If you have a paid job you may have to pay tax. Tax is money paid to the government so it can provide services like health, education and social security.
Sometimes your employer automatically takes tax payments out of your wages. Sometimes they don't. Whether or not they do, though, everyone with a paid job is expected to pay some tax.
What's a Tax File Number?
Your Tax File Number (TFN) is a unique number given to you by the ATO. They use it to identify your tax records. You have to apply for a TFN - you don't get given one automatically.
To apply for a TFN you can:
- Pick up a form from your local post office
- Visit an ATO shopfront
- Apply online
To find out more about getting a TFN, check out the ATO's Tax File Number page
It's not compulsory to have a TFN, but without it:
- Your employer has to take 46.5% of your wages in tax
- Financial institutions have to tax your interest at 46.5%
- Centrelink generally won't pay you an allowance like Youth Allowance, Newstart or Austudy
- You won't be able to defer your HECS or HELP fees
- Your tax returns or Australian business number (ABN) applications may take longer
- It's harder to find out about your financial records from the ATO
Your TFN is yours for life, even if you change jobs, move interstate or change your name. If you leave the country and come back to Australia later, you still need to use the same TFN.
You should never share your TFN with friends or provide it over the internet when applying for jobs.
What is a tax return?
For more information about tax Returns head over to our how to do a tax return page.
Tax refunds and payments
After you submit your tax return you'll be sent a Notice of Assessment. This is a letter that tells you whether you're getting a tax refund, or whether you have to pay more tax on top of the tax you've already paid.
If it turns out you're getting a refund, the Notice of Assessment you got sent will tell you how much you are going to get paid.
You usually get paid either within 12 business days (if you lodged your return electronically) or 50 business days (if you did your tax return on paper).
Tax returns are usually paid straight into your bank account. If you haven't provided your bank details you'll be sent a cheque in the mail.
If it turns out you haven't paid enough tax, your Notice of Assessment will tell you how much more tax you need to pay, and when you need to pay it by.
You can pay additional tax in a range of ways, including:
- Credit card
- Direct credit
- Direct debit
- Over the counter at Australia Post
If you're having difficulty paying, you can contact the ATO to organise a payment arrangement. You can call them on 13 28 61 between 8am and 6pm Monday to Friday (excepting public holidays).
Tax help for low income earners
If you're on a low income and are struggling to understand how to work out your tax, the ATO has a Tax Help Program that can put you in touch with trained community volunteers who can provide confidential free assistance.
Australian Taxation Office (ATO)
Your primary source of information about tax with information for individuals and businesses.
MoneySmart - Income Tax
Tax refund tips from the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC).