The Australian Taxation Office is advising people to act now to improve their tax time experience. ATO assistant commissioner, Karen Foat, said if you are planning on lodging your own return, you can't beat the ATO's online myTax service.
"It's no surprise that myTax, which processes most refunds in less than two weeks and many in under a week, is growing in popularity. Most people with simple tax affairs can lodge in under half-an-hour from the comfort of their own homes. For most people a lot of their income will be automatically included in their return by the end of July, making it even easier," Ms Foat said.
"But there are two main speed-bumps that taxpayers hit when lodging online via myTax for the first time. The first is linking their myGov account to the ATO's online services. My number one piece of advice for people who are going to use myTax for the first time is to log into your myGov account and link to the ATO well before tax time. You'll be prompted to answer two questions, based on your records, such as an income statement or Centrelink payment summary from the past two years, or your bank account details."
Those who don't have enough information to confirm their identity will need to phone the ATO to get a unique linking code, which can be entered instead of answering the questions. To speed up the process, taxpayers need to have their identification information ready when they call the ATO, such as their Tax File Number and their driver's licence or Medicare card.
"Needing a linking code was the number one reason that people called us last July. While this is a vote of confidence from taxpayers eager to use myTax, it is a faster process if you get organised early," Ms Foat said.
"If you need to call us to link, we encourage you to do so now so that you don't hit any delays when you choose to lodge your tax return. If you need a linking code, June is a great time to get that sorted."
After people have linked to the ATO, they can not only lodge their tax returns during tax time, but also track their refunds, access their past tax records, manage their super accounts, and view their income statement. Linking myGov to the ATO also allows sole traders eligible for JobKeeper or wishing to manage their business obligations, to enrol and nominate through ATO online services via MyGov. Those who haven't used online services before will need to follow the linking process outlined above..
"The other main delay at tax time is people lodging before they have all of the information about their income," Ms Foat said.
For most Australians, income statements have replaced payment summaries. This means that instead of receiving a payment summary from their employer, most people's income statements will be finalised electronically, and the information provided directly to the ATO. You can view your income statement through myGov and the information from it is automatically included in your return in myTax by the ATO. If you use a tax agent, they will also have access to this information. Income statements show their year-to-date salary and wages, PAYG withholding tax, and any employer super contributions in near real-time, but it is important to wait until it is finalised before lodging a tax return. Employers have until July 31 to finalise income statements.
"We often see people too eager to get a tax refund making obvious mistakes, which can either delay processing the tax return or result in a bill later on," Ms Foat said.
"It's important to check that your employer has finalised the information in your income statement and it is marked as 'tax ready' before you lodge. Other information from banks, health funds and government agencies will be automatically inserted into your tax return."
"Lodging once we have included all of your information in your tax return makes it even easier, but if you are lodging before then, make sure the information provided is complete, accurate, and up to date to avoid delays or a debt later on."