Information you will need to complete a tax return
How to complete your return
How to correct an error on your tax return
How to claim (& maximise) tax deductions
What is taxable by the ATO
Tax Return 2020
If you earned income during the tax year ending 30 June, you will need to lodge a tax return by 31 October to avoid any penalties. You can complete and submit your return online, or by post. If you do not wish to complete your tax return yourself, you can engage the services of a registered tax agent to help prepare and submit your return on your behalf.
What information do I need to file a tax return?
Before you decide how you’ll submit your tax return, you’ll need to ensure you have the information needed to complete your return. There are a few basic pieces of information required for almost every tax return, and specific details relevant to those claiming expenses and making deductions.
To complete your tax return, you will need your:
- TFN (Tax File Number)
- Bank account details
- Login details for myGov (if lodging your return online)
- PAYG payment summary (for each job you had during the financial year)
If you are claiming work-related expenses, you will also need:
- Copies of invoices or receipts (paper or digital)
- Credit card statements
- Logbooks (Travel and Home Office expenses)
While those are the basic pieces of information you’ll need, your individual situation may also need one or more of the following:
- PAYG summary for Centrelink payments
- Information on investments (shares, investment properties, assets)
- Details on interest earned through bank accounts
- Required information for Tax Offsets
- Details of all other income
Not sure which tax bracket you are in? Learn about 2020 Australian Tax Brackets here.
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:
- Through a registered tax agent
- Online using MyTax
- By paper
The first two options will allow you to complete and lodge your return yourself. The final option is often used by small businesses or individuals wishing to make deductions or tax write-offs.
According to the ATO, 74 per cent of taxpayers use a registered tax agent to lodge their return, due to the confidence, support, and convenience they provide (plus they all know the relevant deductions you can claim in your tax return).
Want to know more about how to complete your tax return? Choose from the tax return guides below:
If you have read through the information checklist and aren’t able to find the required documents, you may find it beneficial to speak to a tax agent.
Online using MyTax
Lodging online using the MyTax system is the quickest way to submit your tax return to the ATO and get your refund. You can lodge via your computer, tablet or smartphone, and you'll need a myGov account linked to the ATO.
MyTax can be used by any individual (including sole traders) completing their own return, and the tax return deadline for online submission is October 31. This is a free option.
Lodging a paper return
If you do not have access to a computer, you can fill out a paper tax return. You can request a tax return pack from the ATO, either:
- Online through the ATO website (requires a computer and Internet connection)
- By calling 1300 720 092
As with online returns, the deadline for paper tax returns is October 31. However, unlike an online return, paper returns must be mailed to the ATO and can take much longer to process - in some cases up to 50 business days.
Using a tax agent
You may also consider engaging a registered tax agent to prepare and lodge your return. A registered tax agent will charge a fee for their services, but will ensure your form is completed and all required information is included. As a bonus, you may also learn you are eligible for deductions you weren’t aware of.
You can claim the agent's fee as a deduction on your tax return for the next financial year.
Correcting an error on your tax return
If you are not using a tax agent, and choose to complete your return yourself, it’s common to make a mistake and not realise until you’ve already submitted your return. While you should always thoroughly check your tax return before lodging, you can amend your return:
- Online using ATO online services via the myGov portal. Online amendments are usually processed within 20 business days.
- By fax or post. You will need a 'Request for amendment of income tax return for individuals' form. Once completed, you may submit it to the ATO by fax or post. Amendment requests by post or fax may take up to 50 days to process.
The most important thing to remember is to declare everything you need to. If you fail to declare a second income, or are claiming deductions you are not entitled to, it is always better to inform the ATO and amend these errors as soon as possible.
If you choose not to, you may be liable for any penalties or fines that arise from submitting misleading information.
