Tax calculators: Using online tools to help prepare your tax return

Submitting a tax return online can be a remarkably hassle-free experience. Calculating the amount of tax you may have to pay, however, can be deceptive. In choosing a tax calculator, it should be remembered that identity theft is rife on the Net, and there's no greater compilation of personal information than a tax return.

ATO approved? The first thing to check

A tax calculator can be as simple as filling out a questionnaire online with a tax agent, or as complex as a downloadable software program. The most important thing to check is whether or not it is based on Australian taxation law. Some very basic calculators can be found on ninemsn and News.com, while more complex calculators are often included in tax agents' websites. It pays to ensure that any personal information is transmitted over a secure site. Most reputable tax agents will stipulate this upfront, but it's a good idea to check if the tax agent is registered first.

What does a good calculator include?

The more simplistic the calculator, the more basic the information it will calculate: income, tax paid, HECS/HELP debts owed, Medicare levy exemptions, etc. If you have only worked one job for the financial year and have no HECS/HELP debts or any other more complex expenses or deductibles to consider, the more simple tax calculator will most probably suffice.

On the other hand, owning a business or an investment property, as well as other more complex factors can slow down the calculating process. For those who have a more complex tax return to organise, the ATO website has a range of individual calculators which include:

  • GST
  • PAYG withholdings
  • Income tax
  • Fuel schemes
  • Prepayments
  • Fringe benefits tax
  • Capital gains tax

It's important for individuals to note that these calculators will not include HECS/HELP debts, Student Financial Supplement Scheme (SFSS) debts or Medicare Levies.

Submitting an e-tax return

The ATO provides an online facility for submitting an e-tax return, so submitting without a tax agent is a relatively simple affair if the return being submitted is also simple. However, it's worth noting that amendments cannot be made to an e-tax return once it's submitted, so trawling through the ATO website to find the right amendment form will be necessary. Before beginning an e-tax return, begin with the comprehensive tax calculator.

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