What you need to know to file your Australian income tax return this year


It’s a new fiscal year and tax season is starting again.

But some things around what you should do with your return this time around are a little different after a full year of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Here’s a rundown of what you need to know.

What can I claim differently this time around?

If you worked at home, you can include more than one expense on your return.

The Australian Tax Office expects deductions for people working from home to increase – this means things like electricity, internet and telephone costs, and depreciation in the value of office equipment.

Ken Devos, associate professor of accounting at Swinburne University of Technology, said there are several ways to calculate your work-from-home deductions based on your situation.

The simplest of these is the temporary shortcut method, which uses a rate of 80 cents per hour to calculate your claim for all personal work-related expenses.

“Basically what it saves is a lot of paperwork,” he said. “All you have to do is write down how many hours you actually worked at home during the week.

“Someone who worked from home, for example, year-round – 40 hours a week, 48 weeks a year – that would be a standard claim of around $ 1,500, which is very easy and straightforward to calculate. “

But since this is an all-inclusive method, it might not be the best option for everyone.

Another alternative is the 52-cent rate method, which works similarly to the 80-cent method, but only includes electricity and gas, as well as depreciation and repairs to office furniture in the calculation.

It allows telephone, internet, computer and stationery costs to be added separately to the claim.

The last option is the actual expense method, which requires the applicant to have kept many records.

Mr. Devos said the smartest decision is to choose the method that will bring you the most benefits.

“The actual expense method says you calculate everything separately, you keep the actual expenses you incurred throughout the year, and on top of that, you include your depreciation calculations, so this has the potential to ‘to be a larger number.

“Considering the fixed rate of 80 cents, the shortened method, then you can’t go and claim depreciation on top of that,” he said.

Mr Devos said people should be aware that home office expenses may have gone up this fiscal year, other costs may have gone down.

“Obviously, working from home means people haven’t traveled, they haven’t used their cars as much as they normally would,” he said.

“Therefore, the ATO will be looking very closely at car and travel expenses, so you have to be careful there.”

What can’t I pretend?

While there are many work-from-home expenses you can claim, the ATO won’t cover everything you’re used to in the office or on the job site.

“While your employer may provide coffee, tea and cookies at work, if you incur this expense at home it is not a deductible expense,” said ATO Deputy Commissioner Tim Loh, to the SBS On the Money podcast.

Mr Loh said the tax office saw people trying to claim many things as working from home.

“Other costs that we see people make as a mistake on their tax returns are related to the costs associated with raising their child,” he said.

“Another expense that we often see people trying to claim when working from home is occupancy costs.”

Mr. Devos said the rule for claiming deductions is that the cost must have been incurred by you for something related to your income, and not have been reimbursed by your employer.

“A lot of people now have more time at home and they spend that time taking classes, studying,” he said.

“You have to be careful. You can’t deduct those one-to-one lessons if they aren’t related to your current job, so these elaborate cooking and crafting lessons that some people love to take no matter how exciting they are. , unfortunately, they are probably unrelated to your main occupation. “

What novelties do I have to declare?

Cryptocurrency, for example.

The ATO has said it will ensure that more than 600,000 Australians who have invested in crypto assets such as bitcoin in recent years include it on their tax returns.

She wrote to 100,000 of them reminding them of their capital gains tax obligations.

“Cryptocurrency is like an investment asset, so it’s a bit like stocks, and therefore similar tax obligations apply to cryptocurrency like they apply to stocks,” Mr. Loh.

“So if you sell, trade, or trade a cryptocurrency, there will be a taxable transaction, and you have to include it on your tax return.”

He said that while the fluctuating value of crypto assets and different exchange rates can complicate matters, the ATO is here to help.

“However, we expect taxpayers to keep good records,” he said.

“In all cases, we have obtained information through data matching protocols, which allows us to obtain information from crypto exchanges, which we can use to compare data with taxpayers.”

With more and more people taking on additional jobs during the pandemic or working in different capacities, Mr Devos said it was essential that you remember to include them in your return as well.

“People cannot separate these particular jobs from their main job,” he said.

“I mean, these are income generating second jobs, which is potentially, of course, taxable income, which you have to pay taxes on.”

And for those who have received a COVID-19 disaster payment, you will need to report it as well.

If you have received JobSeeker or JobKeeper payments, the ATO will automatically include this information in your return for you when it is ready.

What are the key dates?

One thing that hasn’t changed this year is when you have to file your tax return before.

As always, you have until October 31.

You have more time if you plan to use a registered tax agent, but you still need to be one of their clients by the end of October.

And while you can technically prepare and submit your tax return through myGov right now, getting it in before August could mean the ATO will take longer to process your request.

“By the end of July, information from employers, banks, health funds, government agencies and many more will automatically be added to your tax return,” Loh said.

“If you want to house earlier, you have to take care to add all your income manually.

Should I take an accountant?

It depends on how simple your situation is, Mr Devos said.

“There are a number of reasons people turn to tax agents. This is mainly because their situation is a bit complex, maybe it’s property, maybe it’s property. ‘there are capital gains and losses,’ he said.

“If you have income from overseas, you may have tax obligations there as an Australian resident on all of your worldwide income, and that includes global assets.

“Basically, if your tax return gets a little complicated in this regard, it’s probably a good idea to consult a tax professional and get professional advice.”

This cost can still be claimed next year.

Low-income individuals may also be eligible for free assistance under the ATO’s tax assistance program.

“Someone who wants to pay their taxes and earns around $ 60,000 or less can make an appointment to see me,” said Karuna Chinniah, retired accountant and ATO Tax Help volunteer at the Wagga Wagga Multicultural Council.

What language help is available?

For those who come from a non-English speaking background, Tax Help volunteers and the ATO are there to help, said Mr. Chinniah.

He explains how part of the process works: “We call the translation and interpretation service and have them connect to the tax office, so that the tax office can then query them and provide their tax file number and so on. following to get the filing process. These interpreters will also sometimes help me communicate with clients.

Tax resources are also available on the ATO website in over 20 languages.

Additional reporting: Ricardo Gonçalves.


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