Tax time is here again. Most people hate tax time. The stress of organising paperwork and waiting for statements to arrive, followed by the worst part of all. Filling in the tax return. Possibly the most boring activity known to man, after being forced to listen to teenage angst poetry. The inarticulately expressed triteness of teenage unrequited love has nothing on filling in your tax return. Doing your tax yourself can be sheer agony, matched only by the horrors of pre-anaesthetic dentistry. Even if you're organised, it's pretty bad.
The agony and the ecstasy
It doesn't necessarily have to be like that. I will admit, up until a few years ago, I did my own tax. It took me several hours, which I could have been spending at the pub, drinking with my University mates, or pretending to work on assignments. That's what finally got me thinking. Why am I doing MY tax, at great discomfort to myself, when I can get SOMEONE ELSE to do it for me, albeit at a small fee? I suppose being a 'povvo' Uni student made me reluctant to part with money I wouldn't get back until tax time next year. Anyway, finally a combination of confusion, frustration, and morbid dread of what the Tax Man might do to me if I made a boo-boo eventually got the better of me. I went to a tax agent.
I highly recommend shopping around for an accountant or tax agent to do your tax, the same way you shop around for a reputable plumber, a reliable solicitor, and a good bloke who fixes heaters. By far the best way to do this is to ask people you know whom they use. Most people love to tell you when they got a good deal, and as a result, it's usually pretty hard to get in to see a good accountant. They are worth their weight in gold. Apart from leaving the really complicated thinking bits to someone else - ie, an accountant - there are some other things you can do if you want to make tax time a little more rewarding.
Pay a bit more tax
Consider not claiming the tax free threshold on your job, or on both jobs if you work more than one job. If you work for a weekly wage, you probably won't notice having less in your pay each week, but come tax time, you'll have paid tax on an extra $6000. It doesn't sound like much, but when I was at University and worked multiple jobs, I never claimed the tax-free threshold on any job, and in early November I used to get a nice little cheque in the mail because of it. Remember when we used to get our tax refunds by cheque?
These days, many people work multiple jobs, and if you're not living hand to mouth, you don't notice the little bit extra that you send to the government in your tax. They give it back to when you've done your tax, providing you didn't earn too much overall. If you find it really hard to save, this can be a good way to put away some money. I know if I had that $20 or more per week in my hand instead of paying it as tax, I'd just spend it on beer and lamb kebabs with garlic sauce. As a lump sum, I put it on the mortgage.
If you work for a dodgy employer, as I am sure we all have at one time or another, you might find they can't be bothered issuing you with a group certificate, now known as a Pay As You Go Payment Summary. Don't bother calling the Australian Tax Office or harrassing the employer. Instead, make as accurate an estimation of your earnings from that job as you can, and then toddle off to the police station and make a statutory declaration of your earnings, getting the nice police officer to sign it on your behalf. I have had to do this several times while I was working for dodgy, unscrupulous employers, and it has never been a problem when doing my tax. The ATO will accept a statutory declaration.
Save all the right receipts. I know, it sounds boring, but if you have a drawer somewhere in the lounge room for all those receipts (like when you bought steel capped safety shoes, or gave some money to the Salvation Army) come tax time, you have your own personal little gold mine. Uniforms and union fees can be claimed on your tax, so make sure you keep those receipts.
Finally, I know it sounds pessimistic, but if your accountant offers you audit insurance, consider taking it. That small amount of money you part with could save you money and peace of mind down the track. Tax time doesn't have to be traumatic. If you play your cards right, you could get a pleasant reward for your efforts.