Tax Help is a community program that helps and educates people on low incomes with their individual income tax affairs. People seeking help from a Tax Help centre are clients. Clients' tax affairs are kept private and confidential.
Community volunteers are trained to give free help to people to prepare and lodge their returns online during Tax Time. The Tax Help program provides ongoing support during tax time.
Tax Help volunteers are not ATO employees. Volunteers and centres can't 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 relationship between the ATO and clients which is based on mutual trust and respect. Key elements include clients’ expectations of the ATO, their rights and obligations and what they can do if not satisfied.
To participate in Tax Help as a Tax Help centre, your organisation must agree to the conditions of participation.
Before their Tax Help appointment, clients must register with myGov and bring their myGov username and password to the appointment. You may help clients register with myGov.
Centrelink clients will not be supplied with a paper payment summary, the pre-fill service will complete this information for returns prepared online.
Stationery and publications
You must use the stationery, publications and forms we provide. We deliver these to Tax Help centres in early July.
Tax Help appointment confirmation (PDF, 130KB)This link will download a file – provide the appointment confirmation sheet to clients when they make an appointment. The confirmation sheet advises the client what they need to bring to their appointment.
Tax Help appointment record (PDF, 77KB)This link will download a file – this shows the names of the clients that Tax Help volunteers in your centre will be helping. Tax Help volunteers hand these back to the centre manager (or nominee) at the end of the day.
Tax Help disclaimer (PDF, 164KB)This link will download a file – each Tax Help client must complete the disclaimer, which places the responsibility of the information in the tax return with them.
Tax help volunteer reimbursement claim (PDF, 181KB)This link will download a file – accredited Tax Help volunteers will be reimbursed for eligible out-of-pocket expenses they incur while participating in the Tax Help program.
Tax Help centre reimbursement claim (PDF, 160KB)This link will download a file – Tax Help centres will be reimbursed for eligible out-of-pocket expenses they incur while participating in the Tax Help program.
We provide new forms each year so please destroy any previous years' stock. Return Appointment records, Disclaimers for online lodgments and Reimbursement claims to Tax Help at the end of each month. Paper returns and forms are supported by Tax Help.
Tax Help volunteers can help clients submit amendments online where the:
- item being amended is in the Tax Help scope
- client has supporting documents.
Where a client 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. Clients should be encouraged to have their own myGov account and link to the ATO.
First time lodger
Clients 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 client 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 2 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 there is one 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 Tax Help as they occur.
Before tax time
- In consultation with Tax Help, 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 client appointments are aware of their responsibilities.
During tax time
- Promote Tax Help in the centre and community.
- Ensure privacy of Tax Help clients.
- Give volunteers access to stationery items supplied by the ATO.
- Request additional stationery as required.
- Ensure timely submission of administrative documents
- appointment records and disclaimers
- reimbursement claims for out-of-pocket expenses.
After tax time
- Return ATO equipment as per Tax Help instruction.
- Provide feedback to Tax Help.
- Where possible, attend ATO end of season function.
We will provide posters and flyers promoting Tax Help. Posters are available in 2 designs. One includes our phone number and the other has provision for you to include the centre contact information. You can choose 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 Tax Help.
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, Tax Help can provide assistance.
Once you have a prospective volunteer, refer their details to Tax Help who will arrange applicant assessment.
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 8:00 am to 6:00 pm, Monday to Friday, discuss this with Tax Help. Our support is not available to volunteers outside these hours.
A minimum of 3 or 4 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, Tax Help may be able to arrange for another volunteer to assist. Please let Tax Help know if a volunteer is unavailable for a significant period of time.
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 Tax Help 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.
You must issue the appointment confirmation sheet to clients when they make an appointment. It advises clients what to bring to the interview.
To provide the form to the client:
- Complete the appointment confirmation sheet (PDF, 130KB)This link will download a file
- Select 'Print form'.
