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  • If you don't lodge

    Tax returns, activity statements, other documents and information must be lodged or returned by certain dates.

    If you can’t lodge by the due date, you should contact us as soon as possible so we can work together to reduce the risk of a penalty.

    If you don't lodge on time:

    • we’ll contact you after the due date by  
      • SMS
      • messages in myGov
      • letters
      • phone
    • a penalty may be applied
    • we may refer selected lodgment obligations to an external collection agency to obtain lodgment on our behalf
    • we may take stronger action if you are unwilling to work with us to address your lodgment obligations or do not meet agreements to lodge.

    See also:

    Failure to lodge on time penalty

    If you don't lodge on time, a failure to lodge on time penalty may apply.

    See also:

    External collection agencies

    We refer some overdue lodgments to external collection agencies to obtain lodgment on our behalf. We will notify you or your agent before referring your overdue lodgment to an external collection agency.

    We currently use Probe Operations Pty Ltd to collect lodgments on our behalf. You may be contacted by this agency; their details are listed below.

    External lodgment collection agency contact details


    Phone number

    Probe Operations Pty Ltd

    1300 171 513

    Probe Operations Pty Ltd - SMS

    1800 721 111

    Probe Operations Pty Ltd - Voice Messaging

    1800 791 552

    Find out about:

    Which lodgments are referred and how it affects you

    External collection agencies focus on income tax and activity statement lodgments. Referral to an external collection agency doesn't affect your credit rating.

    Your experience with an external collection agency will be similar to dealing directly with us. External collection agencies must meet our service benchmarks and remain fair and professional at all times.

    How we work with collection agencies

    When we work with agencies:

    • we don’t ‘sell’ the lodgment and payment obligations – the lodgment and payment remains due and payable with the ATO
    • they aren't paid commissions – they are paid on a fee-for-service basis
    • we work closely with agencies to make sure they provide a professional service and we require their staff to apply the same guidelines as our staff in making their decisions.

    Your privacy and security

    Our contracts with the external collection agencies require them to meet all privacy and security requirements.

    How an external collection agency will contact you

    If your case is referred to an agency to obtain overdue lodgments, they will notify you in writing before phoning you or your authorised contact.

    Letters issued by an external collection agency will include:

    • their company name and contact details
    • details of lodgment obligations you need to give priority.

    After the agency has notified you in writing, they will phone you (or your authorised contact) to negotiate lodgment of your overdue documents and request payment of any debt. When an agency contacts you, they'll work with you to reach agreement on how you can lodge and pay any tax debt.

    If the agency is unable to contact you (or your authorised contact) by phone, they will leave a voice message with details to return their call. They may also provide this information by sending you an SMS.

    Proof of identity

    When establishing contact, external collection agency staff must determine they have contacted either you, or an authorised person, before disclosing they are from a collection agency. You will be asked to provide certain details to establish proof of identity before agency staff can proceed.

    How to know if the external collection agency call is legitimate: 

    • call the external collection agency directly on their number listed above to verify who they are
    • you can phone us directly on 1800 008 540 to verify they are legitimate.

    See also:

    If an agreement can't be reached for you to lodge

    If an agreement with you to lodge can’t be reached, we may need to take stronger action to obtain lodgment.

    Stronger action

    We're committed to supporting taxpayers who want to do the right thing, and preventing those who don’t lodge and pay from gaining an unfair advantage. We use stronger action when people:

    • are unwilling to work with us
    • do not meet agreements to lodge
    • don’t have the capacity to lodge and don’t take steps to resolve their situation.

    Actions we can take include:

    Final notice

    We can issue a final notice if you have ignored previous requests to lodge. This notice is a legal document requiring you to lodge by a particular date.

    Failure to comply with the notice can lead to prosecution action.

    Default assessment

    We can assess your income without your assistance if we are unable to obtain your overdue lodgment. If we do this it may not be as accurate as if you had reported the information yourself.

    Once assessed by us it will attract a 75% penalty of the tax related liability. This means for every $100 you owe, an additional $75 is payable.

    Before any default assessment with penalty is issued, we will provide you with the details of the default assessment and ample opportunity to supply the information required for lodgment.

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    To ensure a level playing field within the community; we may start an audit to identify your lodgment requirements. You will be notified by phone or writing that an audit will be conducted.

    As part of an audit we can request that you provide certain documentation (such as bank statements or business records) for the period you have not lodged.

    See also:

    Retention of refund

    If you don't lodge a return we may retain your refund until you lodge your return.

    We will only consider taking this action in exceptional circumstances where we have reasonable grounds to believe you are engaged in high-risk behaviours, including illegal phoenix activities. If you make a genuine attempt to lodge you will not be subject to this measure.

    If we retain the refund, we will write to you explaining that the refund has been retained, the amount retained and the outstanding lodgments required.

    If your refund is retained and you disagree with our decision you can request an external review under the Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act 1977.

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    Prosecution action

    If you don't work with us to address your overdue lodgment, we can make the decision to prosecute you through the relevant court of your state or territory. This action will include a summons to attend court.

    Failing to lodge is a criminal offence and once convicted by the court you could face additional fines and/or imprisonment for up to 12 months. Our decision to take this type of action will not be treated lightly so before any action commences we will notify you of our intentions (usually by phone and in writing) and allow you sufficient time to bring your overdue lodgments up to date.

    See also:

    More information

    We want to work with you at all times and take your personal circumstances into account in any decision we make. If at any time if you're not satisfied, visit our complaints, compliments and suggestions page for information that may assist you with your issue.

    See also:

      Last modified: 22 Apr 2020QC 57305