It’s Tax Time – Where do I start?
If you’ve never lodged a tax return before it can be a bit daunting. The good news is for a first-timer the process is fairly straightforward unless you’re hiding a stack of investment bonds or rental properties in your back pocket.
Everyone that earns income needs to pay tax. Your employer pays a percentage of your wages as tax, directly to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) every time you get paid. Your payslip shows how much you’ve been paid, and much tax your employer has paid on your behalf. If you work in multiple jobs each employer will do this.
At the end of each financial year, you need to lodge one tax return that pulls together all of your income information, along with all the tax you’ve already paid to determine if you’ve paid enough tax during the year. If you’ve paid too much tax you will get a tax refund. If you’ve not paid enough tax, you will receive a tax bill that you will need to pay.
The last financial year started on 1 July 2020 and finished on 30 June 2021. If you received any employment income or Centrelink payments during this time, you’ll probably need to lodge a tax return with the Australian Tax Office (ATO). Your tax return needs to be lodged by 31 October 2021.
Before you can lodge your tax return you will need:
- your Tax File Number
- an online MyGov Account
- to link the ATO to your MyGov Account
- an Income Statement or Payment Summary from each employer you worked for during the financial year
- your bank statement/s showing the total interest earned over the year
- a Centrelink Payment Summary showing any government payments you’ve received
- record/s of any other income you have received
- record/s of any deductions you can claim such as work-related expenses
There are few methods to choose from when looking at options for lodging your tax return:
Lodge Online with MyTax
This is the online program developed by the ATO to allow you to lodge your own tax return free of charge. You can access MyTax by linking the ATO to your MyGov account. The benefits of using MyTax are: it’s free, and you can save your progress to come back to it later. This program will take you through step by step, and some of the information may be pre-filled if your employers or banks lodge their information directly to the ATO.
Access Tax Help
This is a network of ATO trained community volunteers who can help you lodge your tax return through MyTax. There are a few rules you need to meet to be eligible for this service including: earning less than $60,000 in the financial year, and not running your own business. You need to have linked the ATO to your MyGov account to access MyTax, then call 13 28 61 (select option 3, then option 2) to make an appointment with Tax Help.
Use the National Tax Clinic
This program is supported by the ATO and delivered through partner universities. It involves students studying tax related courses providing free tax advice and support under the supervision of qualified clinic managers. This service is generally provided through video conferencing or phone. The SA Tax Clinic is run by UniSA and is available to individuals or small businesses without a tax agent. To make an appointment call 8302 0100.
Get a Registered Tax Agent
A Registered Tax Agent is a person (or organisation) that charges you money to complete and lodge your tax return for you, using the information you provide them. Some Tax Agents will ask you for payment once your tax return is lodged, others will let you choose to have your fee deducted from your tax refund. The cost of using a Tax Agent can be claimed as a deduction from you next financial year’s tax return.