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ATO tells bushfire victims to 'not worry' about tax affairs

The ATO has told people not to worry about tax during bushfires. Images: Getty

As unprecedented bushfires ravage New South Wales and Queensland, the Australian Tax Office (ATO) has told victims to focus on their “immediate problems” rather than tax affairs. 

“If you have been affected by a disaster such as a cyclone, flood, bushfire or storm, don't worry about your tax affairs right away,” an ATO spokesperson told Yahoo Finance. 

“We understand the impact natural disasters have on affected communities, we will give you time to deal with your more immediate problems first and we can help you to sort out your tax affairs later.”

The spokesperson said the ATO is currently “considering the most appropriate response” for people affected by the NSW and Queensland bushfires, and will provide further details in the future. 

The ATO last week extended an offer of support to Australians in drought-affected communities.

In a statement at the time, the ATO said those struggling should go to the tax office for help which could see them receive an expedited tax refund.

“The ATO understands the pressure this drought has put on communities and we are committed to providing support and assistance where possible. This is why we strongly encourage you to contact us to discuss your individual circumstances,” acting deputy commissioner Andrew Watson said.

“We understand it’s not just farmers, but everyone in rural and regional Australia that suffers during drought. So the best way to get help from the ATO is to engage with us as early as you can, particularly if you are struggling to meet your obligations.

“By engaging with the ATO early, we can remove some unnecessary stress. Once we understand your individual situation, we may give you more time to pay, set up a payment plan with an interest free period or waive penalties.”

On Tuesday, NSW weathered unprecedented bushfire conditions categorised as ‘catastrophic’, forcing 600 schools to close.

On Wednesday, 83 fires continue to burn in NSW with 50 uncontained. 

Queensland will today bear the brunt of the bushfires as windy conditions that wreaked mayhem in NSW on Tuesday now move onto the northern state. 

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