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If you don't lodge

What happens if you don't lodge a tax return, activity statement, other documents or information by the due date.

Last updated 24 January 2024

If you can't lodge

Tax returns, activity statements, other documents and information must be lodged or returned by their due 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 take firmer action if you are unwilling to work with us to address your lodgment obligations or do not meet agreements to lodge. We also take actions if you don't pay.

We have guides if you need help with how to lodge and how to pay.

Failure to lodge on time penalty

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

External collection agencies

We don't currently refer overdue lodgments to external collection agencies to obtain lodgment on our behalf, but we may do so for any cases moving forward.

We do refer some tax debts to external debt collection agencies.

Firmer 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 firmer 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.


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.

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.

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 starts 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.

We have information available on what to do if you are prosecuted.

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 you're not satisfied, visit our complaints, compliments and suggestions page for information that may assist you with your issue.

We have information on our commitments to you, what we ask of you and options if you are not satisfied under our Charter.