Tax return deadlines: Tips, E-tax and tax return time-saving

When 31 October looms you may be one of many Australians panicking about getting your tax return in on time. However there are steps you can take to reduce the time you spend on your tax return and ensure that you get it right. With penalties applicable for late returns, you need to be sure that you don’t get taxed on your tax return. Money Buddy reveals helpful hints, useful online tools and the outcome for late tax returns.

Getting your tax return in on time

As well as time-managing as best you can, there are simple errors to avoid that can speed up the tax return process. When lodging a paper return, make sure that you sign it and attach any payment summaries or relevant paperwork required. Keep documents handy when making an E-tax submission, but you don't need to submit them with your return. Be wary of compulsory questions too, such as the Medicare levy surcharge question, which inflicts an extra one per cent on top of the standard levy if left incomplete.

Note also any potential capital gain or loss that should be included in your return, for example if you sold shares, investment property, units in investment funds or valuable jewellery. Furthermore, even if their income is nil, don't forget to include your spouse's name and income details on your return, if applicable. Other things to note include making sure that all rental income is declared (checking that all rental expenses are allowed), ensuring that you have kept all receipts to prove any work-related expense claims, and including all interest, dividend and employment income information on the return.

E-tax: Online tax returns

If you are unfamiliar with the process of submitting your tax return online, E-tax might just be a revelation. 1.9 million Australians lodged their tax online in 2007, finding E-tax to be a time-saving device. E-tax offers many advantages over paper tax returns, including "pre-filling" (which is the process whereby third-party information - such as income details - is automatically entered into your E-tax return form), easier completion of the form, as well as faster processing time, not forgetting that all documents can still be printed out for convenient filing. ATO’s website, at, also offers more than just a means to lodge your tax return, offering computer requirement information, guides on how to fill out your tax form online and details on rebates and bonus claims. The online system can be accessed free of charge 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

E-tax can save you considerable time on your return, especially if you know that you’re running late. Postal tax returns take up to seven weeks to process, whereas Internet applications take up to three weeks. It worth noting that, once this time has passed, you can call the ATO’s automated self-help service to check your return’s progress (be sure to have you tax file number ready).

Late tax returns and penalties

If you are late lodging your tax return (i.e. after 31 October) you will incur a fine of $110 for each month that the form is late (maximum penalty $550). Don't be alarmed if you know that you can't meet your deadline, instead it's best to contact the ATO and inform them of your position. Former Tax Commissioner Michael Carmody said, “If you think you will not be able to meet the 31 October deadline, phone the Tax Office on 13 28 61 as soon as possible to discuss your situation.”

E-tax has made meeting the 31 October deadline a little bit easier, saving weeks in processing time. However, if you are concerned about filling in your tax return or about meeting the deadline, even if you are familiar with filling out tax return forms, it’s a good idea to speak to an experienced accountant or tax adviser who can offer the correct, specialist advice and help you to ensure that you’re not adding insult to injury by paying penalties on top of tax.

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