making sure everything you've claimed is correct.||A tax agent will help ensure your return is completed correctly and you're not claiming deductions that you're not entitled to. However, you'll be asked to sign a declaration at the end agreeing that all the information is true and correct, so the final responsibility still sits with you.|
DIY tax return vs using a tax agent: The final verdict
Which option you choose will depend on your individual tax return, what deductions you wish to claim, how time-poor you are and how much knowledge you have about the tax system. If you've got a basic tax return with one income stream (for example you have a full-time job and no other earnings) and minimal deductions to claim, you might prefer to lodge with the free myGov tool to save yourself the out-of-pocket expense.
If you've got more than one income stream, you earn income from investments, you have some capital gains tax to claim or you have several deductions that take a bit of working out, you might benefit from the expertise of a tax agent. If the cost of a tax agent is what's holding you back, remember their fee is completely tax-deductible.
Decided to use a tax agent to lodge your tax return? Find a tax agent in Australia below.
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