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Understanding Tax


Everybody has to pay tax. It automatically gets taken out of your pay when you a have a job or receive a Centrelink payment. It can seem very annoying that you don’t get to keep all the money that you earn but without tax there would be no hospitals, no buses, no roads, no schools….. you get the picture!

Getting a Tax File Number

A Tax File Number (TFN) is a number given to everyone who pays tax either from making money through working and/or receiving government payments. You need to give your TFN to employers when you a start a new job and to banks when opening a bank account. You don’t have to have a TFN but if you don’t it can mean you will have to pay higher taxes and will not be eligible for some government benefits, such as youth allowance. Basically, you should get a tax file number.
You can apply for a tax file number at any age; however, if you are:

  • between the ages of 13 and 15 – either you or your parent/guardian can sign the form
  • aged 16 or older, you must sign the form yourself.

For all the info you’ll need on tax file numbers, including how to apply for them and the importance of keeping your TFN private, check out the link from the Australian Taxation Office

Tax Returns

At the end of each financial year (30th June), if you’ve paid tax for that year, you have to do a tax return. For this you need a Tax File Number and a payment summary (or Centrelink statement) which you receive from your employer (or Centrelink).

A tax return is a booklet (paper or online through E-tax) that asks you to fill in details of all your earnings in the last financial year. You need to submit your tax return between July 1 and October 31. A tax pack, explaining how to do your tax return, is usually delivered with the paper application form, or you can pick one up for free at the post office or newsagency. For more information or to do your tax return online go to www.ato.gov.au. Depending on how you’ve been taxed throughout the year you may be owed money by or owe money to the government. This means you sometimes get a nice big lump sum payment in to your bank account around tax return time!

Doing your first tax return can be pretty confusing but you can get help. There are community services which offer free help with tax returns to people on low incomes, including seniors, people from non-English speaking or indigenous backgrounds as well as those with a disability and young people doing tax returns for the first time. For the location of your nearest Tax Help centre, call 13 28 61. You can then ring directly to make an appointment. Make sure you take along a copy of TaxPack and relevant documents such as payment summaries (group certificates), bank statements and receipts.