200,000 could miss tax refund
AROUND 200,000 people who were likely entitled to get money back from the government failed to lodge a tax return last year.
The Australian Taxation Office is encouraging everyone to lodge before the October 31 deadline to ensure they don't miss out.
"Unfortunately, the tax office can't return your money until you lodge a tax return," ATO assistant commissioner Kath Anderson said in a statement.
"We estimate there are 200,000 individual salary and wage earners who are likely to have been either due a refund or owed a small amount of tax, but who had not lodged a tax return. Collectively, these clients have millions of dollars of unclaimed refunds."
Ms Anderson said there were a few reasons people might not lodge even if they were due a refund.
"Some might not lodge because they don't realise they need to - maybe they are on a low income or haven't worked recently," she said.
"Others might be worried about lodging because they haven't lodged for several years, which often causes them stress and anxiety. The key thing to remember is that the ATO is here to help. We want all taxpayers to get it right, and we will assist them to do so."
The ATO says just over 2.7 million taxpayers have lodged their own returns via myTax while nearly 4.3 million have lodged via a tax agent.
If you haven't lodged yet, you have until October 31 to either lodge your own or ensure you have seen your agent.
Ms Anderson said some taxpayers might delay lodging if they expect they may have a debt. "We know some people put off lodging because they think they'll owe money, but for self-preparers the payment is due on November 21 whether or not a return is lodged," she said.
"The ATO will help people who may have difficulties paying a tax debt, and work with you to tailor a payment plan to your circumstances. Some taxpayers may even be able to set up a payment plan online depending on their circumstances."
For taxpayers entitled to a refund, the ATO says most returns are processed in under two weeks. More than 98 per cent of refunds this year have been issued within 12 business days - but mistakes in the return can delay the process.
"If you have already lodged and realise you have made a mistake, don't stress," Ms Anderson said. "You can quickly and easily make an amendment online using myTax or by contacting your registered tax agent. Not correcting errors may mean the ATO has to contact you, which may cause unnecessary processing delays."
Last month, the ATO said it had already adjusted 112,000 returns, correcting $53 million worth of errors. The average tax refund is approximately $2300, while the median is about $1400.
According to Etax.com.au, surgeons had the highest work-related claims by occupation with an average deduction of $21,184.