A tax agent or accountant can help you lodge your tax return, claim more deductions and get you more tax back.
Using a professional tax accountant has many benefits. Tax returns can be tricky, and tax agents can help you prepare and submit your tax return. They are generally accountants registered to provide tax-related advice. Tax agents liaise closely with their clients to help them claim as many deductions as possible and get the biggest tax return. They can also help and provide advice for managing your taxes throughout the year.
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What is an accountant?
Accountants are professionals that specialise in expenses, financial audits, and other finance-related information. They may operate independently, providing advice to individuals, or they may operate within a business, performing bookkeeping duties. Accountants can act as tax agents, but in order to do so they must be registered with the Tax Practitioners Board.
What is a tax agent?
A tax agent is a specialist you can use to prepare and lodge your tax return. They can represent their client when dealing with the Australian Tax Office (ATO). Tax agents can assist you to get the most money back from your tax return. They must be registered with the overseeing organisation for tax professionals, the Tax Practitioners Board (TPB), to charge a fee for their service. Every tax agent accredited by the TPB meets the Board’s qualification and experience requirements.
Tax agents versus accountants - which is best for me?
As mentioned, tax agents are normally TPB-registered accountants. If you require a relatively simple tax return, or if you simply don’t want to complete one yourself, tax agents might be ideal. If, however, you have a business or are an individual with property and significant financial assets, an accountant might be necessary for handling these assets. Broadly, accountants will take their clients' future financial situation into consideration, whereas tax agents will not.
Will using a tax agent help with my tax return?
Online services such as the ATO’s myTax have made preparing and lodging your own tax return possible, if you have the time. Still, unless you’re a tax agent, the yearly tax return can be a chore. A tax agent can help you prepare and submit your tax return, help you maximise your deductions, ensure that your tax return is compliant and can assist with slightly more complicated matters if you have assets. But remember that you are still responsible for your final submitted document. The fee for hiring a tax agent is tax deductible, too.
Key benefits of using a tax agent
- Takes the stress out of competing your tax return.
- Saves you time, as they lodge your return for you on your behalf. Completing the form yourself can take hours.
- Can help get you more tax back by claiming more deductions.
- You can claim the cost of a tax agent as a deduction the following year.
- You can wait until into the new year to lodge your return if you use a tax agent. If you do your own tax, your return must be submitted to the ATO before the 31st of October.
- A tax agent can also provide personal advice in areas of taxation law.
- Many tax accountants can help lodge your tax return online, without needing to go into their office.
Any cons of using a tax agent?
- There is a fee for their service
- They will not provide general financial advice that isn't to do with tax
What qualifications should my tax agent have?
Tax agents must be registered with the Tax Practitioners Board (TPB) before they are able to charge for their service. Some practitioners can give advice and act as tax agents without being registered, as long as they are operating under a group that is registered by the TPB.
To be eligible as a registered tax agent, the individual must have a good record with no recent convictions, involvement in tax exploitation, ongoing bankruptcies, or imprisonment. Once registered, practitioners can bear the TPB registered symbol. You can find registered agents by visiting the Tax Practitioners Board website.
How do I find a cheap tax agent or accountant that best meets my needs?
Finding a good tax agent is similar to finding a good quality service of another variety. Seek out many quotes from many different sources and consider the following features:
- Fees. How much do they charge to complete a basic tax return?
- Types of returns. Can they perform more complex tax returns, such as those required by SMSFs, small businesses, sole traders and people with various income streams?
- Credentials. Make sure they are registered with the Tax Practitioners Board
- Qualifications. Check they have a relevant university degree such as accounting, commerce or law and how long they have been operating.
- Speed. How long will it take them to complete your tax return?
- Delivery mode. Can they help you online, or do you need to visit their office?
- Hours of operation. If you work standard business hours, it can be beneficial to find a tax agent open on weekends.
- Reputation. Do they have good reviews from past clients? Do you have any family and friends that have had a good experience with them?
- Do they specialise in any area? Some tax agents may specialise in tax returns for students, backpackers, seniors, immigrants and emigrants.
Where are you looking to find a tax agent?
Have a look at tax agents in each of the capital cities.