There’s no avoiding it – if you’re an Australian resident for tax purposes and had tax withheld from your wages as part of the Pay As You Go (PAYG), you have to lodge a tax return.
Gathering the paperwork together can feel onerous, but approaching with the mindset of “what can I claim for?” may make preparing your tax return more bearable.
If you’re employed, you may be able to claim some expenses relating to your work and income.
In general, expenses are claimable when:
- You spent the money and weren’t reimbursed by your employer
- The money spent was a work-related expense
- You have an official record of the expense – such as a receipt, bank statement or diary entry (though in some cases you may not have to show evidence if your total claim for work-related expenses is $300 or less)
- If the cost was for both work and personal use, for example home internet, you can only claim a portion of the expense.
You can access up to seven years’ worth of statements in NetBank to help you identify tax related expenses.
The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) provides detailed categories of expenses you can claim on its website, which you can refer to for details on what you can claim. Some of them are outlined below.
How to lodge your tax return
To prepare your tax return you’ll need:
- Your Tax File Number (TFN)
- Payment summary
- Summary of interest you’ve earned on your bank accounts (you can get this now in NetBank)
- Information relating to investment income, shares, dividends and managed funds
- Private health insurance certificate and receipts for medical expenses
- Details of child support payments
- Receipts from donations to a charity
- Receipts for work expenses.
TIP: You can download most documents online from many banks, insurers and government agencies like Medicare and Centrelink. Check your provider’s website or app.
To download the interest you’ve earned on your CommBank accounts Log on to NetBank > View accounts > Interest & tax summary
If you held shares in the past financial year, you’ll also need your buy and sell contract notes to work out any assessable capital gains or losses. Income from these shares can be found on dividend statements.
Have your bank details (BSB and account number) handy too.
Do it yourself or use an expert?
You can either lodge a tax return yourself or get a registered tax agent to do it for you.
If you’re unsure of the Australian tax laws, have a complex tax situation or find paperwork overwhelming, an agent’s expertise may be invaluable. They’ll charge you a fee but that’s tax deductible when you lodge your tax return the following year – and in the meantime they may just secure you a larger refund than if you went it alone.
If you do choose to lodge your own tax return, it’s quicker to do it online using myTax. You’ll need a myGov account first in order to do this. A big plus is that if you’re due a refund, you’ll most likely get it in under 12 business days. A further advantage is that the ATO’s prefill function can help to ensure you don't forget any income. And lodging your tax return online is free, too.
You can, of course, still lodge a paper return – though it can take up to 50 business days to receive a refund this way.
Depending on your income and a few other conditions, you may be eligible for the ATO’s Tax Help program, where trained and accredited community volunteers can help you lodge your return online.
Tax refunds or debt notices
Once the ATO has reviewed your tax return they’ll send you a notice of assessment (NoA). This will tell you whether you’re due a refund or need to pay money to the ATO.
It’s very important to hold onto your NoA, because if you do your tax return online in the future you're likely to need your most recent NoA number in order to lodge it.
Fixing a mistake
Regardless of how you choose to lodge your tax return, make sure you double-check everything before your tax return is lodged.
You can change your return quickly if you’ve done it online, whereas it’ll take a few days for changes to be made if you’ve used a registered tax expert.