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  • Individuals with financial difficulties

    If you are in financial difficulty and finding it hard to meet your tax or superannuation obligations, we can help.

    You can be considered to have financial difficulties where unexpected or extenuating circumstances leave you unable to pay your tax debt for a short period of time.

    We take many factors into assessing a claim for financial difficulties and may request that evidence be provided in support of your requests for assistance.

    Find out about:

    On this page:

    Difficulty lodging on time

    If you're having difficulty lodging on time, phone us on 13 28 61 to find out if you can lodge later.

    Depending on the level and type of income you receive, you may be eligible for free assistance from Tax Help. Tax Help is a community-based program helping eligible low-income earners complete their returns.

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    Difficulty paying your tax on time

    It is important to lodge on time, even if you are unable to pay your tax by the due date.

    If you are having difficulty paying your tax obligations on time, phone us on 13 11 42.

    If you contact us early, we can help address the problem before it gets harder to manage.

    We can help you understand the options available in your situation. In some circumstances, we may be able to offer assistance by arranging:

    • more time to pay tax debts
    • tailored payment plans
    • remission of general interest charges
    • release from payment of certain taxes or penalties in the case of serious hardship.

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    Financial difficulty caused by an ATO imposed garnishee

    If your situation has changed since we issued a garnishee notice, and it is causing you financial distress, phone us on 13 11 42.

    We will work with you to develop a suitable alternative arrangement for payment of the debt.

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    Expecting a refund while experiencing financial difficulty

    If you are experiencing financial difficulty and expect an income tax refund, consider lodging your tax return online as you get your refund faster – generally within two weeks. You will need a myGovExternal Link account linked to the ATO.

    If you are unable to lodge via myGov we may be able process your return as a priority. See Priority processing below.

    As a general rule, we will offset refunds and credits against a tax debt.

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    Priority processing

    If you're experiencing financial difficulty and require priority processing of a refund, phone us on 13 28 61 to discuss your situation.

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    Loss of employment or reduced income

    If your employment ends, you may be eligible for a lump sum payment of entitlements such as:

    • unpaid wages
    • unpaid annual leave
    • unpaid long service leave
    • pay in lieu of notice
    • bona fide redundancy and approved early retirement scheme payments.

    If your income reduces or stops, you may be eligible for Centrelink paymentsExternal Link. Many Centrelink payments count as assessable income and need to be included in your tax return.

    Other government pensions, allowances and payments may be exempt from income tax and do not need to be included in your tax return.

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    If you become bankrupt, your assets are vested in a trustee. The usual period for bankruptcy is three years, but this can be extended.

    While bankrupt, excess credits, such as credits for pay as you go (PAYG) withheld amounts, go towards reducing your debts.

    Once discharged from bankruptcy, your remaining debts from the pre-bankruptcy period are irrecoverable at law and written off. If you did not incur any post-bankruptcy debts, any excess credits arising after your discharge are refunded.

    Bankruptcy does not release you from having to pay any accumulated Higher Education Loan Programme (HELP) debt assessments not yet issued.

    For more information, phone us on 13 28 61.

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    Unable to access your frozen funds

    If you can't meet your tax payments because your income or non-bank funds are frozen, phone us on 13 11 42.

    If you can't access funds, you may be:

    • able to pay by instalments
    • eligible for a payment deferral.

    The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) has provisions in place for taxpayers with frozen funds who are experiencing hardship. You can contact ASICExternal Link for more information.

    SMSF experiencing difficulty

    Each self-managed super fund (SMSF) is different. You should get advice from a super professional before taking action. Ensure your advisor has the appropriate licence and qualifications.

    You are required by law to tell us of any events likely to have a significant adverse effect on the financial position of your fund – for example, if your fund is unable to make payments to beneficiaries when obliged to do so.

    Your employer is not paying your super

    If you are concerned about unpaid super guarantee contributions, talk to your employer to confirm:

    • how often they are paying your super
    • which fund they are paying your super into
    • how much super they are paying you.

    Check your last super fund member statement, or contact them to confirm your employer paid your super.

    If you believe your employer is not paying your super, or is not paying your super to your chosen fund, you can lodge an enquiry by phoning us on 13 10 20.

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    Early access to your superannuation

    Generally, you must reach preservation age before you can access your super.

    You may be eligible to access your super early in limited circumstances, including:

    • severe financial hardship
    • compassionate grounds
    • if you have a terminal medical condition.

    To be eligible under severe financial hardship, you must meet the following conditions:

    • you received Commonwealth income-support payments continuously for 26 weeks
    • you are unable to meet reasonable and immediate family living expenses.

    The trustee of your fund can provide further information about eligibility for this condition of release. Contact your fund if you think you meet these conditions.

    If you want early access to your super benefits on compassionate grounds, send your application to Services AustraliaExternal Link.

    If you have a terminal medical condition, you can apply to your super fund to access your super benefits tax-free, regardless of your age. The final decision to release your super benefits is subject to the rules of the fund.

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    Financial advice

    We're committed to providing advice and information about your tax obligations and rights as a taxpayer, but we do not offer financial advice.

    For financial advice, contact:

    • a tax agent
    • a financial adviser
    • an accountant
    • a financial counsellor a professional association.

    Make sure any advice you receive comes from a licensed financial adviser.

    Check if someone holds the necessary licences on the public register at Link

    To talk to us about your tax obligations and entitlements, phone 13 28 61.

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    Financial counselling advice

    Financial counsellors provide information, support and advocacy to help people in financial difficulty. Their services are free, independent and confidential.

    The National Debt Helpline (NDH)External Link is an online and phone financial counselling service available across each state and territory in Australia.

    The financial counsellors at NDH talk to people with debts and explain what options are available. This may include referral to their local financial counselling service.

    You can phone the NDH on 1800 007 007.

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    Last modified: 05 Jun 2020QC 51698