A tax return is the form required by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) which details a taxpayer’s income, expenses, exemptions, deductions and taxes payable. The complete details pertaining to who must lodge a tax return can be found on the ATO website.
Tax returns cover the financial year (ending June 30) and can be filed online and offline.

Online Tax Returns vs Offline Tax Returns

Online

Online tax returns may be lodged through the ATO Website. Depending on the complexity of your taxation affairs, taxpayers can use either MyTax or E-tax to lodge a tax return online. The ATO Website contains a set of tickbox questions that will assist you in determining which method is more appropriate for your taxation circumstances. Once you lodge your online tax return, you will receive refunds in 12 business days or less.

MyTax is the easiest and fastest way to lodge your own tax return online. It is more suitable for straightforward tax affairs and requires that you have a myGov account. The process consists of answering a handful of tickbox questions regarding income, investments, government payments and deductions. It can be accessed through any device connected to the internet and provides a more personalised, time-efficient tax return by pre-filling information from reliable resources.

E-tax is designed for more complex tax affairs. It contains built-in check and calculators in addition to the ability to complete the supplementary section of the tax return and the Business and professional items schedule. You will also require a myGov account. To lodge a tax return using e-tax, you must download the E-tax program onto your computer and simply follow the instructions to complete, save and lodge your tax return.

Offline

Offline paper tax returns can be lodged by mail. Most refunds will be issued within 50 business days of lodgment, thereby the process is more long-winded than lodging an online tax return. Lodging a paper tax return requires two items:

Follow the instructions to complete your tax return. If you have income from a business, capital gains, foreign source income or rental income, you may be further required to lodge the Tax return for individuals (supplementary section). Once you have completed the necessary documents, mail your tax returns to your relevant destination.

Tax Returns: DIY vs Paying an Agent

The guidelines provided by the ATO allow tax returns to be lodged individually efficiently and effectively by following their guides. Tax returns can therefore be lodged without additional costs before the usual 31 October deadline.

However, if you would like a professional to assist you in lodging your tax return, you can use a registered tax agent to prepare and lodge your tax return for you. Most registered tax agents are able to lodge returns for clients later than the usual 31 October deadline. Simply book an appointment with a registered tax accountant and they will assist you. A fee will be charged to you for this service. Nevertheless, it can be worthwhile having an expert oversee your tax return.

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William Goh

William is a Paralegal, working in our content team, which aims to provide free legal guides to facilitate public access to legal resources. With a passion for commercial and IP law, his research focuses on small businesses, how small businesses can navigate convoluted legal procedures and the protection of intellectual property.