How to complete a return
Returns for Individuals
Tax return checklist
An individual tax return is a document submitted to the Australian Tax Office (ATO) at the end of each tax year. It is a statement of income made by an individual and is used by the ATO to determine the amount of tax each person must pay and to calculate a tax refund.
Do you need to lodge an individual return?
You will need to submit a tax return by 31 October following the end of each financial year (31 July) if you:
- Paid tax under the pay as you go (PAYG) withholding or instalment system
- Had tax withheld from payments made to you
- Earned income from overseas while living in Australia
- Earned income from any source while living overseas but qualify as an Australian resident for tax purposes
Using a registered tax agent to assist in completing and lodging your tax return will help maximise your refund and ensure any income or deductions are not overlooked.
How to complete a tax return
Once you have the necessary information, you can decide how to fill out and submit your return to the ATO. There are three ways to lodge your tax return:
Individuals and business tax returns
Individual tax returns are often called ‘simple’ tax returns where the person lodging the return is an employee with a single source of income. However, depending on your situation, you may be required to complete a business and professional items schedule. This is commonly used by:
- Partnerships reporting a loss
- Sole traders declaring income for personal services
- Businesses declaring income or losses
- Individuals reporting a loss through business activity
Completing your individual tax return
You will first need to determine whether you have received any income from the following list, where tax was withheld or not deducted from your gross earnings by an employer:
- Salary and wages
- Commissions or bonuses
- Income from part-time or casual work
- Parental leave pay
- Foreign employment payments
- Amounts shown on an income statement or payment summary for lost salary or wages paid under an income protection policy, sickness or accident policy, or compensation scheme
You can use the Pay Calculator to see if you’ve paid enough tax on your gross earnings.
- Employment allowances - see below
- Tips - e.g. working in a restaurant
- Consultation fees
- Payments for voluntary and other services
- All payments from which tax was not withheld, such as commissions or bonuses
- Casual - i.e. part-time - job income
- Insurance payments (income protection, sickness and accident policies)
Employment allowances include:
- Car and travel allowances, and reimbursements of car expenses
- Award transport payments
- Tool, clothing and laundry allowances
- Meal and entertainment allowances
If you received a travel or overtime meal allowance paid under an industrial agreement, you cannot claim deductions for the expenses that you paid for with that allowance.
You may be eligible for an income tax offset if:
- You are an Australian resident for income tax purposes, and your taxable income is in the appropriate income range
- The offset does not reduce your Medicare levy, but it reduces the income tax you pay, even down to zero
- You do not need to claim this offset anywhere on your tax return
You can learn more about Tax Offsets, including the Low and Middle Income Tax Offset in our guide.
Single Touch Payroll and PAYG for individuals
If your employer has started using single touch payroll (STP), your payment summary information is called an ‘income statement’ in myGov. If your employer uses Single Touch Payroll, you will be able to access your income statement by logging into your myGov account online and using the ATO online services which are linked to it.
The ATO will send a notification to your myGov inbox when your income statement is ‘tax ready’ so you can complete your tax return. If you use a tax agent they will receive the information they need to complete your tax return.
If you do not have access to your myGov account, contact the ATO for a copy of your income statement.
How to Access Your Annual PAYG Information
If you do not yet have a myGov account and would like to access your income statement online, you will have to create an account and then link the ATO online services.
This will require you to confirm your identity with your Tax File Number, and potentially other forms of identification such as your passport.
What’s included in the statement
Your income statement is updated each time you receive a payslip, and will include information such as:
- Salary and wages
- Withheld tax
Using your statement with your tax return
At the end of the financial year, your income statement will be labelled as ‘tax ready’, meaning you are able to use it to fill out your tax return.
If you are using:
- Online services such as myTax - the information from your Single Touch Payroll income statement will automatically be pre-filled.
- A registered tax agent - they will already have access to the information from your income statement needed for your tax return.
Getting your statement from the ATO
If you do not use myGov, you can contact the ATO for a copy of your income statement.
If you have multiple jobs, you will need to make sure you have all the necessary information for each source of income. Some employers may not use STP, in which case you will need to speak to them directly.
If your employer doesn’t use Single Touch Payroll
If your employer is not using the Single Touch Payroll system,you will need to request a payment summary for the year. Most employers will send these automatically, however if your employer has chosen not to, then you will need to request this from them directly.
If you have received an income statement through the myGov website or the ATO, but would still like your payment summary, your employer can still send this to you - employers will have this information available in their salary payment system.
If you cannot acquire your payment summary from your employer, you can speak to a registered tax agent. These tax experts can help complete your tax return and ensure you include the correct income details.
Individual tax return checklist
When completing your individual tax return, you will need to check that you have included the following:
- Tax File Number
- Personal Details
- Bank Account for refund payments
- All income or losses
- All deductions
- All tax offsets
You will also need to check you have completed:
- Spouse details if claiming Family Assistance offsets
- Declaration of accuracy
You will also need to include copies of any required documents, receipts, or evidence of deductions. If you are unsure about how to complete your tax return or are unsure if you have completed it correctly, you can speak to a registered tax agent.
Individual tax return assessment times
If you lodge your individual tax return online using myTax or with a registered tax agent, you can expect your tax refund within 20 business days.
Paper tax returns lodged by post may take up to 50 days to process.
Individual tax returns are used by anyone earning income who also qualifies as an Australian resident for tax purposes. Tax returns are used to report tax and evaluate eligibility for a tax refund. You may also qualify for various tax offsets based on your age or income level.
Companies, partnerships, and trusts may need to complete separate tax forms to report their income as entities, however individuals will always need to complete a personal tax return.
Individual Tax Return FAQ
Do I need to do an individual tax return?
If you earned income during the financial year (1 July - 30 June) and are an Australian resident for tax purposes, you will need to lodge a tax return with the Australian Tax Office. You can lodge your return online or speak to a registered tax agent.
What is the 2020 tax return deadline?
The deadline to lodge an individual tax return for the 2019/2020 financial year is 31 October, 2020. If you are unable to lodge your tax return by this date, it is vital that you contact the ATO as soon as possible, or have a registered tax agent do so on your behalf.
What is an Australian tax agent?
A registered tax agent is an expert in tax law, and qualified with to assist individuals and business owners with completing a tax return. Tax agents must be registered with the Tax Practitioners Board (TPB), and charge a fee for their services. This includes preparing and lodging tax returns, and ensuring all claimable deductions are accounted for and evidenced.
How can I calculate my tax?
There are a number of ways you can calculate your tax. If you receive a payslip, it will include your gross (pre-tax) income, and the tax deducted from the amount. To see how much tax you will pay on your annual salary, you can use a Pay Calculator to see how much tax you will pay throughout the year and any tax offsets you may be eligible for.