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  • Tax Help centre information

    This information is for Tax Help centres only.

    Tax Help

    Tax Help is a community-based program helping and educating people on low incomes with their individual income tax affairs. Any person seeking help from a Tax Help centre is referred to as a customer. Customers’ tax affairs are private and confidential.

    Trained community volunteers give free help to people to prepare their returns online during Tax Time. An ATO Community Liaison Officer (CLO) is assigned to each centre to provide ongoing support during Tax Help time.

    Tax Help volunteers are not ATO employees. Volunteers and centres are not permitted to accept payment or other recompense for providing this service. Penalties apply for anyone other than registered tax agents charging a fee for a service.

    The Tax Help program encompasses the principles of the Taxpayers’ Charter. The Taxpayers’ Charter outlines a relationship between the ATO and customers which is based on mutual trust and respect. Key elements include customers’ expectations of the ATO, their rights and obligations and what they can do if not satisfied.

    Centre

    Important changes and points to note

    To participate in Tax Help, your organisation must agree to the conditions of participation.

    Prior to a Tax Help appointment, customers must register with myGov and bring their myGov user ID and password to the appointment. You may help customers register with myGov. Centrelink customers will not be supplied with a paper payment summary. The pre-fill service will complete this information for returns lodged online.

    You must use the stationery and forms provided by us. This includes:

    • Tax Help appointment confirmation
    • Tax Help appointment record
    • Tax Help disclaimer
    • Tax Help reimbursement claim.

    New forms are provided each year so please destroy previous years' stock. Appointment records, Disclaimers for online lodgements and Reimbursement claims are to be lodged with your CLO at the end of each month. Paper returns and forms are supported by Tax Help.

    Amendments

    Tax Help volunteers can help customers submit amendments online where the:

    • item being amended is in the Tax Help scope
    • customer has supporting documentation.

    myGov

    Where a customer is unable to create a myGov account, for example they have no email address or computer access, Tax Help volunteers can still help them lodge online. Tax Help volunteers have an alternative means of accessing ATO online. It is not an alternative to myGov but for those who do not have online access. Customers should be encouraged to have their own myGov account linked to ATO online.

    First time lodger

    Customers lodging their first tax return may require additional help. They may be able to create a myGov account but are unable to link to ATO online. The Tax Help volunteer can help them link myGov to ATO online. Advise the customer to bring their birth certificate, passport or citizenship certificate to their appointment.

    Role of the centre coordinator

    The centre coordinator's role is to oversee the operation of Tax Help in the centre and to ensure that the following requirements are met:

    • Volunteers have a private room or workspace to conduct their appointments. The area should be clean, comfortable and safe. There should be a  
      • desk and at least two chairs
      • shelf or drawer for the volunteer to store spare stationery items and personal belongings
      • phone (if there is no phone in the room, make sure one is located in a private area nearby).
       
    • Safety of volunteers is maintained by ensuring they are not left alone at the centre and that they are aware of the centre's security and health and safety policies.
    • ATO equipment is securely stored, used appropriately and returned in good working condition at the end of Tax Time.
    • Maintain regular contact and raise issues with your CLO as they occur.

    Before Tax Time

    • In consultation with your CLO, recruit volunteers
    • Introduce volunteers to key people within the centre
    • Liaise with volunteers to confirm hours of attendance, length of appointments and arrange rosters
    • Ensure those responsible for booking Tax Help customer appointments are aware of their responsibilities

    During Tax Time

    • Promote Tax Help in the centre and community
    • Ensure privacy of Tax Help customers
    • Give volunteers access to stationery items supplied by the ATO
    • Request additional stationery as required
    • Ensure timely submission of administrative documentation  
      • appointment records and disclaimers
      • reimbursement claims for out-of pocket expenses
       

    After Tax Time

    • Return ATO equipment as per CLO instruction
    • Provide feedback about Tax Help to your CLO
    • Where possible, attend ATO end of season function

    Advertising

    We will provide posters and flyers promoting Tax Help. Posters are available in two designs, one includes our phone number and the other has provision for you to include the centre contact information. You can pick the design which best suits your needs or use both.

