Australians are being urged to take care when lodging their taxes as the ATO is flooded with a record-breaking volume of returns.
More than 740,000 Australians made online lodgings with the tax office on July 1, setting the biggest start to a financial year in the ATO’s history.
Those lodgings covered early super access requests, JobKeeper applications, and notably, a record number of tax returns.
July 1, 2019, saw only 100,000 lodgements hit the tax office website.
And the breakneck pace set on July 1 is yet to ease up. By July 16, the tax man had processed over 1.7 million returns – 12 per cent more than were received in the same period in 2019.
More than $1 billion in tax refunds have already been sent out to the bank accounts of over 450,000 workers.
While the tax office has not had any problems processing the increased lodgement volume, assistant commissioner Karen Foat is urging taxpayers to be careful not to make mistakes in their haste to file.
“So far, we’re looking at a record-breaking tax time in terms of lodgement numbers, but one thing we don’t want to see is a record-breaking number of easily avoidable errors,” she said.
“These errors slow down returns or might lead to an unexpected debt down the track. While we’re pleased that many early lodgers are getting it right, there are some trends in the issues we’ve been seeing.”
The most common mistakes
Thousands of Australians began working from home following the outbreak of the coronavirus at the start of the year.
To help taxpayers claim their work-from-home expenses, the ATO created a ‘shortcut’ method that allows workers to claim 80 cents per hour for all their running expenses, rather than calculate each individually.
Under this shortcut (which can be used until September 30) workers are not able to claim other work-from-home expenses.
But Ms Foat warned many workers, whether accidentally or deliberately, have tried to claim both.
“The 80 cents per hour short-cut method was developed to make things easy for taxpayers this year and takes into account all working from home costs such as electricity, depreciation on office furniture and laptops and phone, internet and stationery costs. It’s an all-inclusive rate,” she said.
“If you want to specifically claim the depreciation of big-ticket items like laptops or desks, you can use one of the existing methods, but you can’t double-dip and claim under the shortcut method as well.”
But this is not the only mistake catching taxpayers out.
Many have also been copying and pasting their deductions from the previous year, and while most have remembered to increase deductions where they’ve spent more, they haven’t reduced claims when they’ve spent less.
“If you aren’t travelling for work, you can’t claim travel expenses,” Ms Foat said.
“If you aren’t wearing your work uniform, you can’t claim laundry expenses.”