It's that time of year again - when you pull out boxes of receipts, bank statements, bills and payslips and make your way through them with the aim of completing your tax return! It's not the most fun task, but it has to be done. Year after year, you probably put it off as long as you can. If you're lucky, you're eager to get it done and are busy working to complete it as soon as you can. If you're really lucky, you're rewarded for your efforts with a nice cheque from the government!
Whatever your approach, we've consolidated some key pieces of information to make tax time 2013 easier! You're sure to find a tip to help make tax time this year less taxing.
Quick Tax Facts
Choose How You Lodge Your Tax Return
- If you earn more than $6,000 in the financial year or have had tax withheld from your wages, then you will need to lodge a return
- If you're completing your own tax, rather than using an agent, your return is due by 31st October 2013
- You can complete your tax return online using a service from the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) called e-tax. It has checks and calculators to help ensure your tax return is as accurate as possible. Most returns lodged using e-tax are processed within 14 days.
- You can claim up to $300 of work related expenses without receipts. If an expense totals more than $300 you will need written evidence, so keep all your receipts. The tax office now recognises credit card and bank statements as receipts.
- You can only claim work-related expenses if your boss hasn't already paid for them
- Tax offsets directly reduce your tax payable and are different to tax deductions, which only reduce your taxable income. Examples of these are the dependent spouse rebate, private health insurance offset and mature age worker rebate.
- Any records that you have must be kept for five years after lodgement - some may be required longer so check with the tax office
- You should check all advice that is given to you (including this article) with the ATO or your tax agent to ensure it is correct for your situation
You'll need to pick how you're going to lodge your tax return from the following four lodgement options:
- A tax agent (the average fee will range from $70 to $150, claimable as a deduction in the following tax year)
- The ATO's e-tax online application
- By post using TaxPack, available at most newsagents or tax-office shopfronts
- The telephone (for a short tax return only)
The choice between completing your tax return yourself and using a tax agent usually boils down to how complex your return is and how confident you are in claiming deductions. You can find many detailed help documents
on the ATO web site to help you. Many require a substantial amount of reading, but could help with a favourable return!
ATO e-tax and Pre-filling
E-tax is the ATO's free online lodgement system. The software completes most calculations for you and provides an immediate estimate of your tax refund or debt. More than 95 percent of e-tax returns are processed within 14 days. It is available 24 hours, seven days a week.
Many organisations are required by law to report your income details to the tax office. The ATO offers a pre-filling service with its e-tax application and you can arrange information such as dividend notices, bank interest payments, group certificates and government rebate information to be downloaded into your return. It can be extremely useful (an example is it takes all the interest you have been paid on bank balances and includes the information for you). It is important that you review it carefully and add missing details.
You might be surprised at the variety of information you might have detailing your income. You'll need details of every piece of income, including your wages and investment income details. Examples of documentation that might be of relevance to you are:
Expense and Deduction Records
- Your group certificate/s
- Bank statements
- Dividend notices and interest payments
- Rental income
- Capital gains on shares, real estate and other investments
- Pensions payments and annuities
- Prizes and rewards
- Summaries of benefits from Centrelink or Veteran's Affairs
There are many, many examples of claimable expenses, deductions and tax rebates. In most cases, you'll need records or receipts. This is a key area of your tax return where you should consult with the ATO or your tax agent to ensure you are legally optimising the amount you can claim. Depending on your circumstances, some of these might be relevant:
Go Forth and Conquer Your Tax Return!
- Business and mobile phone costs
- Union fees
- Computer equipment and work tools
- Travel expenses
- Self education expenses
- Rental expenses such as repairs and tenancy management fees
- Work and education-related books, magazine subscriptions and general publications
- Share broking expenses
- Gifts and donations
We've provided a few tips that we hope will help with the preparation of your tax return. It is important that you consider these tips as one source of information and speak with either the ATO or an agent to help determine what is relevant in your own situation. Have fun - we hope this year's return isn't too taxing for you!