Wondering how long you’ll have to wait for your tax refund to be paid into your bank account? Find out here.
It’s that time of year again when we all go hunting for lost receipts, payment summaries and any expense we might be able to claim as a tax deduction. Filing a tax return can be a boring and time-consuming chore, but the light at the end of the tunnel is the hope that you’ll receive a sizable refund from the tax collector.
How long will you have to wait until the tax refund you’re entitled to is paid into your bank account? Let’s find out.
Choosing a tax agent
When you should get your tax refund
How long will you have to wait for your tax refund to be paid? That depends on how you file your return:
- Electronic returns are normally processed within 2 weeks
- Paper returns are processed manually within 10 weeks
However, if you’re likely to experience serious financial hardship as a result of this processing time, you can apply to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) to request priority processing of your return.
If you’ve made a mistake on your return and need to update it, the quickest way to do so is using ATO online services via myGov. Online amendments are usually processed within four weeks, while paper amendments can take up to 10 weeks to process. Alternatively, if a registered tax agent lodged your return, that agent can also amend any mistakes.
Once your return has been processed, the ATO will issue a notice of assessment that explains whether you are entitled to a refund or whether you have a tax debt to pay. If you’ve linked your ATO account to your myGov account, this notice of assessment will be sent to your myGov inbox.
How long does it take to complete a tax return?
There’s no umbrella statement that can accurately answer this question, as there are several factors that can influence how long it takes to complete a tax return. From your sources of income to the deductions you claim, whether you have private health insurance cover, your marital status and even your tax returns from prior years, there are many variables that can reduce or increase the time it takes you to finish and lodge a return.
There are also several ways you can lodge a return:
- Online. This is the quickest and easiest way for most people to file a return.
- Paper. You can complete a paper tax return form and send it to the ATO.
- Through an agent. If you need help compiling your tax return, you can lodge it through a registered tax agent.
However, there are some situations and circumstances which can increase the total time needed to complete your tax return. These include:
- If you earn income from multiple sources
- If you’re not a full-time employee, or if you’re self-employed
- If you have a large number of deductions to claim
Issues that may delay your tax refund
In some circumstances, your tax return may take longer to process than the timeframes listed above. This can happen for a number of reasons, such as:
- If you have also recently lodged tax returns for prior years
- If there are incorrect or incomplete details in your return
- If you lodge duplicate returns for the same year
- You currently owe a debt to the ATO
- You are under an Insolvency administration, for example you have declared bankruptcy or entered into a debt arrangement
- The ATO needs to confirm details with other government agencies, such as Centrelink, Child Support or the Family Assistance Office
- The ATO needs to verify some of the information you have provided, such as your spouse’s details or your private health insurance details, or cross-check the information you provided in your return with data from its own systems
If the ATO requires any further information to process your return, you will be contacted with a request for the necessary details.
How to check the progress of your tax return
If you’d like to check up on the progress of your tax return, there are three quick and easy ways to do so:
- By using the ATO mobile app. The app features a search tool that allows you to enter your Tax File Number (TFN) to check on the progress of your latest tax return for the current financial year.
- By using the ATO’s online “Progress of return” enquiry tool. You can also conduct a quick search online by entering your TFN.
- By phone. You can use the ATO’s self-help phone service to access information on tax returns for the most recent financial year. Simply phone 13 28 61, choose option 2 and then option 1, and enter your TFN.
- By logging into ATO online services via myGov. This allows you to do a complete search to check the progress of your current return, as well as view your lodgment history for prior financial years.
When you check the real-time progress of your return via myGov you may be shown the status updates outlined in the table below:
|Stage||Status and outcome|
|1||In progress – Processing: The ATO has received your return and has started processing it.|
|2||In progress – Information pending: The ATO is obtaining additional information needed to process your return. You will be contacted if necessary.|
|3||In progress – Under review: The ATO is reviewing your tax affairs. This may include your tax returns from prior years. The ATO will contact you if necessary.|
|4||In progress – Balancing account: The ATO is balancing the result of processing your return with your tax accounts and calculating the refund amount you are entitled to or the amount you need to pay.|
|5||In progress – Processing: The ATO is generating your notice of assessment and any associated refund where an estimated issue date is shown.|
|6||Issued – $ amount: Your notice of assessment has been issued.|
What is the deadline for lodging tax returns?
The tax return deadline if you lodge your tax return yourself is October 31. This means that for the 2016/17 financial year, your return must be filed by 31 October 2017.
However, if you decide to lodge your return through a registered tax agent, the deadline can be extended. Tax agents have special arrangements with the ATO so they can lodge your return well after the October 31 deadline – as long as you have registered with that agent by October 31.
When lodging through an agent you potentially have up until May 15 the following year to lodge file your return. So for the 2016/17 financial year, you have until 15 May 2018 to lodge. However, the deadline for lodging through a tax agent is reduced in the following circumstances:
- If you had tax payable of $20,000 or greater in the last financial year, the deadline is moved forward to March 31.
- If you have an unlodged tax return from an earlier year, you must file by the normal October 31 deadline.
How long it takes to get your refund through an accountant vs filing an online tax return
Using an accountant or registered tax agent to file your return won’t see you get a refund any quicker than if you do your own tax online through the ATO’s MyTax service. The same processing times listed above apply, regardless of whether you get a professional to help or you DIY.
However, this isn’t to say there aren’t several benefits to using a tax agent or an accountant to lodge your return. Their expert knowledge can help you claim all the deductions possible and get the biggest refund you’re entitled to, plus they can also offer assistance if you become subject to an audit. And if you have complex income or anything else that’s likely to result in a complicated return, getting professional help can help you navigate what can be a confusing and intimidating process.
Where your tax refund will be deposited
Your tax return will be deposited into your nominated financial institution account. Simply make sure to provide your bank account details when you file your return, and any refund you’re entitled to will be paid directly into your account.