Free help for low-income earners
If you want free help completing your tax return and you are on a low income, our trained Tax Help volunteers may be able to help you.
What is Tax Help?
Tax Help is a network of community volunteers who provide a free and confidential service to help people complete their tax returns at tax time. They can also give you advice on how to complete your tax return next time.
These volunteers are people from within the community who give up their time each year. They are not ATO staff, but they receive training and support from us.
Where is Tax Help available?
Tax Help is available in all capital cities and many country centres across Australia, with volunteers operating from convenient locations in the community. In most places, the service is available from July to October.
Who is Tax Help for?
Tax Help is for people on low incomes, including, but not restricted to, those who are also:
people from non-English speaking backgrounds
people with a disability
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
Since tax can be complex, volunteers are only able to help with fairly straightforward tax returns. They can help identify and record income received through:
Australian government benefits and allowances, such as unemployment and sickness benefits
salary or wages
Are you eligible for Tax Help?
You are eligible for Tax Help if your income is around $50,000 or less for the income year and none of the following situations applied to you in the income year 2011-12:
You were employed as a contractor – for example, a contract cleaner or taxi driver.
You were in business, including being a sole trader.
You sold shares.
You sold an investment property.
You owned a rental property.
You received royalties.
You received distributions from a trust other than a managed fund.
You received foreign income other than a foreign pension or annuity.
If you are not eligible for Tax Help, you can find information to help you complete your tax return by using either:
Individual tax return instructions 2012.
Some of the benefits of using e-tax include:
free preparation and lodgment of your return
easy to use, with built-in help
safe and secure
most refunds in 12 working days
tax debts not due before 21 November, even if you lodge as early as 1 July.
This year it’s even easier, with online access to your personal information, including:
your Centrelink payment summary
salary or wage information
details of your bank interest.
To download e-tax from 1 July 2012, visit E-tax essentials.
What can Tax Help volunteers help with?
If you need to complete a tax return, a volunteer can help you. In some cases, people on low incomes do not need to lodge tax returns. Tax Help volunteers can work out if a tax return is necessary in your case. If it is not necessary, and you lodged a tax return last year, it is important that we know this. Tax Help volunteers can help you to fill out a Non-lodgment advice if this is necessary. Tax Help volunteers will also be able to help you with claims for refund of imputation credits.
Help that is not available
Tax Help volunteers cannot help you with:
business tax returns
partnership and trust matters
capital gains tax (CGT)
What to read/do next
Once you have worked out if you are eligible for the Tax Help program and want to make an appointment, phone us on 13 28 61. Tax Help is only available in July to October each year.
If you would like to know more about the volunteer program, see Becoming a Tax Help volunteer or Tax Help centre.
Becoming a Tax Help volunteer or Tax Help centre
How did Tax Help start?
Tax Help began as a pilot program in Newcastle, NSW in 1988. It has since expanded to cover the whole country.
Why was Tax Help established?
Tax Help was established to help people who have difficulty completing their own tax returns. These people are often unable or unwilling to approach us when they need help, but they feel comfortable seeking assistance from someone in their community. There are others who do not have access to one of our local offices, so Tax Help provides an important alternative.
Our enquiries service can help people with queries about specific aspects of their tax affairs, but cannot complete people’s tax returns for them. Tax Help can.
What does a Tax Help volunteer do?
Tax Help volunteers help people with fairly straightforward tax matters and tell clients whether they need to lodge a tax return.
Tax Help volunteers help clients with tax returns, as well as claims for refunds of franking credits. They help clients prepare tax returns using e-tax and, where possible, lodge electronically.
Tax Help volunteers actively encourage clients to prepare the tax return themselves.
What does a Tax Help centre do?
Tax Help volunteers operate from Tax Help centres located in a range of community venues, such as libraries, community centres and migrant resource centres. A centre supports the volunteer by taking appointments from people seeking Tax Help assistance, coordinating service availability with the volunteer, and providing facilities such as power, telephone and office furniture. Where possible, centres provide computer access to allow tax returns to be lodged electronically. The centre also advertises the service so that members of the community are aware that help is available.
More than 800 Tax Help centres are active in capital cities and country areas across Australia.
Who is Tax Help for?
Tax Help is for people on low incomes who need help with their tax returns. These taxpayers include seniors, people from non-English speaking backgrounds, those with a disability, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other people with special needs.
Tax Help volunteers provide guidance to those clients wanting to do their own tax returns and explain the benefits of using e-tax to prepare and lodge personal tax returns. They can also provide assurance to those who have completed their return that they have done it correctly.
If you want free help completing your tax return and you are on a low income, ATO-trained Tax Help volunteers may be able to help you.