Everybody loves the idea of getting a tax refund, but when it comes to the task of sitting down and doing your tax return, most of us would prefer to vacuum the dog’s kennel.
The Personal Tax deadline is October 31, a date that's easy to remember as it coincides with Halloween. Or perhaps you're like many Australians burying your head in the sand and focusing instead on whether to purchase a Scream mask, witch's hat or a zombie outfit.
CEO of online personal finance hub, MoneyBrilliant, Jemma Enright says the thought of doing financial work is tedious for most of us. Plus, there’s the anxiety that you’ll make a mistake, wind up owing big bucks at tax time – or worse, get audited. (That's when the Scream mask comes in handy).
“We all get that awful feeling that we may not be as well placed as we think we are,” said Enright.
So what are we really afraid of?
“We fear we owe money, which is sometimes unfounded. Australian Tax Office (ATO) figures claim that three out of four Australians get a tax refund and the average refund number is more than $3,500. So that’s a very good return for people,” Enright said.
“So that fear of ‘What if I have to go into my savings to pay the ATO?’ is not a reality for most people.”
The main factor holding people back is that we are living busy lives and often feel overwhelmed.
Tax time hangs over our heads and we are afraid of owing money. So we put it off.
“We need to just bite the bullet. It’s like going to the dentist. We all dread sitting in the chair but, once you’re there, you are fine. There are many ways online to do tax super-fast. So make that commitment to yourself.”
Jemma Enright’s personal tax tips: How to stop procrastinating.
1. If you’re a procrastinator, lock time in your diary. If you’re planning to do your tax yourself, the deadline is October 31. So that deadline is a real one. If you use an accountant, book it in now. Or, if you’re doing your tax yourself, book it your diary. Put pressure on yourself.
2. Make a tax date. Gather your things together and create the space. Go to a coffee shop or the library. Get your ear phones in, get yourself a coffee and just make time to get it done.
3. Reward yourself. Don’t go crazy because, hopefully, you will invest your tax refund wisely and don’t just see it as an opportunity to spend up big. But maybe give yourself a small reward once you get your tax return; a nice bottle of wine or a pair of shoes. Just don’t invest in your reward until you’ve done your tax.
4. One reason we procrastinate is because we’ve created a big job. For example, leaving it until the last minute to get 12 months’ worth of receipts together. Make sure you keep records, make folders in your email. There are plenty of great tools and apps to help you note your transactions that relate to tax. If you do bits and pieces throughout the year, when it comes to tax time it doesn’t feel like such a mammoth task.
5. If you are truly worried that perhaps this year you owe money to the ATO or you received an audit, remember there are many ways the ATO can help you get around those challenges. Don’t sit there on your own with your problems. Get in touch with the ATO and see if they can work out a payment plan. Just reach out and get the help you need if you have genuine concerns about your tax position.
Another thing to remember: many people don’t realise that because the world is so great in terms of technical and online systems, much of your information already exists. You just need to go online and make sure the information is correct and then fill out your tax return. You’ll be surprised how much your accountant already knows and then it’s just a matter of filling in the blanks.