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‘Report this’: ATO ‘paying close attention’ to COVID-19 habit

·3-min read
Pedestrians walking through Melbourne; image of ATO logo
The ATO is paying attention to a habit that many Australians have picked up during the pandemic. (Source: Getty)

The Australian Taxation Office is cautioning Australians that they are keeping a tight eye on whether all income has been declared honestly, including any from a side-hustle or gig economy work.

Aussies should know that if they receive payment for their goods or services, whether they’re an employee, an independent contractor or it’s a one-off, they must report it to the taxman.

ATO Assistant Commissioner Tim Loh said the tax office was aware many Australians had picked up some kind of side gig during the pandemic.

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“This has included a wide range of activities such as freelancing, setting up a local market stall or receiving income from subscribers through platforms like Patreon, Twitch or OnlyFans,” Loh said.

But all of this must be declared when lodging tax returns. And if you earn cash in hand, be careful: you have to include this, too.

“Generally, when you provide your labour, skills or goods for a fee, you need to report this income in your tax return.

“This applies regardless of whether you’re using a digital platform or more traditional means, such as word of mouth.”

The ATO receives its data from a wide range of sources, including share economy platforms like Airtasker, Uber, Airbnb, and more.

“The data we receive is growing, which means the places to hide are shrinking,” Loh added.

Australian tax declaration and pen on wooden table
The ATO receives data from several sources, meaning if you fail to declare extra income, the ATO will likely know about it. (Source: Getty)

In a hypothetical scenario given by the ATO, someone making homemade jewellery as a gift for friends wouldn’t have to pay tax, but if she decides to sell it on an online marketplace for profit, she’ll have to declare it in her tax return.

If you’re not sure about the income you need to declare, you can check this ATO webpage for more information.

The upside here is that your extra income stream might mean you’re eligible for certain tax deductions, so long as you’ve kept all the relevant receipts and it pertains to the job.

WATCH BELOW: Working From Home Costs You Didn’t Know You Could Claim

“Chefs can claim the knives and hairdressers can claim the scissors they use for their job, but a train driver or a salesman would have the same claims get knocked back,” Loh said.

The tax office also breaks down the particular work expenses that Aussies in various kinds of occupations can claim, whether you’re a lawyer, truck driver, or sex worker.

What the ATO is watching this tax time

The ATO has been active this tax season in warning Australians about what they’re watching out for.

It recently warned that first-time investors have tax obligations, and failing to keep records could lead to mistakes in the tax return that will delay the refund.

Cryptocurrency investors are also in the ATO’s line of sight, as well as people who try to over-claim work-from-home expenses.

‘Copy and paste’ tax claims will also be under scrutiny as people’s working circumstances will likely look different to that of last financial year.

Property investors are also on notice, with the ATO urging property investors to declare any capital gains made from selling investment properties or holiday homes.

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