    We suggest placing posters and flyers at strategic points in your centre as well as around other local community areas, such as libraries and community centres. If you need more, contact your CLO.

    Recruiting volunteers

    Volunteer recruitment occurs each year in March. We will provide information to help you recruit your own Tax Help volunteers. Tax Help centre representatives have the best local knowledge of how to find suitable Tax Help volunteers. If you are unable to recruit a volunteer, your CLO can provide assistance.

    Once you have a prospective volunteer, refer their details to your CLO who will then arrange applicant assessment.

    Rostering

    Consult with your Tax Help volunteers and negotiate available days, times and appointment length before preparing an appointment roster.

    We suggest that at the beginning of Tax Help or when a volunteer is new, that the allocated time for each appointment is longer, for example 45 minutes. However, as Tax Time progresses, and after consultation with the volunteer, this time may be reduced.

    If you wish to offer the Tax Help service outside the hours of 8.00am to 6.00pm, Monday to Friday, discuss this with your CLO as our support is not available to volunteers outside these hours.

    A minimum of three or four appointments should be scheduled for each half day. Don’t forget to include time for meal or refreshment breaks if the appointments span several hours.

    The method of notifying volunteers of appointments should be discussed directly with them. You should establish an appropriate course of action (a back-up plan) in case a Tax Help volunteer is unable to keep their appointments.

    We are unable to provide ATO staff to take the place of a volunteer who is unable to keep their appointments, These appointments will need to be rescheduled. In some circumstances, your CLO may be able to arrange for another volunteer to assist. Please let your CLO know if a volunteer is unavailable for a significant period of time.

    Administration

    The centre's nominated contact phone number must be available and attended during your opening hours for bookings.

    If the centre’s opening hours change during Tax Time, notify your CLO so we can avoid unnecessary referrals. For example, the centre may close during school holidays or be fully booked for Tax Help appointments.

    The centre must use forms supplied by the ATO. These include specific forms for recording appointments and making reimbursement claims.

    Stationery and publications

    Stationery items and publications are delivered to Tax Help centres in early July.

    Appointment confirmation

    This form confirms the time, date and place of the Tax Help appointment with the customer. It includes information about what the customer needs to do to prepare for, and bring to, the appointment, for example creating a myGov account and linking to the ATO.

    It is important each customer is provided with an appointment confirmation form. It is available in either paper or electronic form and should be given to the customer either in person, or by email or post. Remember to allow enough time for the customer to receive the confirmation and prepare for the appointment.

    Appointment record

    Record customer bookings made for each volunteer. Give the appointment record to the volunteer when they arrive.

    The volunteer records statistical data about the appointments on this form and returns it to the centre when they have finished their appointments for the day.

    At the end of each month, forward the appointment records along with disclaimers to your CLO in the supplied reply paid envelopes. This enables your CLO to record customer interactions and promptly process volunteer reimbursement claims. For privacy reasons, you must keep completed Appointment records in a secure location at all times.

    You cannot use the customer information on appointment records for anything other than Tax Help.

    Disclaimer

    The disclaimer is a declaration by the customer that a Tax Help volunteer has helped them complete their return and that the volunteer is not responsible for the information provided. This also includes an acknowledgment by the customer that any interactions after lodgment of the return or form will be directly with the ATO.

    The disclaimer is signed by both the customer and the volunteer. For online lodgments, the volunteer attaches the disclaimer to appointment record and gives them to you at the end of the day.

    At the end of each month the centre is to forward the disclaimers (with the appointment records) to the CLO in the supplied reply paid envelopes.

    For privacy reasons, completed disclaimers must be kept in a secure location at all times.

    Disclaimers for any printed returns or forms are attached to the return or form to be posted to the ATO by the customer.

    Envelopes

    We provide two types of pre-addressed envelopes:

    • Reply paid envelopes are provided for use by the centre. This is to send Appointment records, Disclaimers, Reimbursement claims and any other information we request to your CLO at the end of the month.
    • Non-reply paid envelopes are provided for use by customers to lodge printed prior year returns, refunds of franking credits and other forms. Neither the centre nor volunteer can post customers' printed returns or forms to the ATO. The customer is responsible for providing the postage and posting the documents. It is important the customer uses the non-reply paid envelope as the address on the envelope ensures that the return or form is delivered to the correct address.

