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Completing tax returns from previous years

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This article is archived and may not be up to date.

Started September 2018 by
Modified July by

It’s great you’re taking the first step to get your tax affairs back on track! With more resources now available online, it’s easier than ever before to get up to speed.

There are three main options available to lodge any outstanding tax returns:

Lodge online

You can lodge prior returns from 2014 onwards online and free of charge (though you’ll need to meet certain eligibility criteria to lodge 2014 and 2015 returns online). Online lodgement options for 2013 and earlier aren’t available, so you’ll need to either lodge with a registered tax agent or via paper.

 Live chat service

Lodging online gives you access to our live chat service. Live chat can answer questions on:

  • Income and deductions
  • Private health insurance
  • Amendments and ATO errors
  • Higher education loans
  • Tax offsets
  • Income tax advice
  • Capital gains tax

 The live chat team can answer specific questions to help you complete your tax return but they can’t provide financial advice or prepare your tax return for you like a registered tax agent can.

myTax instructions guide

We also produce a myTax instructions guide for 2017 and 2018 to explain what information to enter in each section of your return. You can also use the ‘Help?’ menu on the right-hand side of the screen if you need information on what to enter into each field on your tax return. Don’t forget you can also ask us general questions here on Community too! 

Tools and calculators

We have an extensive range of tools and calculators on our website to help you:

All our calculators go back at least five years (from the current financial year).

It’s important to keep a copy of any determinations from our tools (either as screenshots or print-outs) in case we ask you for more information.

Lodge with a registered agent

If you'd like to receive financial advice relating to your specific circumstances, you can contact a registered tax practitioner in your local area by searching the Tax Practitioner Board website. Only registered agents are allowed to charge for managing your tax affairs.

Lodge a paper return

If you prefer using paper forms to prepare your tax returns, you can download previous year returns and print and post them to us. Keep in mind paper returns can take up to 50 days to process.

I can’t afford a tax agent. What options are available to me?

If you earn less than $60,000 a year and have simple tax affairs, you might be eligible for our Tax Help program. Tax Help is a network of ATO-trained and accredited community volunteers who provide a free and confidential service to help people complete their tax returns online using myTax.

The program runs from July to October each year, and volunteers can show you how to sign up for a myGov account, link to our online services and use myTax to prepare your returns. You can make an appointment by contacting us.

Recovering lost information

You need to keep tax records for up to five years after you lodge the relevant income tax return. If you don’t have the information you need to prepare your return, you’ll need to re-create your records and be able to justify your claims if we ask you to.

If you have lost, missing or incorrect payment summaries, the first step is to ask your payer for a copy or to check your myTax return in our online services to see if the information has been pre-filled. Centrelink can reissue payments summaries for most government payments and you can use your bank records or pay slips to replace any missing payment summaries from jobs you might have worked.

If you’ve used a registered agent in the past, it’s also worth asking to see if they have any of your old records.

In some cases we might be able to help fill in missing employment summary details over the phone. If you contact us make sure to have information about your tax records when you phone so we can access your account.

Will I receive a fine?

In some cases, we may apply a penalty, particularly if we have reason to believe you delayed lodgments or provided incorrect information deliberately.

If you do receive a fine for lodging your tax returns late and have a good reason, we may be able to cancel those penalties or fines in certain circumstances. Contact us to discuss your situation if this occurs. 

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