Tax

Tax refunds hit $10 billion as ATO processes four million returns

Matthew Elmas /

The tax office has refunded $10 billion so far this tax time, up a whopping $2 billion from this time last year, as Australians rush to access their offsets.

In a Herculean effort, the ATO has managed to process more than four million refunds, up from three million this time last year, despite having to deal with the intricacies of single touch payroll (STP) implementation and the federal government’s recently legislated tax offset.

Assistant commissioner Karen Foat said staffers have been “working around the clock” to get refunds out over the last month-and-a-half, with most returns processed in less than two weeks.

The tax office, as usual, has been asking Australians to wait until August to lodge their returns, this year recognising STP reporting would delay the finalisation of income statements for many smaller firms.

But in the wake of the federal government legislating a $1,080 tax offset for some 4.5 million Australians, call centres have been flooded with incoming enquiries.

As efforts to process more returns continue, the ATO has issued some advice for taxpayers to ensure their returns aren’t delayed — information particularly relevant for those who lodged before pre-fill was available.

Foat says forgetting to declare income sources has been a “big obstacle” for some taxpayers.

Common things people forget to include are rental income, bank interest and government allowances or payments — particularly if they lodged before our pre-fill was available,” Foat said in a statement circulated on Thursday.

“If our data shows us that you’ve likely left out income, that can slow down the processing of your return while we make additional checks.”

Improper income claims can also lead to unusual returns that are “out of the norm” for a given occupation and income level, likely to be flagged by the ATO systems.

“While we want people to claim what they are entitled to, where claims seem unusual we may do some additional checks, which could mean longer until you get your refund,” Foat said.

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Matthew Elmas

Matthew is the news editor at SmartCompany. You can contact him at [email protected].