Ten tips from the ATO for Tax Time 2015

In 2015, we expect over 12 million Australians will lodge a tax return. While most will go through without a hitch, sometimes there are delays due to minor errors. In fact, in 2014 the ATO had to contact over 350,000 taxpayers to correct mistakes. So whether you’re planning to lodge your own tax return or use an agent, here are our top tips for getting your tax right the first time in 2015.

One – myTax makes your life easier

Preparing your own tax return has never been easier than with our online lodgment service, myTax. Launched last year, myTax only asks questions relevant to the person lodging and automatically includes information provided by employers, banks, government agencies and other third parties.

This year, myTax has been expanded and is available to people with income, tax offsets or deductions from superannuation pensions, lump sum payments, managed investment funds and foreign pensions.

To use myTax, you will first have to create a myGov account and link it to the ATO.

In 2015, for the first time ever, people who lodge electronically will receive their notice of assessment and tax receipt straight to their myGov inbox.

In another first, if you don’t need to lodge a tax return this year, you can simply submit a new online non-lodgement advice form or an online refund of franking credits form.

Two – Get App-y

We know that people are using their smartphones and tablets for their day-to-day tasks more than ever. That’s why we’ve made myTax available through the ATO App.

In addition to a wide range of other features, you can also use the ATO App to track the progress of your return and if necessary, see how quickly you can pay off a tax debt with a payment plan.

The ATO App will also soon have a new deductions feature, where you can capture your individual work-related expenses, gifts and donations and costs of managing your tax affairs on the go for Tax Time 2016.

The ATO App is available for download via the Apple App Store, Google play and the Windows Phone Store.

Three – Pre-fill makes it easier

Each year, we are given over 600 million pieces of data by employers, banks, government agencies and other third parties to pre-fill 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 early August, which means if you can wait until then, completing your tax return should be even quicker and easier.

Four – Don’t miss out on deductions

We want to make sure that no one misses out on the deductions that they are entitled to. That’s why we’ve put together some easy to understand guides on the most common deductions, so everyone can work out what they can and cannot claim:

Five – Get your facts right

On average, each year we contact over 350,000 people with errors in their tax returns. Omitting income is the most common mistake we see. It is important to report all your income, including pay from second jobs, foreign income, bank interest and any Government payments you received.

Many of the other common mistakes we see are easy to avoid. By simply checking that your tax return details are complete and correct before you lodge, you will avoid any unnecessary delays. Some common errors to avoid include:

  • Supplying an incorrect TFN
  • Spelling errors in your name.
  • Supplying incorrect bank account details.
  • Providing your year of birth rather than your full date of birth.
  • Not completing the income test and/or spouse details.
  • Lodging duplicate returns for the same year.
  • Incorrectly using the Additional information schedule.

Lodging online can help you avoid a lot of potential errors if you wait for your pre-fill information to come through.

Six – Over claiming can cost you

Although we want to make sure no-one misses out on their deductions, we will also be on the lookout for those trying to claim more than they are entitled to.

This year we are focusing on unusually high work-related expense claims across all industries and occupations.

Enhancements in technology and the use of data means we are able to take a much broader approach than previous years; and identify and investigate claims that differ from what is normal across all industries and occupations.

We will also be paying particular attention to claims:

  • that have already been reimbursed by employers, and
  • for private expenses such as travel from home to work.

Three easy rules you can follow to make sure you’re not over claiming on work-related expenses:

  • you must have spent the money yourself,
  • it must be related to your job, and
  • you must have a record to prove it.

Seven – Be aware of what’s changed

There are some changes that may affect you this tax time, in particular:

  • The mature-aged worker tax offset has been removed, which means it cannot be claimed on your 2015 tax return.
  • You will be only eligible to claim the net medical expenses tax offset if you received it in your 2013/14 tax assessment. However, if you have out-of-pocket medical expenses related to disability aids, attendant care or aged care you are still able to claim them.
  • You can no longer claim the Dependent spouse tax offset. If you have claimed the Dependent spouse tax offset through a withholding arrangement with your employer this may result in you having a tax debt this year. You will need to ensure you submit an updated TFN declaration (or Withholding declaration) to your employer for 2015-16 to increase your withholdings.

Eight – Easy-to-fix accidents

We know one thing that puts people off doing their own tax return is the fear of making a mistake. We also know most mistakes made on tax returns are accidental. In most cases, they are easily fixed and there is no penalty.

If you do accidentally get something wrong and it turns out you owe the ATO money, you will have to pay the tax you owe but no penalty. On the flipside, if you make a mistake and it turns out you are owed money, we will pay it along with any interest you’re entitled to.

If you’ve made a mistake, the best thing to do is to amend your 2015 tax return using our online services for individuals.

Nine – Get sorted by 31 October

If you’re planning to complete your own return, make sure to lodge before the 31 October deadline to avoid penalties.

Ten – Age-old advice for using a tax agent

Most registered tax agents have special lodgment schedules and can lodge returns for their clients after 31 October.

For anyone thinking about using a tax agent for the first time or a different one to last year, it is important to contact them before the end of October to qualify for their lodgment dates and avoid penalties.

It’s also important to ensure you are using a registered tax agent. 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 websiteExternal Link.

Last modified: 29 Jun 2015QC 46112