The advice you need to know if you’ve left your tax return to the last minute

Are you guilty of putting off your tax return until the last minute, or just confused about the whole process? This expert advice from the ATO will make claiming a breeze.

With the tax return deadline looming, many of us will be rushing to lodge our claim before its too late.

TODAY got some last minute advice from Australian Taxation Office Assistant Commissioner Kath Anderson.

TODAY: Kath, the deadline is looming, when is it?

ANDERSON: Yes, the deadline is next Wednesday October 31 if you are doing your own return. But there is no need to stress because myTax has done the hard work for you. The questions are tailored and we have pre-filled as much information as we can. All you need to do is check what is already there, add your deductions and answer a few questions.  Over 3 million returns have already been lodged through myTax this year, and most of them took less than 30 minutes.

TODAY: What’s your advice for people who are worried they will have a debt?

ANDERSON: Don’t defer lodging because you think you will have a debt you believe you will have trouble paying. The due date for payment is the same regardless of when you lodge – for self-preparers it is 21 November. If you are worried about your debt, the best thing is to get in contact with us as soon as possible and we will work with you to manage it. If your debt is less than $100,000 you can enter into a payment arrangement online, you don’t even need to call us.

TODAY: If you’re using an agent to lodge your return, do you have longer to do so?

ANDERSON: Yes, because agents have so many clients, they have extended deadlines to flatten out their workload. But there is a catch – if you are using an agent, you must be on their books before the 31 October deadline. If you are using an agent for the first time or using a different agent then you will need to contact them before the deadline.

TODAY: What happens if you miss next Wednesday’s deadline?

ANDERSON: Our advice is not to panic. We understand that things don’t always go to plan, but you need to get onto it as quickly as possible and either lodge or get in contact with us. Remember penalties can apply if someone is deliberately not lodging.

We know some people are already behind in their lodgements and it can be stressful. Our advice is simple – get in contact with us. Usually when people do, they realised it isn’t that bad because we work with them to get them back on track.

TODAY: What are your top tips to maximise your refund?

ANDERSON: The main tip is to keep good records. Half of all claims that are disallowed each year are because the taxpayer didn’t keep the right records.

If you are unsure about what you can claim, ask your agent or visit our website: ato.gov.au. It has some really good advice about specific deductions and it also has guides for the most common occupations, which set out what you can and cannot claim. Some things you might not have thought about like business phone calls or home office expenses that your employer hasn’t reimbursed you for, professional memberships and income protection insurance that you paid for yourself.

Remember, maximising your return doesn’t mean fudging your claims. Only claim deductions that meet the three golden rules:

  1. You must have paid for it yourself and not have been reimbursed
  2. It must be directly related to earning your income
  3. You must have a record to prove it.

TODAY: Is it true that Australians have over $17 billion in lost super?

ANDERSON: Yes, there are over 3 million lost super accounts belonging to Australians, worth over $17 billion. Some accounts have thousands of dollars. One man who recently visited our Strathpine pop-up shop was reunited with $87,000 he didn’t know he had. It’s worthwhile checking to see if you have any lost super when you are doing your tax return. You just click on the super tab and you can check what accounts you have, and consolidate them right there if you would like to.

TODAY: Scammers are very busy at the moment – whats the best way to avoid being scammed?

ANDERSON: Our three top tips to avoid being scammed:

  1. Know your tax position – whether you owe any money or not. You can check online via myGov, ask your agent or giving us a call.
  2. Know how to spot a scam – the ATO will not threaten or abuse you. We will not issue an  arrest warrant or send the police around. And we will not ask you to  pay a debt in  iTunes cards, bitcoin or deposit into an ATM.
  3. Slow down – scammers are most effective when they can get you to do something you haven’t had time to think about. They pressure you. So talk to the ATO or your agent or someone else you trust before you part with money you didn’t know you owed.

If you are not sure if a call is genuine, call our scams hotline on 1800 008 540.

Interview and additional text by Luke Worthington.

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