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How to make lodging your tax return as painless as possible

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Another tax year is over and it's time to gather all your paperwork and prepare your tax return.

Whether you intend to get an agent to lodge for you or to do it yourself, here are some tips to make the process as smooth as possible.

If you intend to lodge early, don't rely on the income information pre-loaded into your tax return by the tax office. Most income information is reported to the ATO by third parties such as employers and banks but this doesn't necessarily happen immediately.

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Many third parties don't provide the ATO with the necessary information until mid-August. So if you want a quick refund and intend to lodge in July, the information you download may be incomplete. Check it carefully.

While it is a relatively quick process these days, it still takes the ATO up to two weeks to process your return and issue a refund. There's no point chasing the ATO (or your tax agent) before then.

Gather all your paperwork into a well-organised file.

Whether you are self-preparing or lodging through an accountant, it makes the process easier and quicker if you have all your documentation in the right order. If you don't have supporting documentation for deductions (if they total $300-plus), you can't claim them, so it pays to hunt around the house or office for missing items.

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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.
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