Lodging your first tax return

How to make the tax process quick and easy.

As the end of financial year approaches you’ve probably thought about what you’ll do with your potential tax refund.

If you’ve just started working, completing a tax return for the first time can be daunting. 

We’ve put together a guide to help making lodging your first tax return quick and easy.

What is a tax return and why do I need to lodge one?

A tax return is an official document that lets the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) know how much you’ve earned and any tax deductions you’re claiming for the financial year.

An Australian resident will usually have to lodge a tax return before 31 October if they’ve earned more than $18,200 throughout the financial year. No matter how much you’ve earned, you’ll also need to lodge a tax return in you’ve had any tax deducted from your pay.

Your employer will provide you with a payment summary after the financial year ends which shows how much you’ve earned and how much tax you’ve paid. 

The ATO uses the information you provided to work out whether you’ve paid the correct amount of tax throughout the year. If you’ve paid more than you need to, you’ll receive a tax refund.

How to submit a tax return

  1. Decide how you want to complete your tax return
    You can complete your tax return online through the ATO’s MyTax service. 
    Before you start you’ll need to create a MyGov account and link it to the ATO. A lot of the information that you need to complete your tax return, including from your job, bank and government agencies, will usually be automatically loaded into MyTax by late July. 
    You could also visit a registered tax agent who is licensed to complete a tax return for a fee. Your parents may have a tax agent they go to or there are usually pop-up stalls in shopping centres from July. The fee paid to a tax agent is tax deductible.
  2. Gather your information
    There are a few important pieces of information you’ll need to gather to complete your tax return:
    -  Statements relating to any income you earn, including a payment summary from your employer and statements of interest received from your bank.
    -  Receipts or records for work-related expenses, such as union fees, safety equipment and uniforms. The ATO has guides for work-related deductions for different industries.
    -  Bank account details to receive a refund.
    -  Your tax file number
  3. Fill in your tax return
    If you use MyTax to complete your tax return you’ll need to fill in information about your income and deductions.  You can find out how to use MyTax on the ATO website.  
    If you go to a tax agent, they will complete your return based on the information you provide. 
  4. Double check the info and lodge
    You’re responsible for the information in your tax return, even if a tax agent or someone else prepares it, so double check the information to make sure everything is correct before your lodge your return.

What’s next?

If you use MyTax you’ll be able to see an estimate of your refund or debt.

You’ll receive a notice of assessment and your refund, if you’re entitled to one, in about two weeks if you or your tax agent lodged online. 

It could take longer if there’s an error or your return needs to be checked by the ATO.

Make sure you keep a copy of your receipts for deductions and other records for five years from the date the notice of assessment is sent in case the ATO needs to review your tax return at a later date.

The information in this article has been prepared for general information purposes only and not as specific advice to any particular person. Any advice contained in the document is general advice and does not take into account any person's particular investment objectives, financial situation or needs.  Before acting on anything based on this advice you should consider its appropriateness to you, having regard to your objectives, financial situations and needs.