As the end of June approaches, tax time is upon us once again. Lifehacker's annual Tax Week series kicks off by looking at the most important question for tech-savvy taxpayers: what are the official online submission options?
Computer picture from Shutterstock
Many Australians won't worry about this question, because they pay a tax agent or accountant to handle their tax. If you fall into that category, you don't need to worry about the electronic submission options (though your agent will undoubtedly submit your return electronically on your behalf). If you're in the do-it-yourself camp, however, you have two options.
The Australian Taxation Office is again offering a simple browser-based platform, myTax, for people with relatively straightforward tax affairs — handy if you've only worked in a single job and don't have complex deductions. To use this, you need to be registered for the myGov service (which also offers access to Medicare, Centrelink and other government services). This ATO page will help you work out if myTax is suitable for you. As it's browser-based, it works across PCs, Macs and tablets, so you're not restricted by your choice of technology.
Last year, roughly one million taxpayers chose the myTax option. myTax has been expanded slightly this year so it can handle superannuation, lump sum payments, managed investment funds and foreign pensions.
The ATO is keen to stress that it won't unfairly fine people who use myTax but end up making a simple mistake. "Our research tells us one of the biggest barriers for people doing their own tax return is the fear of making a mistake," Assistant Commissioner Graham Whyte said. "If you do accidentally get something wrong and it turns out you owe the ATO money, naturally you will have to pay the tax you owe. However the ATO will not penalise you for the mistake."
If your tax affairs are more complex, you can use the e-Tax software, which is available for Windows PCs and Macs. You will still need to register for a myGov online account to use this. The 2015 version of e-tax is due for release on July 1 2015.
Whether you use myTax or e-Tax, you can take advantage of pre-filling of information from your employer, bank, health insurance provider and other information sources. The ATO says it expects most of that information to be present by early August. (You can submit at any time after July 1 provided you have the information yourself.)
Reminder: For specific tax advice relating to your individual situation, consult a registered professional.