The latest set of figures from the ATO on tax return processing reinforce a key lesson from this year for early bird lodgers: if you want your tax return back in a hurry, you may be better off waiting for a month first.
The ATO had already revealed in its regular weekly updates that it didn't even start processing returns until July 9. Its newest figures quantify how returns processing has become speedier as the process has bedded in.
Of the tax returns lodged electronically between July 1 and July 15, 56% were processed within 14 days. The same percentage hold true for those lodged between July 16 and July 31. However, of returns lodged electronically in the first two weeks of August, 87% got processed within 14 days, and the number rose to 97% for the following two weeks.
What does this mean for next year? The ATO had a major revamp of its systems at the beginning of the year, which means initial processing was probably slower than it will be for 2010/2011 returns. On the other hand, since it's clearly a fixed policy not to begin processing until a couple of weeks after the financial year begins, submitting the second you get your documents won't necessarily result in a faster outcome.