This form confirms the time, date and place of the Tax Help appointment with the client. It includes information about what the client 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 client is provided with an appointment confirmation form. It is available in either paper or electronic form and should be given to the client either in person, or by email or post. Remember to allow enough time for the client to receive the confirmation and prepare for the appointment.
Record client 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 Tax Help in the supplied reply paid envelopes. This enables Tax Help to record client interactions and promptly process volunteer reimbursement claims. For privacy reasons, you must keep completed Appointment records in a secure location at all times.
You can't use the client information on appointment records for anything other than Tax Help.
The Tax Help disclaimer (PDF, 164KB)This link will download a file is a declaration by the client 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 client that any interactions after lodgment of the tax return or form will be directly with the ATO.
The disclaimer is signed by both the client 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 client.
We provide 2 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 Tax Help at the end of the month.
- Non-reply paid envelopes are provided for use by clients to lodge printed prior year returns, refunds of franking credits and other forms.
Neither the centre nor volunteer can post clients' printed returns or forms to the ATO. The client is responsible for providing the postage and posting the documents. It is important the client 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 Tax Help if you need more envelopes.
The Tax Help centre reimbursement form (PDF, 160KB)This link will download a file is for claiming eligible expenses incurred by the centre while participating in Tax Help. To make a claim, forward the completed form to Tax Help at the end of the month.
The Tax help volunteer reimbursement claim (PDF, 181KB)This link will download a file is for accredited Tax Help volunteers claiming eligible out-of-pocket expenses they incur while participating in the Tax Help program.
To avoid delays in processing, complete all information requested and return the claim to Tax Help 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 have removed the need for printing or photocopying of client returns or forms.
Tax Help clients can access their return, amendment or notice of assessment through ATO online. Tax Help does not provide copies of forms. To obtain a copy, the client can phone the ATO.
We will reimburse centre postage costs incurred in administering the Tax Help program. This includes posting Appointment confirmations to clients.
When posting Appointment confirmations to clients, it is important to allow enough time for the confirmation to be received. For regular post this may be from 2 to 6 days depending on the destination.
If necessary, use priority post to send Appointment confirmations.
We will reimburse phone calls made from the centre's landline to:
- confirm client appointments
- contact volunteers about Tax Help
- phone Tax Help.
If you are on a plan that includes phone calls, work out your claim at 30c per call. If your claim exceeds your plan cap, talk to Tax Help.
Landline phone calls to the 1800 Tax Help Hotline are free. Mobile phone calls to the hotline incur normal mobile phone charges. Phone 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 Tax Help.
We encourage Tax Help centre coordinators, staff and Tax Help volunteers to provide feedback.
Tax Help 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. Tax Help 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 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.
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.
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
- abiding by the Tax Help centre's code of conduct
- protecting the privacy of clients
- returning all documents that clients bring with them to the appointment
- notifying their Client engagement officer (CEO) 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 Tax Help
- 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.
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 Tax Help. 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 Tax Help disclaimer (PDF, 164KB)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 during preparation of the tax 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 client to lodge.
Referring clients to Tax Help
The ATO promotes Tax Help on our web site, through media releases, and social media channels.
Clients 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 clients by directing them to a Tax Help centre in their area.
When clients 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 phone 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 culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.
Occasionally, you may find that you do not have an appointment time that suits the client or your volunteers may be fully booked for the Tax Help season. In these circumstances, you may need to refer a client to another Tax Help centre in the area.
To ensure the client has the best chance to secure another appointment, give them the contact details of at least 2 other centres nearby. You will find these details on your centre contact list provided by Tax Help.
Assessing client eligibility
In most cases, clients interested in using Tax Help contact the ATO directly and are screened to ensure they are eligible for the service.
If a client contacts a Tax Help centre directly, it is important the person who is taking appointments i assesses the client’s eligibility for Tax Help.
Tax Help volunteers are only allowed to assist with simple tax returns and must stay within the scope of the Tax Help program.
If a client 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 client to provide the correct information based on the questions asked.
