DIY tax returns: using the Tax Pack

If you like the idea of tackling your tax return without the aid of your accountant, Tax Pack from the Australian Tax Office (ATO) may be what you’re looking for. Tax Pack is instructions for taxpayers; a step-by-step guide (or “how to” manual) to take you through your tax return methodically and easily. In essence, Tax Pack is for DIY tax returns, which may sound like something only the very brave would attempt, but Money Buddy tells you exactly what you’re getting, so you can consider whether or not to go it alone with your tax assessment.

What the ATO Tax Pack does

The ATO Tax Pack offers a thorough and logical guide to completing your tax return. The Tax Pack help guide is broken down into sections, including “Income” (of all types: salary, allowances, pensions, etc, etc), Tax Offsets (or rebates, including Spouse, Senior Australians, Pensioner, Superannuation and more), Medicare Levy, and Adjustments, amongst others. There are also two other Tax Pack downloads available, Supplementary Tax Pack and Retirees Tax Pack. For either of these packs you need to work carefully through the contents sections to work out whether or not they apply to you (although it should be easier to know if the Retirees Tax Pack applies to you). Following the instructions carefully, you can use the Tax Pack in order to fully understand how to complete your tax return; the ATO’s aim is to make it easy for you to understand Supplementary Tax Pack and Retirees Tax Pack requirements, as well as your tax rebate eligibility, from methodically working through the information.

How to use Tax Pack

Whilst studying the Tax Pack help documents, having all of your relevant financial statements to hand will make completing your tax return much easier. The preliminary page information is very important, ranging from whether you need to lodge a tax return in the first place to how to go about it if you do. It’s important to read each question carefully so that you can assess whether it applies to you. The index at the back of the Tax Pack can help you to pinpoint factors that apply directly to your situation.

The Tax Pack should be available from the beginning of the tax year, 1 July. This should give you enough time to complete your tax return by the 31 October deadline. Keep checking the ATO website leading up to tax time to find out when Tax Pack 2008 will become available.

E-tax: Online tax return

The ATO is increasingly encouraging online tax return submissions. If you haven’t previously been comfortable with completing forms online, the ATO website makes it as straightforward as possible to submit your tax assessment form, and you can benefit from the decreased waiting time using E-tax; most tax refunds are issued within 14 days. E-tax offers free preparation and lodgement of your return, a built-in help service, a safe and secure system and the benefit of tax debts not being due before 21 November. The ATO website features information on any sections outlined in Tax Pack, and all sections on your tax return form, and the site also has useful online tax calculators to help you work out information specific to your situation.

The ATO website and Tax Pack information may not be clear enough for everyone; you can’t find an easy definition of what Tax Pack is in one sentence or whether in simple terms you need the Supplementary Tax Pack, so you may still need to call the ATO and ask for more information, or ask your financial advisor for extra assistance, even if they aren’t methodically working through your tax return with you. If you do wish to tackle your tax return alone, using the ATO’s Tax Pack, you’ll certainly need to set adequate time aside to work carefully through all the documentation. It’s worth keeping in mind that filling in your tax return incorrectly could mean missing the all-important 31 October deadline.

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