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TaxTime: About the ‘did you have a spouse’ question

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Started July 2018 by
Modified 2 weeks ago by


The little tick box at the beginning of your tax return helps us establish your entitlement to certain tax offsets and government entitlements, so it’s important to make sure you understand how to complete the information about your spouse and their income when you’re lodging your return.

We’ve listed some of the most commonly asked questions and answers about completing your spouse-related details below. If you can’t find the answer to your question here, ask the rest of the Community!


My fiancé and I both have simple tax affairs and do our own tax returns separately. Should we be selecting YES to the question around having a spouse? Or does that apply only once we’re married? How does this affect the rest of our tax returns?


For income tax purposes, we use the following definition of ‘spouse’:

  • Your spouse includes another person (of either gender) who:
  • you were in a relationship with that was registered under a prescribed state or territory law or,
  • although not legally married to you, lived with you on a genuine domestic basis in a relationship as a couple.

This definition also includes de facto and same-gender couples. Even if you’re not married yet, you may have a spouse for tax purposes.

You’ll also need to include some additional information about your spouse’s income to work out your family income. This will help us establish:

  • how to apportion investment deductions
  • whether you’re entitled to tax offsets such as the seniors and pensioners tax offset, super contributions on behalf of your spouse offset, zone or overseas forces offset, invalid and invalid carer offsets
  • whether you’ll need to pay the Medicare Levy or Medicare Levy Surcharge
  • whether you’re entitled to a rebate on your private health insurance policy.Each spouse needs to work out if they need to lodge a tax return based on their own situation – you can’t combine your income and report it on a single tax return. If one spouse earns less than the other but still meets lodgment criteria, they’ll need to lodge their own return. Reporting incorrect information or failing to meet lodgment requirements can lead to warnings or penalties.
  • If you’ve entered into a spousal relationship during the year, or separated from your spouse part way through, you’ll need to tell us the relevant dates so we can accurately calculate these amounts.


Is there any way I can complete my tax return without my partner's details - I don't want to wait for my refund. Online it won't let me complete the form, but if I complete the form without my spouse's income and other info, can I send the tax return in?


If you’ve had a spouse during the financial year, you’ll need some extra information to help you prepare your return:

  • your spouse's PAYG payment summary – individual non-business
  • the relevant distribution statements, if any, for trust income and family trust distribution tax
  • if your spouse had child support obligations, the details of the amount of child support they paid (your spouse can get this information from the Department of Human Services)
  • if your spouse received foreign income, the details of the amount of foreign income received
  • if your spouse had financial investment losses, the net financial investment loss amount
  • if your spouse had rental property losses, the net rental property loss amount
  • if your spouse has claimed a deduction for personal superannuation contributions, the details of the amount claimed.If you’ve advised you have a spouse back in the ‘Personal details’ of your tax return, you’ll need to include your spouse’s details before you can lodge your return.
  • If you aren’t able to access this information, you can make a reasonable estimate of these amounts using information from bank statements, other supporting documentation and previous income tax returns. As long as you make a reasonable estimate and act in good faith, you won’t be penalised if you make a mistake.


I cannot work and am fully dependent on my spouse. What can they claim in their tax return?


The Federal Government made changes to certain income tax rules for dependent spouses as part of the 2014-15 Budget. From 1 July 2014, your spouse may only be able to claim T6 Invalid and invalid carer tax offset. To claim this tax offset, your spouse must have financially supported someone who meets the following criteria:

  • An invalid, who has received one of the following:
    • a disability support pension under the Social Security Act 1991
    • a special needs disability support pension under the Social Security Act 1991
    • an invalidity service pension under the Veterans’ Entitlement Act 1986 or
  • A carer, who must have cared for your or your spouse’s invalid child aged 16 years or older, or brother or sister aged 16 years or older. The carer must have either:
    • received a carer allowance or carer payment under the Social Security Act 1991 in respect of the care they provided
    • been wholly engaged in providing care to someone who received
      • a disability support pension under the Social Security Act 1991
      • a special needs disability support pension under the Social Security Act 1991
      • an invalidity service pension under the Veterans’ Entitlement Act 1986.

We’ve developed an online calculator to help people work out if they are entitled to this offset.

If your spouse makes contributions to a complying superannuation fund or a retirement savings account (RSA) for you (if you earn a low income or are not working), they may also be able to claim the T3 Superannuation contributions on behalf of your spouse tax offset provided they meet certain conditions.

Depending on your spouse’s circumstances, they may also be eligible for a Medicare Levy reduction or a full or partial Medicare Levy Exemption


My husband and I separated for 6 months during the financial year, when filling out my tax form do I need to have him as my spouse for the entire year? 


If you’ve separated from your spouse part way through the financial year and are now back together, you’ll need to tell us the dates you separated and reunited so we can work out your entitlement to certain tax offsets and government benefits. We’ll work out the number of days and apportion your benefits accordingly. 


My wife and I just separated. We’ve been paying Tier 1 family premiums for private health - what are the implications at the end of the financial year when we submit separate tax returns? Does our income get considered as one for Medicare purposes?


We use information about your spouse, your family income and your private health insurance to help work out whether you’ll need to pay the Medicare Levy Surcharge (MLS). You’ll need to work out whether you were liable for MLS for any period during the financial year that you:

If your income was above the relevant surcharge threshold that applies to you, and you and all of your dependants (including your spouse, if any) did not have an appropriate level of private patient hospital cover, or were not in a Medicare levy exemption category for the whole year, then you may be liable to pay MLS.

You can find examples of how to calculate your MLS if you separated during the year on ato.gov.au.


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