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Bushfire-struck Aussies score rare tax reprieve

Lucy Dean
·3-min read
Pictured: Australian bushfires, Australian cash. Images: Getty
Australians affected by bushfires and floods will receive a rare tax reprieve. Images: Getty

Australians affected by bushfires and floods have been told not to stress about having pristine tax records this year, with the tax office acknowledging many may have lost documents in the natural disasters.

Australian Tax Office (ATO) assistant commissioner Karen Foat said people who have lost documents or files in floods or fires will be able to access help.

“We understand people may be concerned that they will miss out at tax time if they can’t produce evidence to support their claims,” she said.

“The easiest place to view some of your tax records is through the ATO’s online services, which can be accessed via myGov.”

There, taxpayers can find income tax returns, statements, previous notices of assessment and activity statements. Additionally, Australians who lodge through a tax agent will also have access to these documents through their agents.

Foat said information from government agencies, health funds, financial institutions and businesses is automatically included in electronically-lodged returns, and that this should save Australians from having to contact those organisations individually.

That information is usually pre filled by the end of July.

Break from rule that makes up 50% of rejected claims

“About half of all rejected claims are knocked back because the taxpayer can’t provide evidence of what they bought or how it related to earning their income. But if your records have been lost or destroyed in a natural disaster, we don’t want you to worry,” Foat added.

“In these circumstances, bank records or credit card statements along with other documents that outline the nature of the goods or services provided can also be used to substantiate your claim.”

Foat said the best way to keep records is to just take a picture of a receipt and then save it in the ATO app’s myDeductions tool.

Then, come tax time, that information can just be uploaded to a tax return or sent to an agent.

“But if you don’t have photos of your documentation, consider what other documentation you may have to support your claim, like bank statements,” Foat said.

“If you are unable to substantiate your claims because the records have been destroyed, we may be able to accept the claim if it’s not possible to obtain the original and if it’s not possible to use alternative documents to support your claim. It is important to note this is not our general approach, but it can apply if your documents were destroyed in a natural disaster.”

If you live in a bushfire impacted area, the ATO will also defer some lodgments and payments.

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