    Contact your CLO if you need more envelopes.

    Reimbursement claim

    This form is for claiming reimbursements of certain expenses incurred by the centre while participating in Tax Help. To make a claim, forward the completed form to your CLO at the end of the month.

    To avoid delays in processing, complete all information requested and return the claim to your CLO by email.

    We will only reimburse claims relating to the current Tax Time. Final claims must be submitted by 30 November of the year in which they were incurred.

    Photocopying and printing

    Online lodgments reduce the need for printing or photocopying of customer returns or forms.

    All customers lodging online are provided with one free copy of their return if they want one. We will reimburse the cost of printing one copy of a customer’s returns or forms.

    Additional copies are printed at the customers’ expense. Your centre may choose to photocopy these documents as an additional service but this is at the centre’s expense.

    Please make your Tax Help volunteer aware of the centre’s policy in relation to this. In other circumstances, where printing or photocopying is required or we have not provided you with paper, we will reimburse you at a rate of 20 cents per page.

    Centres using their own equipment may claim a reimbursement for the cost of black ink printer cartridge replacements based on how much the printer is used for Tax Help.

    Postage

    We will reimburse centre postage costs incurred in administering the Tax Help program. This includes posting Appointment confirmations to customers.

    When posting Appointment confirmations to customers, it is important to allow enough time for the confirmation to be received. For regular post this may be from two to six days depending on the destination.

    If necessary, use priority post to send Appointment confirmations.

    Phone

    We will reimburse phone calls made from the centre's landline to:

    • confirm customer appointments
    • contact volunteers about Tax Help
    • call your CLO.

    If you are on a plan that includes calls, work out your claim at 30 cents per call. If your claim exceeds your cap, talk to your CLO.

    Landline calls to the 1800 Tax Help Hotline are free. Mobile calls to the hotline incur normal mobile phone charges. Calls should only be made from a mobile phone if a landline is unavailable.

    Translating and interpreting service

    We will not reimburse the cost of these services unless prior written approval is obtained from your CLO.

    Providing feedback

    We encourage Tax Help centre coordinators, staff and Tax Help volunteers to provide feedback.

    Your CLO may also ask you to provide statistical information. We value your input and rely on this information to improve the Tax Help program and plan for the future.

    Discussion groups, informal mid-season meetings and the annual Tax Help presentation are opportunities to provide feedback. Your CLO will let you know prior to any of these events.

    You may be invited to complete an evaluation questionnaire on topics that affect your centre. Tax Help volunteers are also invited to participate in evaluations on topics such as Tax Help training and accreditation.

    Recognition of service

    To mark our appreciation of the centre's involvement in this community based program, we issue a certificate of participation.

    At the end of Tax Time, if an end of season presentation is held in your area, a representative will be invited to attend.

    Volunteers

    Tax Help volunteers receive training, are integrity checked (including a police check) and accredited by the ATO before they are assigned to work at a Tax Help centre.

    While participating in Tax Help, accredited volunteers are covered by the Commonwealth's insurance policy in the event of any loss or injury.

    Role

    The responsibilities of a Tax Help volunteer include:

    • abiding by the conditions of participation
    • keeping within the scope of the program
    • providing Tax Help services only at an authorised location and at authorised times
    • maintaining confidentiality and professionalism in all dealings with clients
    • abide by the Tax Help centre's code of conduct
    • protect the privacy of customers
    • return all documents that customers bring with them to the appointment
    • notify their CLO immediately if they become aware of any legal action taken against them
    • not advising or calculating a client’s tax liability or refund
    • correctly identifying tax returns lodged online as Tax Help returns
    • confirming appointments with their centre at least the day before
    • ensuring that appointment records are completed and returned to their Tax Help Centre coordinator on completion of each day’s appointments
    • maintaining regular contact with their nominated ATO Community Liaison Officer (CLO)
    • ensuring reimbursement claims are submitted to the ATO at the end of each month
    • submitting statistical information to the ATO on time
    • distributing tax or other community information provided by the ATO.

