Hours to ATO deadline: Your options to avoid $313 fine

October 31 is the deadline for Aussies to lodge their tax returns for the 2022-23 financial year.

Today is the last day Aussies can lodge their tax returns with the Australian Taxation Office (ATO), or risk being hit with an immediate fine that will keep on growing.

October 31 is the deadline for taxpayers to either lodge their own tax returns for the 2022-23 financial year, or engage with a registered tax agent.

If you miss tonight's self-lodge deadline, you will be hit with a $313 fine. This fine increases by a further $313 every 28 days the return is late, up to a maximum of $1,565.

ATO tax deadline
Aussies lodging their tax returns themselves need to do so before the ATO's deadline of midnight tonight. (Source: Yahoo Finance)

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CPA head of policy and advocacy Elinor Kasapidis said some Aussies had been delaying lodging their tax returns because they expected to receive smaller returns or a tax bill.

“We’ve all heard stories about people getting less back this year on tax. The main reason for this is the end of the low and middle-income tax offset,” Kasapidis said.

“Some people may be putting off lodging their tax returns because they don’t want to receive bad news.”

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What happens if I miss the tax deadline?

If you miss the October 31 deadline, you can be hit with a fine for late lodgement.

This starts at $313 and can increase every 28 days, up to five times, until your return is lodged. That means it could grow to $1,565 over five months.

If you do miss the deadline, Kasapidis advises getting in touch with the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) as soon as possible.

“The ATO will usually take your personal circumstances into account and may not apply a penalty if this is your only late lodgement,” Kasapidis said.

H&R Block director of tax communications Mark Chapman also noted the penalty was not normally applied to returns that either had a nil result or generated a refund.

"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," Chapman said.

If you are getting a tax agent to do your tax return, they will have until May 15, 2024 to lodge your return.

When will I receive my tax refund?

If you lodged your tax return online, you should receive any tax refund within two weeks. Paper tax returns are processed manually and can take up to 10 weeks.

Once you receive a notification that your refund has been processed, it can take up to five business days to hit your nominated bank account.

The ATO previously warned that most Aussies would receive a lower tax refund this year, while some might get nothing or owe money.

This is partly due to the low and middle income tax offset - which gave a temporary tax break of up to $1,500 to individuals - coming to an end.

When do I have to pay any tax bill?

If you owe money to the ATO, the deadline for payment is November 21, 2023, even if you lodge your tax return late.

If you miss this deadline, you will be charged interest on any amount owing. Interest will compound daily at an annual rate of 11.15 per cent.

If you can't pay what you owe in full and on time, you may be able to set up a payment plan with the ATO. This is where you pay an agreed amount weekly, fortnight or monthly until the balance is cleared.

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