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    How to do a Tax Return in Australia

    A step by step guide

    Hannah | Oneflare

    We’ve reached that time of the year when the ATO (Australian Taxation Office) and accountants begin getting ready for the slew of calculations they will be handling as people across the country lodge their tax returns. The cost of having a registered Tax Accountant lodge your tax return on your behalf can vary. If you prefer to prepare your own tax return there are quite a few things you will have to remember.

    Before we take a detailed look at how to complete your tax return, here is some basic information you should be aware of:

    1. Your tax return for any particular year (eg: 2020) is for all income earned from 1 July 2019 to 30 June 2020.
    2. The tax return for 2020 will be available in June 2020, with lodgement available from 1 July 2020.
    3. If you’ve missed any tax returns for previous years, you must complete them as soon as possible to avoid any fines from the ATO.
    4. Since most of us are now working from home due to COVID-19, the ATO has introduced a new method to calculate your expenses working from home called the Shortcut Method. Find out more about the Shortcut Method in our guide explaining How to Lodge a Tax Return if You’re Working from Home.

    How to do your tax return online

    As an individual doing their own taxes, you may have several questions. Here are some useful tips on how to do your taxes online:

    Gather your paperwork

    Before you lodge your tax return you need to gather all relevant information and paperwork to ensure it will be accurate. You will notice that the ATO pre-fills certain information from superannuation funds, Centrelink and banks in your online form. However, it is recommended that you check the accuracy of this pre-filled information. Some of the documents you require for your 2017 tax return include:

    Your income

    1. Payment summaries – These record the income you’ve received from superannuation funds, an employer, or any government agencies such as the Department of Veteran’s Affairs or Centrelink.
    2. Bank statements – These will detail the interest you may have earned over the past financial year.
    3. Shares, managed funds or unit trusts statements – These will be required to calculate any dividends or distributions made to you.
    4. Statements of buy and sell investments – You can acquire these from your stockbroker or investment advisor if you purchased or sold any shares.
    5. Records from rental properties– This has information relating to either a capital gain or capital loss from the sale of any property.
    6. Foreign income details – All details of foreign pensions or any other form of foreign income will be required.

    Your expenses

    1. Statement of your private health insurance policy – This will be required to complete the tax return section that requires information about your private health insurance. See more information below.
    2. Donation receipts – These are needed from all the approved charities you make contributions to.
    3. Educational receipts and records – Not every expense is claimable, refer to the self-education expenses page on the ATO site for additional information.
    4. Investment property receipts – These will be required to claim the maintenance and repairs costs on any investment property you own.
    5. Your spouse’s income and expenses – If you have a spouse, you will require details of their income as well as their expenses to ensure your entitlements are correctly calculated.
    6. Union membership – The cost of your union membership can be deducted from your taxable income amount.
    7. Work-related expenses – You might be eligible to claim certain work-related expenses.

    Medicare levy and private health insurance rebate

    From 1 July 2015, income thresholds used while calculating the Medicare levy surcharge and the private health insurance rebate have been frozen for three years at 2014-15 levels. If there is an increase in your income, you may move into the next threshold for the private health insurance rebate. This may mean a few things:

    1. If you have private health insurance, there may be a decrease in your rebate entitlement.
    2. If you don’t have the required level of private health insurance, you may have to pay the Medicare levy.
    3. If you paid the Medicare levy surcharge payment last year, there could be an increase in the levy you pay in 2017.
    4. If you’ve received an increase in pay, contact your health insurance provider to make sure the appropriate rebate is applied. You will be able to find more detailed information about income thresholds for private health insurance on the ATO’s website.

    Claim your deductions

    You may be eligible to claim income tax deductions for certain job-related costs; the expenses must meet these criteria:

    1. Relevant – The expenses must be job-related.
    2. Real – The money spent must have been your own and has not been reimbursed.
    3. Recorded – You must have records such as receipts as evidence of the job-related cost.

    You will find more details on the ATO website about how you can claim work-related expenses.


    Tax Return Australia - MyDeductions
    Source: Australian Taxation Office

    The myDeductions tool on the ATO app can be used to help you keep track of all your deductions. Using this tool, you can:

    • Record all work-related expenses
    • Store photos of receipts
    • Record gifts and donations
    • Track car trips

    NB: myDeductions isn’t for small business owners. It’s only for those claiming various work-related expenses as employees. With effect from 1 July 2016, these deductions can be pre-filled on your online tax return via the app. Alternatively, you can share this information with your tax agent.

    How to track my tax return

    To lodge your tax return online, you need to ensure you have a MyGov account (this can be easily created if you do not yet have one). This account will have to be linked to the ATO. Once you have completed the process and lodged your tax return, you should check your MyGov inbox for the tax receipt and your notice of assessment.

    If you are planning to use a professional to handle your tax returns, make sure the tax agent is registered. You can check the agent’s registration status via the online tax and BAS (Business Activity Statements) agent register.

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