    Disclaimer

    A disclaimer must be completed for each tax return, claim or form you complete on behalf of a client. Disclaimers will be supplied to you by your CLO. A completed disclaimer places all responsibility for the information provided on the tax return, claim or form with the client.

    If you complete more than one tax return, claim or form for a client, each must have its own disclaimer. Ask the client to read the disclaimer (PDF 95KB)This link will download a file before they sign it. You should read it to them if they are unable to read it themselves.

    Attach the disclaimer:

    • to the appointment record sheet for tax returns lodged online
    • to the tax return for printed prior year returns and forms.

    Identifying Tax Help prepared returns and forms

    Tax returns and forms lodged online are identified by the volunteer entering their ID on the return or form.

    An orange sticker with volunteer and centre ID is placed on the front of a printed return or form before it's given to the customer to lodge.

    Customers

    Referring customers to Tax Help

    The ATO promotes Tax Help on our web site, through media releases, and social media channels.

    Customers may be referred by other Tax Help centres (who don't have a suitable appointment time) or by a referral centre, for example a Centrelink office. Referral centres do not provide Tax Help, but assist customers by directing them to a Tax Help centre in their area.

    When customers contact the ATO, we refer them to their most convenient or closest Tax Help centre. We provide the centre's contact details so that they can call the centre and make an appointment.

    To help us do this, your centre's name, location, contact details and opening hours are listed on a Tax Help data base and shared with other Tax Help centres.

    We also identify centres that cater to specific groups, such as people from non-English speaking backgrounds.

    Occasionally, you may find that you do not have an appointment time that suits the customer or your volunteers may be fully booked for the Tax Help season. In these circumstances, you may need to refer a customer to another Tax Help centre in the area.

    To ensure the customer has the best chance to secure another appointment, give them the contact details of at least two other centres nearby. You will find these details on your centre contact list provided by your CLO.

    Assessing customer eligibility

    In most cases, customers interested in using Tax Help contact the ATO directly and are screened to ensure they are eligible for the service.

    If a customer contacts a Tax Help centre directly, the most important responsibility of the person who is taking appointments is to assess the customer’s eligibility for Tax Help.

    Tax Help volunteers are only allowed to assist with a defined type of simple tax returns and must stay within the scope of the Tax Help program.

    If a customer attends an appointment and their matters are not within the Tax Help scope, the volunteer cannot assist them.

    Assessing eligibility can be difficult when relying on the customer to provide the correct information based on the questions asked.

    Use the Assessing customer eligibility table on the next page to determine if a customer is eligible to use Tax Help.

    Assessing customer eligibility

    Step

    Check

    Yes

    No

    1

    Is your income around $60,000 or less?

    Go to Step 2

    Tax Help CANNOT help you.

     

    Please refer to ato.gov.au or call the ATO infoline on 13 28 61 for more information.

    2

    During the financial year, did you:

    • Run or own your own business
    • Operate under a labour hire agreement (see note) quoting your ABN
    • Receive any royalties)
    • Receive income from either a public unit trust or a public trading trust
    • Own or share ownership in a rental property
    • Make a capital gain or capital loss by selling shares or other capital assets?

     

    Tax Help CANNOT help you.

     

    Please refer to ato.gov.au or call the ATO infoline on 13 28 61 for more information.

    Tax Help CAN help you complete your current year tax return.

     

    Make an appointment.

    If you are unsure of a customer's eligibility, contact your CLO

    Making the appointment

    Once you have determined the customer is eligible for Tax Help, you can make an appointment.

    All Tax Help appointments should be conducted at an approved Tax Help centre unless there are exceptional circumstances. If a request is made to have an appointment at a different location, contact your CLO.

