Tax time is nearly here, but it doesn’t have to be stressful.
In fact, most international students look forward to tax time because many will get money back after completing their tax return. Why? If you’re on a student visa and working 20 hours or week or less, then the chances are that you’re earning under the tax-free threshold ($18,200).
So, to make sure you’re prepared – here’s everything you need to know how to do a tax return in Australia.
Do I have to lodge a tax return?
If you’ve earned money while in Australia, then it’s very likely you will need to lodge a tax return.
Most international students studying for more than 6 months are considered ‘Australian residents for tax purposes’ which means you have to declare your income on a tax return.
There are limited circumstances where you might not have to lodge a tax return. To find out for sure use the ‘Do you need to lodge a tax return 2016?‘ at the ATO (Australian Tax Office) website.
If you don’t lodge you still need to inform the ATO so make sure that you know what to do.
When do I have to do it?
1 July – 31 October is the time period in which individuals can lodge tax returns.
How do I lodge a tax return?
- The quickest, easiest way is to lodge your return online at myTax through the ATO website. You’ll be prompted to create a myGov account and link it to the ATO. Then just follow the instructions to fill out your return online.
You can also:
- Lodge with a registered tax agent. A list of registered tax agents is available on the Tax Practitioners Board website: Make sure you only use a REGISTERED agent.
- Lodge a paper tax return.
- Use the Tax Help program – this is a program run by trained volunteers to assist people on low incomes to do their tax returns. Check here to see if you’re eligible.
What will I need?
- Your tax file number (TFN) If you don’t have one read our article on applying for a TFN.
- A photo ID (like a passport)
- Your PAYG Payment Summaries. After 30 June your employers should provide you with payment summaries. These provide details of the amount you’ve earned and the amount you’ve been taxed. You’ll use this information to fill out your tax form. Your employer might send you the PAYG summary in the mail or provide it for you online. Employers should give these to their employees by 14 July.
Where do I go for help?
The ATO website is the number one place to go with questions about tax. Your university’s student or financial services might also offer advice or help with your tax. Be wary of getting information from anywhere else, particularly if you have to pay for it.
How long does it take?
If you lodge your tax return online, you’ll most likely get your refund in about 2 weeks. By mail, it will take about 6 weeks.