Lodging a tax return

Lodging a tax return may not be your idea of a great night in but it doesn’t have to be half the chore you think it is, especially if your situation is uncomplicated. A number of relatively stress free options for lodging your tax return with the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) are outlined below. Remember: the financial year ends on June 31 and you need to lodge your return by October. Failure to lodge (FTL) a return will cost you – there are hefty fees if you miss the deadline and they get bigger the longer you leave it.

What are the options?

DIY – the Tax Pack

Most people still lodge their return using the paper form which is then posted back to the ATO. This is called the Tax Pack and contains most of the information you will need about income you to declare, deductions you may be entitled to, as well as rates and calculations. It can be downloaded from www.ato.gov.au or you can obtain a copy by calling 1300 720 092. You may or may not need the supplement, depending on your income activities. Click here to find out.

Lodge online

Many things got easier with the arrival of the Internet and that included doing your tax. For several years now the ATO has had an e-tax system. Tax payers download the programme to fill out a series of questions manually on their home computer before returning via the Net. E-tax allows you to deal with all kinds of rebates such as the baby bonus and the 30 percent child care tax rebate from home. To download the newest version of the program go to www.ato.gov.au after 1 July. E-tax also has the added benefit of being partially completed by the ATO – you just need to fill in the blanks and if the rest is correct send it back on time.

Many people are still wary of using the Internet for their personal finances so is the ATO tax program safe? It’s important to have up-to-date virus protection software to reduce your risk. There will always be people out there trying to cause trouble. (Last year, for example, a number of people lodging tax online with the ATO had their tax file numbers altered by a Trojan horse virus engineered in Russia).

Lodge by phone

Another option for lodging your return is to lodge by phone. To do this you need to be eligible for the short tax return (check the post). If you didn’t get short return info in the mail and are not sure if you are eligible click here or call 1300 720 092.

Use an accountant

This is the easiest option by far. If you have a slightly more complicated tax situation, for example, if you run a small business or work as a freelancer, it might be worth spending an hour with an accountant. You could also use the services of a firm such as www.itp.com.au or www.taxreturnsaustralia.com – fill out your details in less than half an hour and have your cheque in the post within a few weeks. However, if you just do one job you could probably save yourself the hundred dollars or so you’ll have to pay them by just downloading the e-tax program. (It’s really is not that hard a program to work). The advantage of employing an accountant, on the other hand, is that the accountant may be able to help you claim on all sorts of things you didn’t know about. They tend to be worth the money and usually save you a lot more than the fee you pay them, and the fee is also deductible.

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