One of the most common Stay At Home Mum tax time questions is “Do stay at home mums have to lodge a tax return?” The answer to this question is maybe. Depending on your circumstances, you may or may not need to lodge.
Your tax return covers the financial year, which ends on June 30 each year. Tax returns are due to be lodged by October 31st. If you use a registered tax agent, you can lodge later than this as long as long as you are a registered client with them before the October 31 cutoff.
While most people need to lodge tax returns each year, as a new Stay at Home Mum, this may be the first time you’ve had to question whether to put one in or be unsure due to a combination of events.
As a Stay at Home Mum you might have income from some casual work, a Centrelink payment like Parenting Payment, Austudy or Newstart Allowance, you may have been paid maternity leave or Paid Parental leave payments, have an investment property or portfolio or even have taken a lump sum from your superannuation. If you had tax taken from any payment you received, you almost certainly need to lodge a tax return. But to be sure, use the ATO tool to help work out whether you need to lodge a tax return as there are all sorts of variables, especially if you are in an active child support case.
If you don’t need to lodge a tax return, you can complete a non-lodgment advice with the ATO.
Whilst paper tax returns still exist, they are much slower, taking up to 50 business days after lodgment to finalise. This is a nice way for the Tax Office to say ‘we’d prefer you lodge online thanks’. You can download paper forms from the ATO website, but beware; it’ll be loads of ink and paper. You can still swing by your local newsagent and grab one too.
You can use the paper Tax Return for Individuals and the Individual Tax Return instructions to lodge your tax return by mail. However, it will take up to 50 business days after lodgment to finalise your tax return.
The good news this year is there is now has a simplified version for folks with uncomplicated tax matters called myTax. myTax is available on tablets, smart phones as well as computers. e-Tax will still be available if your tax return is more complex. For example, if you had income or losses from a business or rental property or made capital gains or losses, you should use e-tax.
Lodging online means the ATO can pre-fill your return with information from your previous tax return and with information provided by your employer, bank, government agencies and others. The longer you wait to start your tax return the more information will be pre-filled with most information available by early August.
According to the ATO You should use myTax if:
- you were an Australian resident for tax purposes from 1 July 2013 to 30 June 2014
- your only income was from salary and wages, allowances, bank interest, dividends and/or Australian government payments
- your only deductions are for work-related expenses, expenses relating to income from interest or dividends, gifts and donations and/or the cost of managing your own tax affairs
- your only tax offsets are the senior Australians and pensioners tax offset, the zone and overseas forces tax offset and/or the private health insurance rebate.
To lodge your tax return online this year – using myTax or e-tax – you need to create a myGov account and link to the ATO. myGov is designed to be a one stop shop for all government agencies. If you set up an account you can link all your existing services (like Centrelink, Child Support and Medicare) and have just one login.
Tax returns lodged online are usually finalised within 12 business days.
Where to get help
In the first instance, check the ATO website. They have loads of information about what you can and can’t claim and how to fill in your return. Always get help preparing and lodging your tax return if you don’t know what you’re doing by using a registered tax agent. If you have a low income and straightforward tax affairs you may be eligible to use the ATO Tax Help program.
You can ask a family member or friend to help you, but you must sign the return yourself and you are legally responsible for its accuracy.
How do you lodge your tax return? Do you do it yourself or get some help?
Please note: The author of this article is not a tax expert. If you need lots of tax advice or have complex tax matters make sure you see a professional.