Claiming your Australian tax return from overseas

Samuel Clennett
30.06.20
4 minute read

Lodging an Australian tax return from overseas sounds harder than it is. Because you can do pretty much everything online, the actual process of submitting your tax return to the Australian Taxation Office is similar no matter where you are.

However, there are potentially some differences in the process if you’re living abroad, because changing your place of residence can affect your tax status.

So, in this article we’ll talk you through how to file an Australian tax return from overseas – including the key question of whether you have to or not.

This guide is intended for information only, and is not individual tax advice. If you’re unsure about how to manage the tax liabilities of your business, seek professional guidance from a tax accountant.

How to lodge an Australian tax return?

Whether you’re in Australia or overseas, all working Australian residents need to lodge a tax return each financial year (1 July to 30 June). The deadline is 31 October if you’re doing it yourself¹.

It’s a pain to have to do it every year, but overall it’s a good thing, as you might be able to claim some money back.

The simplest way to lodge an Australian tax return is online, via the government’s myTax service. If you’re a newbie to the system, this is the process for getting started²:

  1. Get a myGov account, if you don’t already have one. You can register for this online.
  2. Connect your myGov account to the ATO. By filling in a few details and confirming your identity, you can make sure that your ATO record is connected to your account.
  3. Use myTax to lodge your tax return. The online service will guide you through the process, step by step. The ATO recommends August or September as the best time to do this.

Alternatively, you can hire a registered tax agent to do your tax return for you. You’ll need to provide them with all the financial information they need. And pay them, obviously.

Is it different for people living abroad?

Lodging an Australian tax return online is the same process if you live abroad – you can still use myGov and myTax.

Alternatively, you can send your tax return by post, hire an Australian tax agent to do it, or even get a friend or member of your family to do it on your behalf – so long as you give them power of attorney³. All that said, the online system may well prove the easiest.

However, there are some other considerations to bear in mind if you’re living overseas.

Do I have to file an Australian tax return if I’m living abroad?

The short answer is that you may well do, yes.

If your trip abroad is only temporary, or you’re working an Australian job based overseas, then you’ll almost certainly remain an Australian resident, and will have to file a tax return⁴.

If you become a foreign resident, you do still have to lodge an Australian tax return if you have any income derived in Australia. That includes employment income, rental income, most pensions and annuities, and Australia-based capital gains⁴,⁵.

If you’re resident abroad and you don’t have any Australian income, you can get a tax agent to lodge a “Return Not Necessary” form for you⁶. Then, no, you won’t have to file a return.

If I’m leaving Australia, can I lodge my tax return early?

Assuming you’re leaving to become a foreign resident and won’t be receiving any Australian income, there’s a chance you can speed up the paperwork and lodge your tax return early.

You’ll have to do this the old-fashioned way – by filling in a form and posting it to the ATO in your capital city. The form you’ll need is the Tax Return for Individuals⁷.

Are there any services which can help me?

For help lodging an Australian tax return from overseas, try the following places for help:

Can I receive my tax return to an overseas bank account?

If you lodge your tax return online, you’ll need to provide the ATO with details for an Australian bank account – a foreign bank account won’t suffice¹⁰.

So unfortunately it isn’t possible to pay your taxes from, or receive a rebate into, your overseas account, assuming you’re planning to lodge online.

One convenient solution is a TransferWise borderless account. This is a multi-currency account that gives you bank details for Australia, New Zealand, the US, the UK, and the EU – so that you can both pay and get paid like a local in any of those currencies, all into the one account.

Within the borderless account, you can convert money between currencies at the real mid-market rate, with only a minimal percentage fee for the conversion. It makes sending money around the world an average of 10x cheaper than with leading Australian banks¹¹. You even get a free Platinum debit Mastercard.

That’s one way to make sure that the annoying process of lodging your Australian tax return, doesn’t become needlessly expensive. Plus it’ll come in handy any time you need to send money internationally – whether that’s to friends and family back home, or just buying something from abroad.

Sources:

  1. ATO Lodging Tax Return
  2. ATO Lodging first Tax Return
  3. ATO Lodging Tax Return From Outside Australia
  4. ATO How residency affects your tax return
  5. ATO Residency for taxes - Factsheet
  6. Do I need to lodge a tax return
  7. ATO Early Tax Return
  8. ATO Using a Tax agent
  9. Finding a Tax Practitioner
  10. ATO Lodging Tax Return From Outside Australia
  11. TransferWise - Borderless

All sources accurate as of 28 June 2020

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