Use the steps to determine if a client is eligible to use Tax Help.
Step 1: Is your income around $60,000 or less?
- Yes – go to step 2
- No – Tax Help can't help you.
Step 2: Did you receive income from these sources during the financial year?
Di you receive income from:
- running or owning your own business
- operating under a labour hire agreement (see note) quoting your ABN
- from either a public unit trust or a public trading trust
- owning or share ownership in a rental property
- making a capital gain or capital loss by selling shares or other capital assets.
If you answer:
- Yes – Tax Help can't help you
- No – Tax Help can help you, make an appointment.
If you are unsure of a client's eligibility, contact Tax Help.
Universities across Australia run National Tax Clinics in every state and territory. Tax Clinics help people who may not be able to afford professional advice and representation with their tax affairs and is available to eligible individuals, small businesses, not-for-profit organisations and charities. Sessions are offered through the phone or web conferencing, as well as face-to-face in some locations. Refer ineligible clients to Tax Clinics if they qualify.
Making the appointment
Once you work out the client 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 Tax Help.
- 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 – clients often forget about appointments booked too far in advance.
- If a client 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 clients who need assistance with more than one tax return or form.
- Speak to the client about what to bring.
- Reinforce that the client needs to bring their myGov username and password, mobile phone for SMS authentication code and bank account details. They will not be able to lodge without these details.
- Give the client an Tax Help appointment confirmation (PDF, 130KB)This link will download a file. This includes a list of what to bring. This can be provided in person, by email or by post.
- Record the client's details on the Tax Help appointment record (PDF, 77KB)This link will download a file.
- Use a separate appointment record for each volunteer. More than one day's appointments can be recorded on each appointment record.
- Ask the client to contact the centre if they are unable to attend their appointment.
- If a client 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 must be handed to, emailed or posted to the client. It can also be read to the client if they are making the appointment by phone.
A client needs a myGov account to lodge online. If they do not have a myGov account, they should register at my.gov.au before the Tax Help appointment.
A client must bring the following information (where applicable) to the appointment:
- myGov username or email and password and mobile phone for SMS security code (2 factor security authentication)
- tax file number
- an original or amended notice of assessment from any one of the last 5 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 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 client had a spouse – married or de-facto – at any time during the income year, they also need to bring details of their spouse’s taxable income. This includes any of their spouses' income documents, to the appointment. We need this information to complete certain labels on the client’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 phone the ATO during the appointment, the client may need to prove their identity. The client should bring with them at least 3 of the following documents:
- Australian drivers license or learner permit
- Australian passport
- Australian birth certificate
- Australian marriage certificate (issued by Births Deaths and Marriages)
- Australian citizenship certificate
- Overseas passport with Australian visa
- Change of name certificate
- Recent letters from the ATO
- Previous tax return not more than 5 years old
- Centrelink CRN (Customer reference number)
- Superannuation account statement.
Medicare, drivers licence and learner permit can't be used together for proof of identity.
After the appointment
The Tax Help centre's and volunteer's responsibility to a client ends once the client's returns or forms are complete.
A client may return to the centre with an enquiry about their tax return or notice of assessment. Explain to the client that Tax Help can't provide any further assistance and advise them to:
- go to myGov to track the progress of their return
- contact our Individuals Infoline on 13 28 61.
A client wanting to add to or correct their lodged return can lodge an amendment.
Tax Help volunteers can help clients submit amendments online where:
- the item being amended is in the Tax Help scope
- the client has supporting documents.
The client will need to make an appointment with the centre.
MyTax is the ATO’s free online tax return. To use myTax, a client needs to create a myGov account and link to the ATO.
The ATO app makes it easier for clients to conduct tax and super affairs from a tablet or smart phone. They can:
- login 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.
Use the myDeductions tool
Clients can use the myDeductions tool to:
- capture and classify work-related expenses
- gifts and donations
- the cost of managing their tax affairs
- store photographs of receipts
- record car trips
- upload deductions to their my tax return.