Ten tips for first time lodgers

Almost half a million Australians lodged a tax return for the first time in 2015. We know that the idea of lodging your first tax return can be a bit intimidating, that is why we have put together ten tips you cannot go wrong with.

One - Make sure you have a tax file number (TFN)

You do not have to have a TFN, but without one you will have more tax deducted from your pay and you will not be able to lodge a tax return. It might be too late for 2016, but you can always find out how to apply for next tax time by visiting ato.gov.au/tfn.

Two - Check if you need to lodge

Not sure if you need to lodge a tax return? Come tax time, you will be able to use our online ‘Do I need to lodge?’ tool that will work it out for you. Check it out on ato.gov.au: ato.gov.au/Calculators-and-tools/Do-I-need-to-lodge-a-tax-return/

Just make sure you wait until the 2016 version is available.

Three – Know your options

MyTax is the ATO’s quick, easy, safe and secure online lodgment service. You can use it on any device - smartphone, tablet and computer, when and wherever it suits you.

If you do not want to prepare your own tax return, you can always lodge using a registered tax agent.

Four - Access ATO’s online services

To access our online services including myTax, you will need to create a myGov account and link it to the ATO.

To link your account call the ATO on 13 28 61 and press 5 at the prompt to get your unique linking code to verify your account. In myGov, go to the services page and link to the ATO. Select ‘I have a linking code’ and enter your linking code when prompted.

Five - Claim your work related expenses

You may be able to claim a tax deduction for expenses related to your job – for example, if you have to work outdoors you can claim a deduction for the cost of your hat and sunglasses.

There are different rules depending on your job but generally you will need to satisfy the three golden rules:

  • you must have spent the money yourself and not been reimbursed,
  • the expense must be related to your work
  • you must have a record to prove the expense.

To check out what you may be entitled to visit ato.gov.au/deductions

If you have a lot of work-related expenses, you might want to consider myDeductions.

The myDeductions tool in the ATO app is an easy and convenient way for people to keep track of their expenses on the go. MyDeductions users can share their deduction records directly with their agent via the app, or upload their deductions directly to their tax return. To start using myDeductions download the ATO app from Googleplay, the AppStore or the Windows Store.

Six - Declare your fair share

It is possible that you may be part of the sharing economy without knowing it. If you earn money from odd jobs such as, transporting passengers or renting out a room or house, it counts as assessable income and you will need to declare it on your tax return. To check if you are part of the sharing economy visit ato.gov.au/sharingeconomy

Seven - Fix mistakes as soon as possible

We know that one of the things people most worry about when completing their own tax return is making a mistake.

If you think you have made a mistake or forgot to include something on your tax return, let us know as soon as possible. We do not like to penalise people for honest mistakes.

You can amend your tax return by accessing our online services via your myGov account. If you lodged using a tax agent, all you have to do is contact them.

Eight - Patience is a virtue

Each year we receive and match over 650 million transactions to the information provided in tax returns.

For many people, this means all they have to do is double-check the information we have pre-filled for them, enter any deductions they have and then hit submit.

We expect to receive most pre-fill information by August, which means if you can wait until then, completing your own tax return should be even quicker and easier, and you’ll be far less likely to make a mistake.

Nine - Lodge by 31 October

The deadline for lodging your own tax return is 31 October.

The important thing to remember if you are planning to use a tax agent is that you have to contact them before the end of October to meet their lodgment dates.

If you use a tax agent, it is important to make sure they are registered. Only a registered tax agent can charge a fee for doing your tax return. A list of registered tax agents is available on the Tax Practitioners Board website: tpb.gov.au/TPB/Finding_and_using_a_practitioner/Search_the_register/External Link

Ten - Track your progress

Tax returns lodged using myTax or a registered tax agent are usually processed within two weeks.

You can check the progress of your return using our online services via your myGov account. For more information on lodging your tax return in 2016, visit ato.gov.au/firstreturn

Last modified: 06 Jun 2016QC 49263