Tax

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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.

At the end of the financial year you're expected to fill in a tax return to work out how much tax you should have paid that year. If it turns out you've paid more tax than you needed to, you could get sent a refund. You might end up with extra spending money, or money to pay those outstanding bills!

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.

Topics on this page include:

> Do I need to do a tax return?
> How to do your tax return
> Getting someone else to do your tax return
> Tax help for low income earners
> Tax file numbers
> When is my tax return due?
> Tax refunds and payments
> Helpful links

Do I need to do a tax return?

Not everyone has to do a tax return. To work out if you need to do one, check out the ATO's Do I Need to Lodge a Tax Return? online tool (new window).

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How to do your tax return

While it may seem tricky at first, doing your tax should get easier the more often you do it.

The main thing to remember is to keep good records of:

  • Your expenses (i.e., what you spend)
  • Your income (i.e., what you earn)

Check out the ATO's advice about records you need to keep (new window) for more tips on what you should be hanging onto.

There are a few ways you can do your tax return. You can:

Tax assistance for people with a disability

The ATO can offer a range of help with tax returns to people with a disability, including phone support and audio/video guides. Check out their Services for People with a Disability page (new window) for more information.

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Getting someone else to do your tax return

You can always pay someone else to do your tax return for you. Keep in mind that while you might have to pay money up front, an experienced registered tax agent may be able to do a better job at working out your entitlements and you may actually save money in the long run.

To find someone you can pay to do your tax for you, try asking around. Your family or friends may have someone they can recommend. You can also find someone to lodge your tax return through the Finding and using a tax practitioner page (new window) on the website of the Federal Government's Tax Practitioners Board. 

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 (new window) that can put you in touch with trained community volunteers who can provide confidential free assistance.

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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 (new window)

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.

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When is my tax return due?

The financial year runs from 1 July to 30 June the following year. If you're doing your tax return yourself (e.g., using myTax or the tax pack), your tax return is usually due on 31 October following the end of the financial year.

For example, if the financial year ends on 30 June 2015, then you have to make sure your tax return is submitted by 31 October 2015.

If you don't submit your tax return by 31 October there's a chance you could get fined and have to pay a Failure to Lodge on Time (FTL) penalty (new window).

Note that if you're doing your tax return with the help of a registered tax agent or accountant, the 31 October deadline doesn't apply.

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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.

Tax refunds

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.

Tax payments

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:

  • BPAY
  • Credit card
  • Direct credit
  • Direct debit
  • Cheque
  • 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).

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Links

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).

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