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‘Success’: ATO issues advice for first-time tax lodgers

·4-min read
An editorial stock photo of the Australian Government Taxation forms.
The ATO wants to make your life easy if you've never lodged a tax return before. (Source: Getty)

If you’ve never lodged a tax return before, the Australian Taxation Advice is looking out for you.

Assistant Commissioner Tim Loh has released new advice specifically for these Aussies to help make their first tax return a smooth experience.

“There’s a lot of information out there about tax, so we’ve provided some basic steps to help you get started,” Loh said.

“The best advice for first-time lodgers is to be prepared – whether you choose to use the services of a registered tax agent or lodge your own return.”

Read more:

Here’s what you need to do before 1 July rolls around:

1. Figure out if you need to lodge a tax return

If you’ve earned more than $18,200 during the 2020-21 financial year, or had tax taken out of your pay – you have to lodge a tax return.

“You’ll need to either lodge your own return or get on the books of a registered tax agent by 31 October,” said Loh.

Aussies doing it themselves can go through the ATO platform, myTax, which is accessed through myGov and obviously free.

If you have straightforward tax affairs, the process of lodging will be done within half an hour, and you’ll get your refunds within a fortnight, Loh added.

2. Find your Tax File Number (TFN)

You’ll need this number for all your tax and superannuation-related matters, so make sure to track this number down.

“It’s yours for life, even if you change your name, job, or where you live. It will stay the same – so it’s important to keep it secure,” said Loh.

If you can’t find your TFN, have a look at your superannuation statements or any letters from the ATO, he advised. “You can also find your TFN in ATO online services accessed through your myGov account.”

You would have given this number to your boss, too, when you started your job.

But if it’s your first time lodging a tax return, you might not have one – so you can get one (it’s totally free) by filling out this form at the ATO website.

3. Create a myGov account, and link to the ATO

First-time lodgers and people doing their tax returns themselves can lodge through myTax – but this means you do need a myGov account.

myGov acts like a portal to several other government services, including Centrelink and the ATO – so it’s not only important to set this account up, but to keep it safe as well.

“Don’t share your login details with anyone. Protect your myGov account as if it were your bank account,” the ATO stated on its website.

To prepare for tax time, create a myGov account now and link it to the ATO, said Loh, at which point you'll be asked to answer two security questions.

“If you need to call us, we encourage you to do so now to avoid any delays when you choose to lodge your tax return. We suggest having your identification information, such as your TFN, driver’s licence, or Medicare card, ready to go,” Loh added.

Once your ATO account is set up, you’ll be able to track any tax return refunds, see your superannuation balance, income statements, and more.

4. Lodge away

When you lodge your tax return, it needs to include all the relevant information – including things like private health insurance information or income from dividends or shares.

The ATO has warned before against lodging tax returns too early as employers may take a few weeks to prepare their employees’ income information.

Most of the information you need from your employer, banks, health funds, government agencies and other organisations in order to lodge a tax return will be ready in around late July.

So if you lodge your tax return on your own before this, you have to take “extra care”, the ATO warns.

“Another mistake we see that can set you back is forgetting to keep receipts for any deductions you want to claim.”

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