As we enter the final fortnight of tax time, hundreds of thousands of Australians may still be missing out on their tax refunds.
The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) is encouraging people to take advantage of potential refunds by lodging their return or engaging a tax agent by Thursday 31 October.
Last year, around 475,000 taxpayers who completed their own return lodged late. Of these late lodgers, over 300,000 had been missing out on refunds as a result.
Assistant Commissioner Karen Foat is highlighting the importance of not only meeting the deadline, but making sure you accurately complete your return. This means that all claims can be accounted for and all income is included.
“We know that tax can seem complicated, which is why we see so many people putting it off. People should know that it’s actually becoming increasingly quick and painless to lodge your return.
“Your tax return can be done from the comfort of your own living room, just by going online and logging into myTax (accessed via myGov). Some taxpayers have even told us that they’ve completed it whilst on the bus, it’s that easy. For the majority of taxpayers, this takes less than half an hour.
“If you are using a tax agent, you do have longer to have your return completed, but you need to be on their books by 31 October.
“Where people put off their returns and lodge at the last minute or even after the deadline, we also start to see some easily avoidable errors.
“One common thing we see is people losing track of receipts that have been thrown out by taxpayers thinking they didn’t need them anymore.
“People need to remember to keep receipts for all deductions they want to make. We can ask you to substantiate your claims at any time, even up to five years after the return is lodged.
“It can be difficult to keep track of all your physical receipts. That’s why keeping a digital copy, for example, through the ATO app’s myDeductions tool, can be a real lifesaver. In fact, we’ve already seen a 43% increase in myDeductions usage this year.
“We often hear some pretty creative excuses around tax time, ranging from why someone has lost their records, missed the deadline, excluded income, or over claimed on deductions.
Top weirdest Tax Time excuses
1.Someone’s stolen my pants
One taxpayer had a thief break into their car and walk off with their uniform pants. Unfortunately, the taxpayer had kept their receipt in his pocket and couldn’t provide a record of their purchase.
The ATO recommends taxpayers keep digital records of all claims you intend to make. When you only keep physical receipts, you run a real risk of losing all evidence of your purchases.
2. I’ve got ‘holiday brain’
One reason for late lodgment we’ve been given is that a taxpayer had gotten ‘holiday brain’ after returning from a trip and had forgotten to lodge their tax return.
The ATO knows that preparing your tax return may not be the most exciting date on your calendar, but it is an important one, and it may even result in you receiving a refund that you can put towards your next holiday.
3. What’s a tax return? Never heard of it!
Sometimes we hear that taxpayers don’t know what a tax return is.
Generally, you will need to lodge a tax return if your taxable income was above $18,200 or had tax withheld from your income for the 2018-19 year.
Not sure if you need to lodge a tax return? The ATO has developed a useful tool to help you find out.
4. A mouse ate my receipts
The most common problem that we keep seeing excuses for is missing receipts. One taxpayer contended that a mouse had broken into their car and eaten their receipts.
In cases where you’ve lost your receipt, check with the seller to see if they have a record of your transaction.
5. The car wash did it
Leaving receipts in cars seems to frequently cause taxpayers strife. We heard from one taxpayer, who, while trying to get their car squeaky clean, vanished all traces of their purchase.
Remember, when you’re going through a car wash, close those windows.
6. I’ve got too many to do!
We often hear that taxpayers put off doing their latest return because they have several returns overdue.
We know sometimes life gets ‘busy’ but it’s easy to get your tax affairs back on track. Our online lodgement service “myTax” lets you lodge tax returns for 2016 onwards. A lot of the information you will need to complete your tax returns will be pre-filled for you; including payment summary and health insurance information.