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How to claim your tax back in Australia

How to claim your tax back in Australia

When working in Australia you must pay tax to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO). The tax is taken directly from your paycheck each pay. The Australian tax system is sometimes difficult to understand and filing your tax declaration raises some questions.

In order to be clear as possible and find any special tips, we contacted Joaquim, a tax agent in Taxback, who provided us with accurate information on taxes when working in Australia. 

The tax system in Australia

Everyone living and working in Australia is obliged to declare their income. The amount of working hours and the type of visa do not matter.

This tax is collected directly from each pay. It appears on your paychecks, usually under the name of “PAYG Withholding“.

The fiscal year runs from July 1st to June 30th.

The tax rates

The tax rate in Australia are variable and depend on the status of the taxpayer. Residents are taxed at 19% while non-residents are taxed at 32.5%.

Rate – Non residents

From 0 to $80,000: 32.5% tax per dollar collected.

Rate – Residents

From 0 to $18,200: no taxation From $18,201 to $37,000: 19% tax per dollar collected. $37,001-$80,000: $3.572 + 32.5% per dollar collected.

You are considered a resident of fiscal point of view after living 6 months in the same place in Australia (not necessarily to the same address, but in the same geographical area or in the same city, Sydney and the surrounding area for example) provided that you are able to prove it. To declare you as a resident from a taxes point of view, residents are taxed less than non-residents, the first level of taxation for residents is at $18,200. This means that if you make less than the $18,200 threshold and have been in the same place for 6 months, you will get all of your tax refunded. Please note that farm workers may be taxed less (usually around 13%).

The principle of Tax return / tax back

It is possible to recover some of the taxes you have paid to the state in some cases, but it is not systematic! Your taxes are calculated on an annual basis while you are taken from each pay, so it is normal that there is an adjustment at the end of the year. Remember that the principle of Tax return / tax back works both ways, you may as well get your money back if your status allows, or duty to the State if the government considers you paid less tax than you need to.

Resident or Non-resident: 

If you change the status in the course of the tax year, you will not be taxed in the right proportions. The “resident” or “non-resident” status is the most important criteria impacting the tax return / tax debt (owing money to the ATO):

SCENARIO 1: You are “non-resident” on your employment contract, and “resident” on your tax return: you have paid too much tax. If you earned less than $18,200, you get back 100%.

SCENARIO 2: You are “resident” on your contract, and “non-resident” on your tax return: you have not paid enough taxes. You have to repay the difference (the notice is usually quite salty!).

SCENARIO 3: You are “non-resident” on your employment contract and “non-resident” on your tax return: you have paid your taxes in the right proportion. The state owes you nothing and you owe no ATO either.

SCENARIO 4: You are “resident” on your employment contract and “resident” on your tax return: generally, your employers will tax you more than they should. You will get some of your taxes (or even all of your taxes) if you earned less than $ 18,200 over the year.

Note: Please note that these examples are theoretical. The government does in fact make random checks and sometimes there are (good or bad) surprises.

Other things to consider

In the course of the year, you will have certainly contributed for Medicare. 

The calculation of your taxes is annualized, therefore you pay your taxes each pay. It is therefore appropriate to make an adjustment at the end of each fiscal year. If you have not worked full year, for example, you should get some of your taxes back.

These two factors are quite small and are quite small sums of money. The main factor that determines your ability to recover money or owe money, is your status as a ‘resident’ or ‘non-resident’.

Good to know: Some things are deductible from Australian tax. If you have made purchases related to your work such as equipment (safety shoes, equipment …) or you paid transport costs to get to a place of work to another, you can deduct those costs from your taxes. It is important to keep the documents that prove the costs (receipts, tickets …).

Lodge your tax return in Australia

You are invited to lodge your statement between 1st of July until 31 October every year. Beyond this period, penalties may be retained (unless you go through a tax agent).

If your visa expires before the end of the fiscal year, or  you plan to leave the country before June 30, you can make an early statement. To do this, follow the steps explained on the ATO website concerning lodging your tax return early.

To make your statement, two possibilities are open to you: do it yourself or hire a tax reporting agent.

The documents needed to make your tax declaration

The documents needed to make your tax return are:

  • The final payslips of PAYGs OR (also called Group Certificate or Statement of Earnings). These two documents provided by your employer, show your wages and taxes levied on these salary. It is essential to be in possession of your PAYGs provided by each employer.
  • Your TFN
  • Full name, postal address, telephone number, your employers AMRO
  • All your payslips
  • Documents (receipts, bills…) capable of an expense report serves as proof of expenses incurred in the work environment (clothing, tools …) called “Work related expenses”.

Lodge your tax return by yourself


1. Create a MyGov account on the ATO website and download the Mytax or E-Tax software according to your status. Install it on your computer. Open the software and follow the steps.

2. Open the software and complete your tax returns. There is a guide to help if you get stuck.


You can also meet at the ATO Office in your city to lodge taxes on site. Attention, it is not necessarily easy to do directly to the ATO, counsellors are not always available to help you and do not necessarily give you the best tips to fill your statement!

Hiring a tax agent

If you do not feel comfortable doing it yourself, do not panic. You can hire a tax agent who will go through the process for you. This means you will benefit in several aspects, it will optimize the chances on your side to get the highest possible tax return. If you have any hesitations, your status is not entirely clear or in-between, or that you have large sums to potentially recover, it may be a good way to not take risks.

The Backpackers Guide has selected Taxback, as one of the most reputable tax agents. Present for over 15 years in Australia, their team of experts will offer you quality service and maximize your chances of recovering money from your taxes. 

In case of refund of taxes,”Taxback” withdraw this money constituting its part charges (about 9%). This tax agent also has the advantage of “no refund, no fee.” If you can’t get a refund of taxes, Taxback charges you nothing (unlike some other tax agents).

You can request a free estimate of your taxes. If you decide to use Taxback, you will receive $ 10 discount as a reader of AUSTRALIA – The Backpackers Guide. To get the discount, simply register here.

Caution – If you want to get some of your taxes paid to the state, it is important to follow the steps listed and to present all the necessary documents. Provide PAYG sheets for each of your employers in your statement is important, make sure not to leave a job without your payslips and keep them carefully. If you choose to make your return by yourself and you make a mistake on your statement, you risk an ‘audit’, that is to say a rejection of your claim. It is then very difficult to go back and refund the chances are very low.

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