It's June 30 and the financial year is officially coming to an end. Any day now you'll be getting your payment summary from your employer, possibly planning a meeting with your accountant, and trying to work out if you'll be getting a nice refund from the Australian Taxation Office. Whatever your situation, the right software can help make this process a bit less tedious — and you don't necessarily have to spend a fortune to get it. Check after the jump for our fast guide to the three key tools you'll need for a pain-free tax experience.
e-tax. Almost one in five Australians now use the free e-tax software from the ATO to submit their returns. A key advantage is the ability to pre-populate the forms with data submitted by your employer (though it obviously still pays to cross-check against your paper versions). If you use an accountant or own investment properties, you'll want something more sophisticated, but for uncomplicated salary earners, e-Tax is probably all you'll need. The 2008 software is available to download from July 1; the previous year's version is now unavailable, so if you have older returns due you won't be able to submit it electronically.
A spreadsheet package. Spreadsheets originally became successful because of their ability to quickly crunch numbers, and despite 30-odd years of history, that remains their core function. Coding basic calculations is particularly hard, but you can automate the process with templates, such as those supplied by Microsoft for use with Excel (check here for the budget templates). You can score Excel pretty cheaply if you get a student discount, but otherwise, OpenOffice is a capable and entirely free alternative.
A personal finance package. You want the honest truth? If you haven't been using a budgeting package throughout the year, then now's probably not the time to start. But you could aim to make 2008-2009 simpler than 2008 by having a more disciplined financial new year. The big commercial player for individuals in this market is Quicken, whose entry-level Quicken Personal suits individuals or families. MYOB has a healthy share of the small business market but might be over-featured for individuals. Open source alternative Gnucash is also well-regarded, though it lacks the high degree of localisation found in the commercial options.
Any other favourite software for managing your taxes and finances? Share them in the comments.