Do you need to lodge a tax return?

If you've received family assistance during a financial year, you or your partner need to either lodge tax returns for that year or tell us you don't have to lodge one. You need to do this so we can pay you the right amount of family assistance.

Find out if you need to lodge a tax return

Most people need to lodge a tax return, but there are some exceptions. The quickest and easiest ways to find out if you need to lodge a return is to use the online tool on the Australian Taxation Office website.

If you don't need to lodge

If you or your partner don't need to lodge a tax return, you need to tell us and confirm your income for the year. The quickest and easiest way to do this is using your Centrelink online account, the Express Plus families mobile app or your One Time Access Code. You will get a One Time Access Code if we send you a letter, SMS or email reminding you to lodge your tax return.

In some situations, we won’t be able to accept your advice that you or your partner don’t need to lodge a tax return. This will happen where circumstances indicate you do need to lodge, for example where you or your partner:

  • had taxable income above the tax free threshold ($18,200 for 2012-13)
  • were entitled to receive, or had to pay child support
  • had an interest in a business or were self-employed
  • had tax withheld from your payment or income, or
  • had reportable fringe benefits or reportable superannuation contributions

We will refer you to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) to check your details and either lodge an income tax return or complete a ‘Non-lodgement Advice’.

Even if you have told us you don't need to lodge a tax return, we may still confirm your income with the ATO. We will use data such as payment summaries lodged by your employers and declarations from financial institutions about interest earned or dividends received.

If you pay or receive child support and you don't have to lodge a tax return, you should still tell Child Support what your taxable income is. You can do this online using your Child Support online account, by contacting Child Support or by using the Child Support income declaration form.

How to use your One Time Access Code to tell us you don't need to lodge a tax return

You would have received a One Time Access Code if we sent you a letter, SMS or email reminding you to lodge your tax return or to tell us if you or your partner don't need to lodge one. With this One Time Access Code, you can tell us that you or your partner don't need to lodge a tax return without having to log on to your Centrelink online account. Every customer gets their own One Time Access Code to make updating their information quick and easy.

If you have your One Time Access Code and your Customer Reference Number, you can tell us you or your partner are not required to lodge a tax return right now.

Alternatively, you can register or log on to your Centrelink online account, or use the Express Plus Families mobile app to let us know.

If you do need to lodge

If you do need to lodge a tax return, do so as soon as possible so we can pay you the right amount of family assistance. We use the information you give to the ATO to work out how much family assistance you're entitled to. This is balanced against the income estimate you provided to us, and any payments you received during the year. If you have a partner, we are required to take their information into account as well.

When we've balanced your entitlement, we'll send you a letter to let you know the outcome. You don't need to contact us. Lodging your tax return as soon as you can will ensure you continue to get the right payments on time. If you claim your family assistance after the end of the financial year, you and your partner need to lodge tax returns and have your income details confirmed by the ATO before we can pay you.

Please note that supplying details to your accountant or tax agent does not mean your tax returns have been lodged with the ATO. If you are unsure if your tax return has been lodged with the ATO, check with your accountant or tax agent.

If you don’t lodge a tax return

You and your partner now have only 1 year instead of 2 years to lodge your tax return or tell us you are not required to lodge a tax return in order to receive your full Family Tax Benefit entitlements. Read more about changes to the time period for lodging lump sum claims and confirming income.

If you and your partner haven't lodged your tax returns with the ATO or told us you don't need to lodge within 1 year after the end of the financial year:

  • you may have to pay back any Family Tax Benefit you received that year
  • your fortnightly Family Tax Benefit payments may be stopped, and
  • you'll lose access to additional payments like the Family Tax Benefit supplements

For the 2011-12 financial year and earlier years, you have two years to lodge your tax returns or tell us you don't need to lodge in order to receive additional payments like the Family Tax Benefit supplements.