‘Let me tell you how it will be,’ sang little-known Liverpudlian band The Beatles. ‘There’s one for you, nineteen for me/ ‘Cause I’m the taxman/Yeah, I’m the taxman.’ Which is the only way we could think of lightening up one of the most dreary and often (but not always) depressing subjects known to man: tax. No one really wants to, but we know we’ve all got to pay it (and look, not every single cent goes to making Iraq-bound bombs), so let’s just get it over with.
The Australian tax year runs from 1 July to June 30 and, if you’ve worked here, you’re legally obliged to do a tax return. Intimidating but simpler-than-they-look TaxPacks can be collected from most newsagents, or you can lodge your return online, at www.ato.gov.au/individuals.
However, if you’re leaving Australia before tax forms are generally available, then you need to obtain and fill in a form called Taxpayer leaving Australia – Request for early assessment(available at www.ato.gov.au/content/downloads/NAT3407-04.pdf or from the Publications Distribution Service, Ph: 1300 720 092). You will also need payment summary forms from all your previous employers. Your assessment should be processed in approximately six weeks and will be sent to a postal address you provide.
Show me the money
‘If you are suffering from financial hardship,’ claims the government website (www.ato.gov.au), with surprising charity, ‘you may qualify for priority processing.’ For info, Ph: 13 28 61.
Perhaps the most crucial question the form asks is whether you are a ‘resident for taxpurposes’? Now the definition is a little vague, but essentially if you are ‘visiting Australia for more than six months and for most of that time work in the one job and live at the same place,’ then you are one. By same place, it means the same city, rather than the same address. However, most people on Working Holiday Maker visas (WHM) will not be residents fortax purposes. If all that sounds way too complicated or just plain boring, then it can be worth employing a Tax Agent to help you sift through the bureaucratic bother. Though there’s an inevitable fee involved, some companies give free refund estimations (some even within 24 hours).
‘As we have been working closely with the Australian Tax Office for a number of years,’ says TaxBack.com’s Aoife Twohig, ‘we are able to get the maximum refund for the customer.’
Though it can sound a bit gloomy, travellers on WHM visas probably should think twice before hopping on a plane without handing in a TaxPack. ‘If they have been in Australia for six months or more, they more than likely will be due for a refund,’ says Aoife.
The other good news is that you can claim your superannuation back too. For this you’ll need to obtain details of your superannuation fund or retirement savings account (‘such as its name and account number’). Naturally, if you’ve had more than one employer you’ll have more than one superannuation account and will have to do separate applications for each.
You can apply for this online (at www.ato.gov.au/superprofessionals/content.asp?doc=/content/23499.html or download an application form at www.ato.gov.au/superprofessionals/content.asp?doc=/content/23637.htm). For further information on superannuation, Ph: 13 10 20 or visit www.ato.gov.au. Sounds like a hell of a hassle, but it could all be worth it if you get a useful little cheque or two dropping through the letter box in a month or so…