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Prevent delays in processing returns

Find out how to prevent delays in processing tax returns and when longer processing times may occur.

Last updated 10 June 2024

What may lead to delays

We process most electronically-lodged tax returns within 12 business days and strive to maintain our service commitment. However, longer than standard processing times occur when:

  • we need to cross-check data with other government agencies (including Services Australia – Centrelink and Child Support)
  • your client has a debt with us
  • your client is insolvent
  • a tax file number (TFN) has been compromised
  • we have queries about information provided in a tax return.

When these situations arise, we usually need to review the details. If necessary, we will adjust the tax return or contact you.

Please be aware that we cannot prioritise the processing of a lodgment unless your client is experiencing serious hardship. For more information, refer to Requesting priority processing.

Avoid common errors

Common errors that may delay the processing of a tax return include:

  • Providing incorrect information – for example, private health insurance policy details do not match.
  • Lodging duplicate returns for the same year – if your client has already lodged their tax return and needs to correct a mistake, you must request an amendment. It is best to wait for the original lodgment to complete before lodging an amendment.
  • Repeating information – if you have already declared information at a previous question then there is no need to repeat it as additional information.
  • Including information from a prior year return that is not relevant for the current year return – when you roll over details from a previous year’s return in your software, make sure you delete information that is no longer relevant (including additional information).

Omitting income

You should wait for the pre-fill report to become available before lodging clients' tax returns. This will ensure you do not omit any income and help avoid processing delays.

We cross-check information provided by third parties to ensure all income is declared on a tax return. If we identify a discrepancy, for example where interest has been omitted, we will adjust the return with the information provided. We may phone you to confirm the discrepancy, which can delay processing.

2021–22 income year

You may have clients that received additional government payments in the 2021–22 financial year, such as JobSeeker. These payments will be available in the pre-fill report and need to be included in your client's tax return.

2020–21 income year

If your clients received the COVID-19 Disaster Payment due to the Greater Melbourne lockdowns in the 2020–21 income year, this payment has been reclassified as non-assessable non-exempt income. If you’ve already lodged your client's' tax return, you will need to lodge an amendment.

Getting the tax return right the first time will avoid delays, penalties, interest and repayments.

Client details don’t match our records

Before lodging your clients' tax returns:

  • confirm details with your client – particularly their name, addresses, TFN and date of birth
  • compare their details with those on our systems
  • update any incorrect details.

If you transfer details from a previous year's tax return, ensure the details in your software are correct before lodging.

When lodging tax returns for multiple years (even if you are lodging them on or around the same day) ensure your clients' details are correct on all returns.

For more information, see Updating client details.

Providing additional information

Including unnecessary additional information in a tax return will delay processing as we need to check the information you provide.

Information you should include

  • Requests for advice that directly affect the calculation of tax for that specific tax return, such as        
    • querying if an item in the return is eligible for inclusion as taxable income
    • determining if private binding rulings relate to this return.
  • Details we request to be included as additional information, for example, when a client        
    • contributed to more than one super fund or retirement savings account
    • is not an Australian resident and intends to claim a credit that the trustee has paid on their share of income from a resident trust.
  • Software problems – include details of information you cannot enter at a particular field or label, including the value and field or label names.
  • Foreign income
    • net foreign income from a tax treaty country
    • foreign income tax offset to be calculated by us.

Information you should not include

  • Information that is not relevant to the outcome of the income tax assessment.
  • Information you have carried over from the previous year, unless it is current for the tax return being lodged.
  • Information such as personal details (for example, family breakups) or work-related expenses.
  • Written notes (such as 'final', 'nil return', 'please issue a notice of assessment', 'minutes', 'statement of distribution', 'other') or any numeric symbols.
  • Information that is already included elsewhere in the tax return.

Tips for specific subjects

See a summary of what to include and what to leave out for:

Primary production

Include elections to withdraw from primary production averaging provisions. An election must be made in the year of the tax return when your client first wants to withdraw. Include the date of withdrawal and quote section 392–25 to apply.

Include special or taxable professional income (or both) for primary producers when averaging details have not been applied in the previous year or years.

Leave out averaging provisions that have been applied correctly in previous years.

Lump sum payment in arrears

Include the amount of the lump sum and the breakdown of the amount of payment in arrears for each income year involved. This is required to correctly calculate a tax offset (if eligible). This applies to lump sum payment in arrears (LSPIA) on tax returns at either:

  • Q7 labels Y or Z
  • Q24 label Y.

For further detail on what to declare and what to leave out in these labels, refer to Lump sum payments in arrears tax offsets.


Part-year resident and non-resident clients with interest and dividend income should:

  • Include
    • details of amounts for interest and unfranking dividend income
    • the country of residency, where unfranking dividends are to be returned. This will ensure the correct rate for the dividend income is applied.
  • Leave out
    • dates of entry and exit for the ‘Australia client resident under 183 days’ test.

Full year non-residents should include interest and unfranked dividend income for the individual tax return at:

  • gross interest item 10 label L
  • unfranked dividends item 11 label S.

If the unfranked dividend income is not under an international agreement, then a rate of 30% is applied automatically by our system. If the rate is 15%, then include either your client's:

  • overseas postal or residential address
  • country of residence.

Private health

Leave out:

  • If the name of an Australian private health insurance fund is not on the drop-down list, select Other – ATO use only. It's not necessary to include details in additional information.
  • As overseas funds are not eligible for the tax offset, do not include these details or any reference to them or make a private health insurance rebate claim.

Rental information

Leave out:

  • information that the rental property did not derive an income
  • information that the rental property is now the owner’s own home
  • the date the rental property was sold
  • general information regarding rental income, expenses or property.

Rental information can be included if there is specific information not shown in the tax return or the Rental property schedule that affects the calculation of that specific return.