Taxpayers are being asked to submit outstanding tax returns that date back decades after the Australian Taxation Office updated its online portal for tax time 2020.
Reports of the peculiarity emerged this month, when Australians eager to submit their tax returns for the 2019-20 financial year were alarmed to find one or more “overdue” returns.
The outstanding returns appear in the ‘for action’ box of the ATO’s online service platform for individuals, which previously showed lodgements information for only the past three years.
Good news! The @ato_gov_au has taken a good 18-20 years to think about it, but they’ve suddenly decided to let me know that my 2000-2002 tax returns are OUTSTANDING In spite of their praise, I remain humble. pic.twitter.com/RCaTdaRg7d— Tim Watkins (@_timwatkins) July 3, 2020
This meant that the section appeared up-to-date even when there were years where the ATO’s records were incomplete, and a return or non-lodgment advice had not been lodged.
A spokesperson told iTnews the ‘for action’ box had “been updated to show all outstanding income tax returns or activity statements rather than the last three financial years”.
The department said the changes had been made “in response to taxpayer feedback that only showing the last three years’ obligations was misleading”.
“The information relates to income years in which the taxpayer has neither lodged a return, nor advised the ATO that they do not need to lodge a return for that year,” it said.
But the financial years labelled “overdue” in the ‘for action’ box include years where no income tax return or “non-lodgment advice” application was lodged.
This includes years where a person generated no income, but was registered with a tax file number.
Log into the ATO and they want me to submit a tax return from 2004? WTF? I was 15... if I had to have done a tax return, it would have been my first one and I would have done it.... but I can't even remember???— Elle Young (@radiostarelle) July 8, 2020
“Overdue” years also include those beyond the five-year retention period that the ATO suggests for records.
The changes come as the ATO faces one of its most difficult tax times in years, with Australians rushing to submit their tax returns early as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
As at July 9, almost a million people had reportedly lodged their returns.
The ATO said that any taxpayers concerned by the outstanding returns should check whether they need to submit a return or just provide non-lodgment advice.
This can be done through the ‘do I need to lodge tool’ on the ATO website or by contacting a client services representative.
“Taxpayers can still lodge their 2020 income tax return even if they have returns for prior years outstanding,” the spokesperson added.