You are probably aware that it is compulsory to lodge an Australian tax return every year. But maybe you have been a bit “naughty” and you have some overdue tax returns.

You might have been too busy, the tax return form might have looked too complicated or there may have been legitimate reasons (like health or relationship issues) that stopped you from lodging.

Don’t worry, it’s very common, and (with the right help) the problem is easily fixed. Whatever the reason you fell behind, you need to get up to date. And once you do, you’ll get a better night’s sleep, and maybe even a tax refund, too.

This post will explain to you some simple steps to take to catch up on outstanding tax returns or late tax returns. In fact, with the right help, you could be up to date with all your refunds with a month.

These tips and shortcuts come from our experience in helping people lodge multiple tax returns.

Getting help: contact your accountant / registered tax agent and ask them to check your lodgment status. Registered tax agents have more access to your tax records that you do, via the tax agent portal. In fact, we can find out in 2 minutes how many outstanding returns you have from from 2001 until now.

Do-it-yourself: Call the ATO on 13 28 61 and ask them for which years you have tax returns outstanding. You’ll need your tax file number ready when you call. You may also need a previous ATO generated notice, (e.g. a Notice of Assessment or an ATO letter with a reference number) or personal details which match ATO records, such as a bank account number.

You need to lodge something with the ATO every year, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be a tax return. If you meet certain conditions, you may be able to submit a non-lodgment advice with the ATO. For example, you may have income below the tax free threshold.

Getting help: your tax agent can work out which years you can submit a non lodgment advice.

Do-it-yourself: See the ATO website for more details.

Before submitting a non-lodgment advice you should consider if you need to lodge to get a superannuation co-contribution or family payment, such as education tax refund.

This is the most daunting step for most people.

Getting help: contact your registered tax agent and ask for a copy of your pre-filling report.

The simplest and fastest way to find your missing tax information is to obtain your ATO Pre-filling Report.

The ATO collects information about your income from banks, employers, government agencies and other parties. This information is matched to your tax file number and summarised in your pre-filling report.

This can include:

  • PAYG Payment Summaries from employers (aka group certificates)
  • Centrelink payment summaries
  • Details of private health insurance cover
  • Bank interest
  • Dividend and other investment income
  • Your HELP (HECS) balance for the applicable year

A registered tax agent can get pre-filling reports for their clients from as far back as the 2007 income year.

Many people can lodge a return with just the information on their pre-filling report.

However, the pre-filling report only goes back to the 2007 income year, and many details are only available from 2008 onwards.

You will also need to find your receipts and deductions for the relevant year. If you haven’t lodged in years, receipts might be had to find.

But don’t worry, there are some deductions you can claim without having receipts. A tax agent can help your work out what you can claim based on your job and investment situation.

Do-it-yourself: You will need to find all your paperwork yourself. Even if you have lost paperwork, there are simple ways you can replace it. See our article on finding lost tax records.

Getting help: Your registered tax agent can lodge tax returns for you electronically. Beyond Accountancy can prepare and lodge returns on the spot if you have all the information ready. Refunds can be paid as early as 1-2 weeks, and the appointment can be done in person or online.

Do-it-yourself: The easiest way to lodge your own tax is using the ATO e-tax software. The only issue you will face is that e-tax has an expiry date. For example, e-tax 2011 had already closed at the time of writing.

This means you have to lodge using another method, such as using the ATO self-help phone lodgment service, or tracking down the paper tax form. Paper tax forms take 8 weeks to be processed, and are a pain to lodge. For this reason, I’d recommend using a tax agent. If you can’t afford a tax agent, the ATO offers free tax help for low income earners.

Once you are up to date with your tax returns you will be able to claim Family Assistance entitlements for previous years. Family tax benefit claims can be made up to two years after the end of the financial year. If you’re not keen to fill out the 70 page claim form, Beyond Accountancy can assist you to make an online claim for family tax benefit.

Call Beyond Accountancy on 1300 823 011 to speak to an accountant, or book an appointment now via the website.

The advantages of using a tax agent are:

  1. we have access to your lodgment history and tax records
  2. the process will be much quicker, and refunds will be paid sooner
  3. you have the peace of mind of knowing that your returns will be lodged accurately.
  4. we have the knowledge and skill to get your the best tax result, and
  5. we can help you improve your financial situation going forward.

We have helped clients who have had up to 19 years of tax returns to lodge, and successfully negotiated up to $50,000 in debt reductions from the ATO.

And we’re not here to judge anyone, we’re here to help you. After all, there are a lot worse things you could do than forget to lodge one or two (or ten) tax returns. It’s not a guilty secret. It’s just a bit of paperwork

Contact us now to take the first step towards the relief of having your tax affairs up to date. Don’t wait until your paperwork is 100% complete… it might never be. Get in touch now on 1300 823 011 and we’ll take the pressure off you.