By Juliano Oliveira
Amid calculations, receipts and payslips, first-time lodgers may find the ATO (Australian Taxation Office) process complex and frightening.
Mistakes involving a non-declared income, deductions claimed for personal expenses and claiming something never paid for are constantly expected. Add to that the modifications brought by COVID-19 in terms of remote work and deductible expenditures.
“Tax may seem daunting, but it doesn’t need to be,” Assistant Commissioner Tim Loh said.
“The best advice for first-time lodgers is to be prepared – whether you choose to use the services of a registered tax agent or lodge your own return.”
The first step is to check whether you need to lodge a return. It is mandatory in cases of taken out taxes or income over $18,200 during the financial year.
“You’ll need to either lodge your return or get on the books of a registered tax agent by 31 October. If you lodge yourself, myTax is the way to go. Most people with simple tax affairs can lodge in under half-an-hour, with most refunds received in less than two weeks,” Mr Loh explained.
In doubt, it is recommendable to use the ATO’s ‘Do I need to lodge’ tool. If you don’t need to lodge, submit non-lodgment advice through the office’s online services in your myGov account.
Now, it is time to track down your Tax File Number (TFN), a personal identifier for tax and superannuation purposes.
“It’s yours for life, even if you change your name, job, or where you live. It will stay the same – so it’s important to keep it secure,” Mr Loh said.
“Not sure what your TFN is? You can find it on documents such as super statements or ATO letters. You can also find your TFN in ATO online services accessed through your myGov account.
“If you don’t have a TFN, you can apply by filling in the form on our website and booking an appointment at a participating Australia Post outlet. It’s completely free.”
Next, use your email address to create a myGov account and link it to the ATO. You can also connect your account using the myGovIDExternal Link app.
“Set yourself up for success by creating your myGov account and linking to the ATO now. When linking, you’ll be prompted to answer two questions based on records we have,” Mr Loh said.
“If you need to call us, we encourage you to do so now to avoid any delays when you choose to lodge your tax return. We suggest having your identification information, such as your TFN, driver’s licence, or Medicare card, ready to go.
“Once you’ve linked to the ATO, you can not only lodge your tax return online, but you can also track your refund, view your super balance, study loan amounts and income statements.”
Finally, when lodging your return, keep in mind that, by late July, information from employers, banks, health funds, government agencies and more, will automatically be added to your tax return.
“A common mistake we see when people lodge their returns is leaving out important information, such as income from dividends or your private health insurance information, which can slow down your return,” Mr Loh said.
“Another mistake we see that can set you back is forgetting to keep receipts for any deductions you want to claim.”
The most common deductions are expenses directly related to earning your income. You can also claim charitable donations you make to deductible gift recipients.