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The ATO is in overdrive to keep up with impatient Aussies chasing their tax cuts

The ATO is fielding a major influx of calls about tax. (Source: Getty)

Australians are evidently hungry for their tax cuts, with more than a million tax returns already lodged with the Australian Taxation Office.

According to a tweet by Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, the tax office has received some 500,000 more tax returns than the same time last year.

The news comes amid media reports that the ATO had been “overwhelmed” with calls, according to Australian Services Union tax branch secretary Jeff Lapidos.

“They planned for an extra 28 per cent in call volumes but they underestimated substantially,” Lapidos told news.com.au.

The ATO has reportedly brought on extra casual staff to deal with the volume of calls, offered permanent staff extra overtime, and pulled staff off other tasks to take calls.

“Despite that, some 50,000 calls have been blocked from getting through,” Lapidos said, adding that people were calling back in order to get through and clogging the system.

“When they do get through to staff, people are complaining. The union is asking the public to please be patient and if possible hold off.”

In order to deal with the volume of calls, tax office staff have been asked by the government to work over the weekend, according to the SMH.

The increased workload for ATO staff isn’t helped by the fact that staff numbers at the tax office have been cut by 6,500 over the past few years, public sector union CPSU said on the weekend.

An ATO spokesperson admitted that the tax office’s call centre was fielding a “large number of calls” about tax-related queries.

“We are reallocating resources to manage a greater than anticipated number of calls,” the spokesperson said.

“We expect to start issuing any refunds towards the end of this week, and will continue into next week, which is in line with the normal processing of refunds for this time of year.”

People having difficulties lodging their tax returns or questions about their tax return are being urged to head to the ATO website for information.

“If you still need to call us, our call centres are open from 8am to 8pm Monday to Friday, and 10am-4pm Saturday and Sunday,” the spokesperson said.

“Remember to have your proof of identity information ready to go, such as your tax file number, drivers licence, Medicare card or passport.”

When’s the best time to lodge my tax return?

The ATO has warned Australians to hold off lodging tax returns too early – and it’s not just to save frantic ATO staff some grief.

There have been a few changes to the the tax system this year that sees the data on payment summaries now sent straight to the ATO (called an ‘Income statement’) rather than to the employee.

Information from your employer, plus third parties like banks and health insurers, get pre-filled into your tax return, but they have until the end of July to do this.

“We generally encourage taxpayers to wait a few weeks before lodging so that we can serve them better,” an ATO spokesperson told Yahoo Finance.

According to the ATO, the best rule of thumb is to wait until mid-August to lodge.

But if you want to lodge earlier, you can, especially if you’ve got all your information to complete your tax return accurately, said ATO assistant commissioner Karen Foat.

“However, we do know from previous years that the early birds who lodge in the first weeks of July are far more likely to make mistakes or submit incomplete data.”

The deadline to lodge your tax return is 31 October.

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