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The tax return

Contributed by AnnetteMorgan and current to 27 July 2018

Do you have to file a tax return?

Generally, if you have earned over the minimum taxable income you must lodge a tax return . If you are an Australian resident (but not a primary producer or, in some cases, under 18 years old) the threshold is currently $18,200. The availability of various offsets and rebates means that, even if you earn in excess of the threshold, you may not have to pay any tax, although you will still have to lodge a tax return.

If you are under 18 at the end of the tax year (30 June) and earn income in a form other than salary or wages (for example, income from trusts or investments), the threshold is $416 for 2019-20.

If you are not a resident of Australia for tax purposes, you need to lodge returns if you derive income that is taxable in Australia, other than income from which withholding tax has been deducted.

In some cases you may need to lodge a return even where you have not reached a tax-free threshold. For example, you may work for only a short time but have had taxation instalments withheld from your pay. Even though you have earned less than $18,200, you will have to complete a taxation return in order to receive a refund of the tax that has been withheld. Resident companies (except non-profit companies), partnerships, trusts and superannuation funds are required to file returns regardless of income. Non-profit companies (which include most clubs and associations) have to file a return if their taxable income exceeds $416.

More information on who is required to submit taxation returns is contained in the individual Tax Return Instructions.

Which tax return do you file?

In most cases, you will be required to complete an Income Tax Return Form for Individuals if you are:
  • a salary or wage earner;
  • a pensioner;
  • on unemployment benefits; or
  • self-employed.
The ATO encourages taxpayers to lodge their own individual tax returns via myTax.

If you are the legal personal representative of a deceased person (for example, the executor of the person’s estate), you will need to complete a “date of death” return on behalf of the person for the period 1st July to the date of their death. The return used for this is the Tax Return Form for Individuals. You will then need to apply for a tax file number for the estate and complete a trust return Form T on behalf of the estate for each income year until its administration has been completed. Further information on the responsibilities and liabilities of executors can be found on the ATO website and also in the Guide to Capital Gains Tax and Partnership and Trust Tax Returns Instructions, both available from the ATO website.

On the other hand, if you are carrying on a business, you will need to complete a Business Activity Statement (BAS). The BAS is used for the majority of your tax obligations, including your business income but also your Pay-As-You-Go (PAYG) and GST reporting requirements (see 'Pay-As-You-Go' and 'Goods and services tax' below). While some businesses will be required to lodge their BAS on a quarterly or monthly basis, others will only need to lodge a BAS annually.

If you earn investment income or you are carrying on a business but are not required to be registered for GST (see 'Goods and services tax' below), you will need to complete an Instalment Activity Statement (IAS). Like the BAS, the IAS is used for reporting your tax obligations, such as company income tax, PAYG and fringe benefits tax (FBT).

More information on your BAS and IAS obligations can be obtained from the Business Tax Enquiries call centre on 13 28 66 or the ATO website.

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