Lost tax records? We can help
Assistant Commissioner Karen Foat is reassuring the community that “whether you lost your files in floods or they were burnt in a bushfire, we are here to help. We understand people may be concerned that they will miss out at tax time if they can’t produce evidence to support their claims.”
“The easiest place to view some of your tax records is through the ATO’s online services, which can be accessed via myGov.
“People can access a wide range of documents including income tax returns, income statements, previous notices of assessments, and activity statements through our online services. If you lodge through a registered tax agent, they can also access these documents on your behalf,” Ms Foat said.
“Information received by the ATO from government agencies, private health funds, financial institutions and businesses is automatically included into returns lodged electronically, which can save you the trouble of needing to contact these organisations directly. For most people, this information is usually included in your return by the end of July.
“About half of all rejected claims are knocked back because the taxpayer can’t provide evidence of what they bought or how it related to earning their income. But if your records have been lost or destroyed in a natural disaster, we don’t want you to worry.”
“In these circumstances, bank records or credit card statements along with other documents that outline the nature of the goods or services provided can also be used to substantiate your claim.
“People are reminded that the best way to keep records is to snap a picture of your receipt, save it in the ATO app’s myDeductions tool. At tax time this information can then be uploaded to your return in myTax or sent to your registered tax agent,” Ms Foat said.
“But if you don’t have photos of your documentation, consider what other documentation you may have to support your claim, like bank statements. If you are unable to substantiate your claims because the records have been destroyed, we may be able to accept the claim if it’s not possible to obtain the original and if it’s not possible to use alternative documents to support your claim. It is important to note this is not our general approach, but it can apply if your documents were destroyed in a natural disaster.
Be Charitable – but don’t give away your charity deductions
“Australians are a generous bunch, and following the recent bushfire crisis, it’s clear Australians have given a lot this year,” Ms Foat said.
For a gift or donation to be deductible, it must be given to an organisation that is endorsed as a deductible gift recipient (DGR). A DGR is a not-for-profit organisation (including some charities) that is entitled to receive gifts that are tax deductible. Not all charities or crowdfunding campaigns are endorsed DGRs. People should confirm the DGR status of an organisation they have donated to by checking on the ABN lookupExternal Link before claiming a deduction.
“If you made one or more donations of $2 or more to bucket collections conducted by a DGR, you can claim a tax deduction of up to $10 for the total of those contributions for the year without a receipt.
“However, it is important to keep receipts to support your claim for all other donations beyond this $10 annual limit – over half of the claims we disallow is because taxpayers haven’t kept a record to support their claim,” Ms Foat said.
“Charities do good work all over Australia, so we want to make supporting the charity of your choice simple. But remember, you can’t claim a deduction for purchasing tickets in a charity raffle or where you receive any goods or services in return for your donation.”
Fiona clicks on a link in her social media feed to donate to a natural disaster recovery fund. It takes her to the PayPal Giving Fund Australia donation page; she donates $50 and the social media platform emails her a receipt. She checks the details on the ABN Lookup and confirms it has DGR status.
Fiona can claim a tax deduction for the donation.
For people that live in a bushfire impacted postcode, the ATO has previously announced that automatic deferrals for some lodgments and payments have been applied. We deferred lodgment deadlines for business activity statements and income tax returns for approximately three and a half million businesses, individuals, and self-managed superannuation funds in affected areas.
More information on automatic deferrals is available on our website.
Tax treatment of disaster assistance
People are not required to pay tax on any relief recovery payments or benefits (including volunteer fire fighter payments) provided by the Australian Government in relation to the2019–20 bushfires. These payments don't need to be included in their tax return.
The below payments are also not taxable:
- emergency assistance payments from family and friends
- payments from a charitable organisation
- emergency assistance from your employer (for example, one-off and other non-periodic emergency relief payments)
Any member of the community impacted by a natural disaster and needing assistance or anyone suffering financial hardship can access more information on our website.
More information about assistance available is at: ato.gov.au/Natural Disasters
Information about reconstructing your tax records is available at: ato.gov.au/Reconstructing your tax records
Information about record keeping is available at: ato.gov.au/Keeping your tax recordsThe Australian Taxation Office (ATO) is providing guidance on what you can do this tax time if the preparing of your tax return will be affected by the devastating natural disasters that affected large parts of Australia this financial year.