The October 31 tax deadline is looming


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Haven't lodged your tax return yet? It's time to get cracking to pocket your refund sooner.

October 31 marks the final date for do-it-yourself tax returns to be lodged. Miss the date, and the outcome could be a lot scarier than the jack-o-lantern you've been working on.

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) says more than 7.9 million people have lodged their tax returns since July 1. However, that's 400,000 fewer lodgments than this time last year, which suggests plenty of people are yet to get their tax return sorted.

october 31 tax deadline

How long will it take to lodge my tax return?

If your tax affairs are straightforward, you should be able to lodge online through the myGov portal.

Most of the information you need will be pre-filled. Just check everything is correct, add any additional income, and claim the deductions you're entitled to.

The ATO says preparing and lodging your return online can take as little as 30 minutes.

If you need help, or you're likely to owe a tax debt, it can be worth speaking with a registered tax agent.

Using a tax agent can give you more time to lodge your return, providing breathing space to get the funds together to pay any tax owing.

If you plan on using a tax agent, you will need to be on their books by October 31.

What if I fudge the numbers? 

While the end of October is fast approaching, it doesn't pay to rush your return. Take the time to be sure all the details are accurate.

The ATO is warning that work-related expenses should accurately reflect your working arrangements for the 2022/23 year - don't just copy and paste from last year.

"We want people to get their deductions right on the first go and claim what they are entitled to - nothing more, nothing less," cautions ATO Assistant Commissioner Rob Thomson.

If in doubt, the ATO website features a series of 40 occupation and industry-specific guides that explain what can be claimed for various jobs.

Above all, resist the urge to fudge the figures.

Thomson warns, "It may be tempting to boost your refund by leaving out income or inflating your deductions - but remember, we have sophisticated data analytics that will pick up returns that look suspicious."

What happens if I don't lodge my tax return by October 31?

If you are owed a refund, the ATO is unlikely to impose late lodgment penalties. But why delay when the money could be in your hands rather than the tax man's?

It's when you owe a tax debt that you could be slugged with 'failure to lodge' penalties especially if you're a repeat late lodger.

The penalty starts at $313 for the first 28 days you miss the October 31 deadline. After that, the penalty can go as high as $1,565 depending on when you lodge.

If you're holding off lodging your tax return out of concerns you owe a tax debt, contact the ATO or speak to your tax agent before the due date to discuss the support available.

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A former Chartered Accountant, Nicola Field has been a regular contributor to Money for 20 years, and writes on personal finance issues for some of Australia's largest financial institutions. She is the author of Investing in Your Child's Future and Baby or Bust, and has collaborated with Paul Clitheroe on a variety of projects including radio scripts, newspaper columns, and several books.