Why you can’t use e-tax in 2016
What free options do you have if you want to submit your 2016 tax return online?
Last year, around 1.25 million Australians used the free e-tax software package from the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) to lodge their tax returns. This year, nobody has that option, as e-tax, first introduced in 1999, has officially been retired.
If you want to submit your own tax return online, your sole option is now the browser-based myTax. myTax was originally introduced in 2014, but at first was only recommended if you had very simple tax affairs (such as a single job and only basic deductions such as charity donations).
Now the platform has been expanded so it can handle the same range of scenarios as e-tax. One key change has been the introduction of options to allow deductions for rental properties, which will be good news for those Australians who are using negative gearing to reduce their tax bills.
Moving the focus to myTax is a sensible progression, since a browser-based system can work on any computer, smartphone or tablet, regardless of its operating system. For most of its life, e-tax was a Windows-only affair, though a Mac version was belatedly introduced in 2013. Moving to a single browser-based system should save the ATO a bundle on development costs, and also eliminates the criticism that it's not making services available for all Australians.
That said, the vast majority of Australians won't end up using myTax anyway. ATO statistics suggest that 74% of Australians end up using an accountant or other tax preparation service to submit their return.
This year, the ATO has said it will be focusing on rental property and general employment deductions. So whether you use an accountant or go DIY with myTax, make sure you're following the rules.
Angus Kidman's Findings column looks at new developments and research that help you save money, make wise decisions and enjoy your life more. It appears Monday through Friday on finder.com.au.