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ATO change set to affect millions of Aussies at tax time: 'You will pay'

Harrison Dell has predicted the Australian Taxation Office won't be lenient when the tax returns start flooding in.

Tax expert Harrison Dell next to person filling out their tax return
Tax expert Harrison Dell has warned Aussies the ATO could be 'harsher' this year when it comes to audits, penalties and deadlines. (Source: TikTok/Getty)

Aussies thinking of fudging their tax return this year have been warned to be careful as the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) is expected to be "harsher" on non-compliers. Research from Finder revealed around two million people have lied on their tax returns and while that might have worked previously, it won't fly in 2024.

Tax lawyer Harrison Dell told Yahoo Finance there's a new ATO Commissioner in charge and that's likely to change how the Office does business. Rob Heferen took over from Chris Jordan in March this year on a seven-year term as the ATO's chief after serving as the CEO of the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare for nearly three years.

"The last [Commissioner] was private sector and he ran it kind of like a private business," Dell said. "And it did really well. It was about fostering long-term compliance.


"But now it's short term like, 'Let's get a few a few dollars back'."

The Cadena Legal principal solicitor said the government spent "a lot of money in previous years" on initiatives like the COVID-era JobKeeper payment and he reckons its main focus now is to "get it back".

"The ATO's got one job and it's to collect revenue," he said.

Dell explained how this has already impacted him and his clients.

"It's made it quite frustrating because the change in's gone from me getting $100,000 of penalties and interest remitted with a phone call and maybe an email," he told Yahoo Finance.

"And now, I can't even get a payment plan for a guy because the default is just, 'No'."

He said unfortunately the ATO's new approach will affect every worker across Australia and he specifically warned Aussies about not missing the Office's strict deadlines.

"If you lodge late, you get a penalty. You used to be able to ring up and say, 'Oh, sorry, I overslept', and they're like, 'Yeah, sweet, whatever'," he explained.

"And now it's like, 'No, you'll pay the $1,500 penalty...and that kind of sucks in a time where people really are struggling."

People can lodge their tax returns between July 1 and October 31 if they're doing it themselves.

If you don't lodge your tax return by that date then you could be liable for a late lodgement penalty, which is $330 for individuals.

Aussies can be fined up to five times for failing to submit their documentation, meaning you could face a maximum penalty of $1,650.

Dell claimed the ATO won't be wasting any time in helping people avoid those fines this year so it's best to stick to the deadlines.

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