Tax time

Preparing for tax time in advance

The annual filing of a tax return is a task that can be handled with minimal stress involved if you plan for it properly. You will need to set some time aside to prepare your paperwork properly and to gather together some key documents. Regardless of whether you choose to file your tax return yourself, or you get it done by a tax professional there are some key things you will need to do.

Gather key documents together

The Australian Taxation Office advises that in order for you to lodge your tax return you will need the following documents at hand:

  • Personal identification
  • Australian financial institution details
  • Medicare number
  • Private health insurance statements
  • Spouse details including income details

In addition, you will need to gather together the following documents as well:

  • PAYG Summary Statements (Group Certificates)
  • Income statements from Centrelink
  • Income from other sources. This may include bank interest earned, dividends paid, even when reinvested, investments and all details of asset or investment sales
  • Any other income received – overseas pensions, withdrawals from your super, employer terminations
  • Receipts for work related expenses

It’s a good idea to keep your payslips, group certificates and any other receipts that you are claiming together. Remember you will need to keep them for five years after you have lodged your claim so don’t throw them away after you have used them.

How to lodge a tax return yourself

There are two main ways to lodge a tax return yourself. You can do it online using the ATO’s e-tax. The site itself promises: “E-tax is the ATO’s free, fast and secure service you can use to prepare and lodge your individual tax return online. With e-tax, most refunds are issued within 12 business days.” You can begin that process here. It will provide you with a step by step guide, including an online video as to how to file your tax return.

Alternatively, you can use a paper tax return with the ATO. The details on this are here. It will usually take slightly longer to receive your return (if you are eligible for one) According to the ATO: “Most refunds are issued within 50 business days of lodgment.”

Using a tax agent to lodge your tax return

You can use a tax agent to help you lodge your return. This is the only group that is allowed to charge you a fee for doing so, but the cost of having a return completed by an agent is deductible. You will need to provide them with the required documentation listed at the top so they can lodge it for you. They can help simplify the process for you, however it is important that you have a good understanding of your financial affairs as well.

Changes to tax returns for 2013

The ATO has advised that the following changes have occurred for those lodging returns for 2013. These are:

  • an increase to the tax-free threshold
  • income test labels must be completed
  • changes to dependent tax offsets
  • changes to the private health insurance rebate
  • Australian bank account details are required when refunds are expected for individuals
  • simpler reporting for company, trust and partnership tax returns.

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