The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) is likely gearing up to issue fines to Australians who fail to lodge their tax return in the coming three weeks. 

“Self-lodgers who fail to lodge a tax return by 31 October could be hit with an immediate late lodgement penalty of $313,” H&R Block director of tax communications Mark Chapman said.

That could then increase by another $313 for each 28-day period the return remains late, up to a maximum of $1565.

“If you still fail to lodge once the maximum penalty is reached, the ATO can issue you with a default assessment [an estimate of your income] or they can prosecute you,” Mr Chapman said.

But there is a way in which ordinary Australians can bypass the deadline.

“You can actually lodge much later than that without being penalised; you simply need to be registered as a tax agent client by 31 October,” he said.

 “The ATO gives tax agents concessional extended deadlines, which mean that they can lodge returns on behalf of clients up to 15 May 2024 without incurring any penalty.

“If you think you may not be able to meet the 31 October deadline, you should now be giving serious thought to visiting a tax agent.”

Costs incurred from a tax professional when lodging your tax return are also tax deductible.

Further, if you’re confident that you won’t owe additional tax on submitting your tax return, you might end up dodging the fine.

“The good news is that, whilst the penalty is normally applied automatically, it is not normally applied to returns that either have a nil result or generate a refund,” Mr Chapman said.

“In addition, where a penalty is applied, the ATO will sometimes remit it where it is ‘fair and reasonable to do so’, for example in the event of natural disaster or serious illness.”

Most Australian earners who brought in more than the tax-free threshold ($18,200 annually) or who had tax deducted from their pay over the year to 30 June must lodge a tax return. 

However, earners might find their refund is smaller than it has been in other years following the removal of the much-loved ‘lamington’, or the Low Middle Income Tax Offset.

Low- and middle-income earners could find their upcoming tax refunds are as much as $1,500 smaller than they were last year.

Many have also reported facing large tax bills thanks to higher wages and higher interest rates on deposit products, which are taxed as income.

Check out:’s Income Tax Calculator 

Working from home deductions targeted 

Australians working from home for some or all of their weeks who also hope to deduct related expenses should be cautious when doing so, Mr Chapman warns. 

“The ATO has recently taken action against the millions of taxpayers who work from home and have been claiming working from home expenses as a tax deduction,” he said. 

“Of course, they don’t phrase it that way. 

“Instead, they talk about simplifying the system and making it easier for taxpayers to claim. 

“But the effect is clear – many taxpayers will struggle to make a claim this year and of those that do, the majority will see far smaller claims.”

From July 2022, workers who conduct their duties from home can claim a tax deduction of 67 cents per hour they did so last financial year. 

This is a reduction from the 80c per hour method during Covid years.

The blanket method is intended to cover the cost of things like:

  • Energy
  • Phone
  • Internet
  • Stationery and computer consumables

However, a person needs to have kept strict records to make a claim under the ‘simplified’ method.

“The biggest burden of the new fixed rate is the amount of substantiation required to claim,” Mr Chapman said.

“You need to keep a record of all the hours worked from home for the entire income year … from 1 March 2023. 

“Before then, a four-week representative diary or similar document will be required for the period of 1 July 2022 to 28 February 2023.

“In addition, records must be kept for each expense that you have incurred which is covered by the fixed rate per hour.

“For example, if you use your phone and electricity when working from home, you must keep one bill for each of these expenses.”

Image by Radu Prodan on Unsplash.