    Appointment checklist:

    • Know when the volunteers are available, referring to the volunteer roster.
    • At the beginning of Tax Time, appointments will be for 45 minutes unless the volunteer indicates otherwise. As Tax Time progresses, the appointment time may reduce. Discuss this with the volunteer. Do not make appointments more than one month in advance – customers often forget about appointments booked too far in advance.
    • If a customer has a family member who also needs assistance, a separate appointment should be made for the other person.
    • Similarly, extra time needs to be allocated for customers who need assistance with more than one return or form.
    • Speak to the customer about what to bring.
    • Reinforce that the customer needs to bring their myGov user ID and password and bank account details. They will not be able to lodge without these details.
    • Give the customer an appointment confirmation. This includes a list of what to bring. This can be provided in person, by email or by post.
    • Record the customer's details on the appointment record.
    • Use a separate appointment record for each volunteer. More than one day's appointments can be recorded on each appointment record.
    • Ask the customer to contact the centre if they are unable to attend their appointment.
    • If a customer cancels their appointment, let the volunteer know as soon as possible.

    How to prepare and what to bring

    This information is included in the appointment confirmation. This is to be handed, emailed or posted to the customer. It can also be read to the customer if they are making the appointment by phone.

    A customer needs a myGov account to lodge online. If they do not have a myGov account, they must register at my.gov.au before the Tax Help appointment.

    A customer must bring the following information (where applicable) to the appointment:

    • myGov user ID and password
    • tax file number
    • an original or amended notice of assessment from any one of the last five years
    • BSB and bank account details
    • Medicare card or number
    • private health insurance statement showing their fund details
    • all statements from banks and financial institutions showing interest received during the income year
    • all PAYG payment summaries from employers
    • all payment summaries from super funds
    • details of all income from Centrelink or Department of Veterans’ Affairs (including details of any tax-free pensions or benefits)
    • all dividend, super and managed fund statements
    • all foreign income details and pension statements or details of the amounts you received
    • all receipts for gifts, donations, and work-related expenses
    • details of any child support payments made by them
    • details of any losses on investments in shares and rental properties (net investment losses).

    If the customer had a spouse – married or de-facto – at any time during the financial year, they also need to bring details of their spouse’s taxable income, including any of their documents, to the appointment. We need this information to complete certain labels on the customer’s tax return. If they do not know their spouse’s exact taxable income, they will need to make a reasonable estimate of the amounts received by their spouse.

    If the volunteer needs to call the ATO during the appointment, the customer may need to prove their identity. The customer should bring with them at least three of the following documents:

    • Australian driver license or learners permit
    • Australian passport
    • Australian birth certificate
    • Australian marriage certificate (issued by Births deaths and marriages)
    • Australian citizenship certificate
    • Overseas passport with Australian visa
    • Immicard
    • Change of name certificate
    • Recent correspondence from the ATO
    • Previous tax return not more than 5 years old
    • Centrelink CRN (Customer reference number)
    • Superannuation account statement

    *Medicare, drivers licence and learners permit cannot be used together for proof of identity.

    After the appointment

    The Tax Help centres and volunteer's responsibility to a customer ends once the customer's returns or forms are completed.

    A customer may return to the centre with an enquiry about their tax return or notice of assessment. Explain to the customer that Tax Help cannot provide any further assistance and advise them to:

    • refer to myGov to track the progress of their return
    • contact our Individuals Infoline on 13 28 61.

    A customer wanting to add to or correct their lodged return can lodge an amendment.

    Tax Help volunteers can help customers submit amendments online where:

    • the item being amended is in the Tax Help scope and
    • the customer has supporting documentation

    The customer will need to make an appointment with the centre.

    Online services

    myTax

    MyTax is the ATO’s free online tax return. To use myTax, a customer needs to be registered with myGov and linked to the ATO.

    ATO app

    The ATO app makes it easier for customers to conduct tax and super affairs from a tablet or smart phone. They can:

    • log on to access online services including myTax
    • enrol and use a voiceprint for fast, easy and secure access to ATO online services
    • search for lost super
    • access a number of other tools and calculators including the myDeductions tool.

    myDeductions tool

    Customers can use the tool to:

    • capture and classify work-related
    • expenses, gifts and donations or the cost
    • of managing their tax affairs
    • store photographs of receipts
    • record car trips, and
    • upload deductions to their my tax return.

    Administration

      Last modified: 20 Jul 2018QC 51449