How to get more time to lodge this year's tax return


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If you plan to lodge your tax return yourself, the deadline is fast approaching.

October 31 is the latest date for self-lodgers to get their tax returns in to the ATO. Lodge after that and you run the risk of incurring a late lodgement penalty.

Taxpayers who use a tax agent can often lodge well beyond that deadline without penalty. Agents are given concessional extended deadlines which mean that they can lodge returns on behalf of clients up to May 15, 2018, without incurring any penalty.

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If you are concerned that you can't meet the October 31 deadline, you should now be giving serious thought to visiting a tax agent. You must be registered with the agent by October 31 to benefit from the extended deadline.

Self-lodgers who fail to lodge by October 31 could be hit with an immediate penalty of $210, increasing by a further $210 for each successive 28-day period that the return remains outstanding, up to a maximum of $1050.

With only a couple of weeks to go, many taxpayers will be feeling the pressure and should really be considering using an agent, particularly if they've been deterred from completing their return so far by the complexity of the task.

Not lodged your 2016 return yet?

The bad news is that if you have a return outstanding from an earlier year, such as 2016, you can't take advantage of the extended deadlines for your 2017 return, even if you use an agent.

So you must lodge this year's return by October 31, 2017 to avoid a late-lodgement penalty.

And while you're about it, it makes sense to get any prior year returns done too. Don't worry if you're missing information about your income and/or deductions for those earlier years.

Your tax agent will typically be able to help by drawing on information already held by the ATO and advising you on what deductions you can claim.

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Mark Chapman is director of tax communications at H&R Block, Australia's largest firm of tax accountants, and is a regular contributor to Money. Mark is the author of Life and Taxes: A Look at Life Through Tax.