Tax deductions can reduce the amount of tax you are liable to pay. You're entitled to claim deductions for expenses which are directly related to earning an income. If you want to claim a deduction for a work-related expense:
- You must have spent the money yourself
- You must not have received reimbursement for the expense
- The expense must be directly related to earning your income
- You must have a record (receipt) as proof of the expense
Acceptable deductions include expenses related to:
- Vehicles and travel
- Clothing, laundry and dry-cleaning
- Your home office
- Self-education and personal development (related to your business or work)
- Work tools and equipment
- Interest, dividends and other investments
Learn more about tax deductions.
Personal injury payouts do not need to be reported if they occurred outside your workplace and are unrelated to your work.
What is taxable by the ATO?
You are required to include all forms of taxable income in your tax return. The term ‘taxable income’ can often be a little confusing, which is why it’s easier to break it down into a few sections:
- Assessable Income
- Exempt Income
- Taxable Income
- Employment income (salaries, wages, tips, some goods and services received as payment)
- Commissions or Bonuses
- Super pensions, annuities and government payments
- Investment income (interest earned, dividends paid, rental income and any capital gains)
- Foreign income
- Miscellaneous income (compensation and insurance payouts, fringe benefits, monetary prizes, awards, or royalties)
- Some Australian Government pensions, including the disability support pension
- Some Australian Government allowances and payments, including the carer allowance and the child care subsidy
- Overseas pay and allowances for Australian Defence Force and Federal Police personnel
- Australian Government education payments for students under 16 years old
- Certain scholarships, bursaries, grants and awards
- Child support and spousal payments you may receive
- Prizes won in most lotto draws, raffles, and game shows, provided the latter is not part of your regular income
Once you’ve determined your assessable income and exempt income, you can find your taxable income by using the following simple formula:
- Assessable Income - Deductions = Taxable Income
The most important thing to understand about the formula is that all deductions are made from your assessable income, not from the tax amount you are liable for. For example, let’s consider John, an employee with $50,000 of assessable income and $1,000 of allowable deductions:
- John uses a tax calculator to receive a tax return estimate
- John estimates he needs to pay an additional $1,700 of tax
- John cannot use his deductions to reduce his outstanding tax amount to $700
- John can use his deductions to reduce his assessable income to $49,000
Capital Gains Tax and Tax Returns
A capital gain or loss is the amount of money you make or lose on the sale of an asset. The capital difference is how much you purchase the asset for versus how much you sell it for. Capital gains are taxed at the same rate as taxable income.
The amount of CGT you will pay will vary depending on how long you have held the investment:
- If you own the asset for less than 12 months, you will have to pay 100% of the capital gain at your income tax rate
- If you own the asset for longer than 12 months, you will pay 50% of the capital gain
Tax rates, calculators, and tax estimators
If you wish to calculate the amount of your refund or debt, you can use the following tools:
If you lived in Australia and earned money during the financial year, you will need to pay tax. Depending on the complexity of your income sources, you may only need to provide a few details, or a large number of supporting documents if making deductions or submitting your tax return as a sole trader.
The easiest and most convenient way for many individuals to lodge their tax return is through a registered tax agent, who will complete the return and ensure all appropriate deductions and supporting documents are accounted for.
Tax Return FAQ
How do I lodge a tax return?
You can lodge a tax return by using a registered tax agent, completing the form online through MyTax, or by posting your return to the ATO. If you are claiming a lot of deductions, you may find the convenience of a registered tax agent the easiest option.
How long does it take to get a tax refund in Australia?
The length of time to receive a refund after lodging your tax return will vary depending on how you choose to submit your return. Submitting your return online or through a registered tax agent will generally take around 20 business days to process, while submitting your return by post may take up to 50 days.
When can I lodge my tax return 2020?
The financial year begins 1 July and ends 30 June. You can lodge your tax return any time after 30 June, and all individual tax returns are due by 31 October following the end of the financial year - i.e. for the financial year ending 30 June, 2020, you will need to submit your return by 31 October, 2020.
How much can I get back on my tax return?
How much you get in your tax refund will depend on the amount of tax you pay throughout the year and any deductions or tax offsets you are eligible for. You can use a tax refund estimator to quickly calculate how much tax you could get back at the end of the year.