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Starting to think about tax time? Read this before submitting your return

If you’re reading this, chances are you pay tax in Australia, and I can almost guarantee you (or someone you know) has uttered the words, ‘Why didn’t we learn about this in school?!’.

Thus, it becomes something we have to figure out on our own.

Thankfully I get the opportunity to interview many helpful experts on the Australian Finance Podcast, and had the opportunity to chat with our tax regulator, the Australian Taxation Office (ATO), on the Australian Finance Podcast this month.

Rob Thomson, Assistant Commissioner at the ATO, covers all the basics you need to know this tax time. You can also read some of Rob’s tips below.

Three reasons why you should learn about tax

I asked Rob why it’s important for individuals to understand the basics of their tax obligations when getting started. Here’s what he said:

  1. The taxes we pay fund our community services like roads, education, and welfare, so the services we value really depend on everyone paying the right amount of tax. 
  2. Understanding the basics of our tax systems is important for financial literacy – which is why we’ve invested in teaching these basics from a young age and making sure our information is accessible.
  3. Lastly, on a personal level, it is less stressful for you. If you understand your tax obligations and know you have your taxes right, then you don’t have to worry about it. We all have a lot of things on our plates these days, so its one less thing you need to worry about. 

So, Rob, what do individuals need to know about this tax time?  

Starting with the basics – if you’re lodging your own tax return, this is due 31 October. If you’re lodging with a registered agent, you’ll have a little more time, but make sure you get on their books before the 31 October deadline.

Before you lodge, it’s best to make sure all of your details are up to date. This includes your contact details, address, and bank details. Updating these after you lodge may cause delays. 

If you plan to claim deductions, make sure you have your records. No proof, no deduction. In most cases, a bank or credit card statement (on its own) isn’t enough evidence to support a work-related deduction claim – you’ll need your receipts. 

Remember, we often update our rates – things like car expenses and working-from-home costs – so don’t just ‘copy and paste’ your deductions from last year. Check out the guidance on our website to make sure you’re claiming what you’re entitled to.

Do I need to use a tax accountant?

We try to make tax time as easy as possible. If you have simple tax affairs, we automatically upload information from your employer, banks, share registries, and other government agencies into myTax for you by late July. You just need to check it before you lodge, ensure the amounts are correct, and make sure all your assessable income is included. 

Others may not have simple tax affairs and prefer to use a registered tax agent – just make sure that the agent is registered with the Tax Practitioners Board. You will still need to substantiate your deductions when using an agent. 

The ATO app can help you do this by saving details and photos of your receipts or a logbook of work travel all in one place. You can then email this information to your registered tax agent at tax time.

What happens if you realise you made a mistake on your tax return? 

If you make a mistake or leave something out of your tax return – don’t worry. 

Whether you lodged online, through an agent, or on paper, you can request an amendment using our online services. However, you will need to wait until we’ve finished processing your original return, which may cause delays.

You can check the progress of your original tax return through ATO online services, which can be accessed through myGov or the ATO app. 

💸 Rask Tax Time Checklist (for individuals) 2024

Are you ready for tax time? We’ve got you covered! Before you complete your tax return in 2024, make sure you go through this checklist and listen to our tax episode on the Australian Finance Podcast

  • TFN: If you don’t have it handy, find your tax number.
  • MyGov ATO Portal: If you haven’t already done so, set up your MyGov ATO Portal. This gives you access to lodge your return (if you do it yourself), see your HECs-HELP balance and hunt down your lost super.
  • Records: Find all your tax documents and put them in one place (email folder, Google Drive & folder in your office)
  • Income: Did you get paid this year by anyone? Make sure you find all this information.
  • Lump sum payments: Did you get a lump sum payment this year? This might be worth chatting to your accountant about.
  • Tax withheld: Did tax get withheld from any payments (e.g. dividends, salary) this year? Make sure to find these details.
  • Interest: Download summaries from all your bank accounts, to make sure you know what interest you were paid during the year.
  • HECS-HELP: Tax time is a good opportunity to check your outstanding debt in your MyGov ATO Portal.
  • Health insurance: If you paid for health insurance during the year, track down those details.
  • Super contributions: Make some super contributions yourself during the year? Let your accountant know. You may need to fill in an ATO Notice of Intent to Claim Form.

Deductions

Side Hustles

  • Income
  • Expenses

Investor specific tasks

  • Dividends/distributions: Make sure to gather up all the records from dividends and distributions you received from your investments.
  • Capital gains/capital losses: Did you sell any assets (e.g. shares) this year? You’ll need to know the purchase price(s), date(s), quantity and sale price(s).
From the ATO on Capital Gains & Capital Losses

Capital gains tax (CGT) is the tax you pay on profits from selling assets, such as property.

You report capital gains and capital losses in your income tax return and pay tax on your capital gains. Although it is referred to as ‘capital gains tax,’ it is part of your income tax. It is not a separate tax.

You can deduct allowable capital losses from your capital gains to reduce your CGT. If your allowable capital losses are greater than your capital gains, you have a net capital loss.

You cannot deduct a net capital loss from your income but you can carry it forward and deduct it from capital gains in later years.

👀 Resources to help you with your tax return

Want to learn more?

Click here for our detailed guide on how tax works as an investor!

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Information warning: The information on this website is published by The Rask Group Pty Ltd (ABN: 36 622 810 995) is limited to factual information or (at most) general financial advice only. That means, the information and advice does not take into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. It is not specific to you, your needs, goals or objectives. Because of that, you should consider if the advice is appropriate to you and your needs, before acting on the information. If you don’t know what your needs are, you should consult a trusted and licensed financial adviser who can provide you with personal financial product advice. In addition, you should obtain and read the product disclosure statement (PDS) before making a decision to acquire a financial product. Please read our Terms and Conditions and Financial Services Guide before using this website. The Rask Group Pty Ltd is a Corporate Authorised Representative (#1280930) of AFSL #383169.

At the time of publishing, the author of this article does not have a financial or commercial interest in any of the companies mentioned.
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