Your Cheat Sheet to Lodging a Tax Return for the First Time

Your Cheat Sheet to Lodging a Tax Return for the First Time
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It’s very close to the end of the financial year and with that comes your tax return. Doing your taxes often seems like a boring, daunting task, but it’s a necessary part of working life.

For those who haven’t lodged a tax return before, or for anyone who just needs a refresher, the ATO has released a list of tips to guide us through tax time.

Do you need to lodge a tax return?

The first thing to consider when it comes to your taxes is whether you actually need to lodge a tax return at all.

“As a general rule, you’ll need to lodge if you’ve had tax taken out of your pay or earned over $18,200 during the financial year,” ATO Assistant Commissioner Tim Loh said in a media release.

You can also use the ATO’s ‘Do I Need to Lodge’ tool on its website.

Where do you lodge your tax return?

There are a couple of options when it comes to submitting your tax return. You can lodge it online yourself through the ATO’s portal or you can seek the assistance of a tax agent.

If you’re lodging it yourself you can use myTax through the ATO.

“Most people with simple tax affairs can lodge in under half-an-hour, with most refunds received in less than 2 weeks,” Loh said.

Keep track of your Tax File Number

Your tax file number (TFN) is an integral part of your identity and you’ll have the same one for life.

“Even if you change your name, job, or where you live [your TFN] will stay the same – so it’s important to keep it secure,” Mr Loh said.

You’ll find your TFN on documents such as superannuation statements, ATO letters or you can access it on the ATO portal through your myGov account. Keep it handy because you’ll need to provide it to an employer when you fill out a TFN declaration. This tells your employer how much tax to withhold.

If you’re an Australian resident and don’t have a TFN you can apply online and then book your interview at an Australia Post shop for free.

How to lodge your tax return online

If you’re lodging your tax return yourself one essential step is to set up a myGov account and link it with the ATO.

You’ll need to confirm your identity and if you don’t have enough documentation on hand you can phone the ATO to do this. Loh suggests doing this now to avoid any delays come tax lodging time.

When it comes to lodging your tax return, Mr Loh also had some suggestions:

“A common mistake we see when people lodge their returns is leaving out important information, such as income from dividends or your private health insurance information, which can slow down your return.”

Information from employers, banks, health funds, government agencies and others will automatically be added to your tax return (normally via your TFN info). This is normally added by July but if you want to lodge your return earlier you’ll need to take extra care to add all this information, including any side hustles you may have.

Also, don’t forget about tax deductions, which can be included in your tax return to claim any expenses directly related to earning your income.

“Another mistake we see that can set you back is forgetting to keep receipts for any deductions you want to claim,” Mr Loh said.

There are plenty of things you can claim when it comes to expenses, just don’t go too wild.

When is the deadline?

A number of things can impact your tax return deadline but for most individuals, you have until October 31.

You can see a list of exemptions and the different deadlines from the ATO here.

Here’s hoping your tax return is kind to you this year.

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