Self-Employed Tax Return in Australia

If you’re self-employed in Australia, you need to file a tax return every year. While this task may seem daunting, it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Understanding the process of filing a self-employed tax return is essential to ensure compliance with Australian tax regulations and maximise your tax deductions.

This guide aims to provide you with insights and guidance on navigating the self-employed tax return process in Australia, empowering you to confidently fulfil your tax obligations and optimise your financial position.

From understanding the documentation required to exploring eligible deductions, this guide will help simplify the process and equip you with the knowledge needed to effectively manage your self-employed taxes in Australia.

How Does a Self-Employed Tax Return Work?

A self-employed tax return is a crucial document that self-employed individuals in Australia are required to file with the Australian Taxation Office (ATO). This return serves as a means to report your income and expenses for a specific financial year. By providing detailed information about your business income, deductions, and other relevant financial transactions, the ATO can accurately assess your tax liability.

When completing a self-employed tax return, you must report your income from all sources related to your self-employment activities, including sales, services rendered, and any other business-related earnings. Additionally, you need to account for deductible expenses, such as business-related purchases, equipment, supplies, and eligible running costs.

The ATO utilises the information provided in your tax return to calculate the amount of tax you owe for the financial year. This calculation considers various factors, including your income, allowable deductions, and applicable tax rates.

Filing an accurate and comprehensive self-employed tax return is crucial for ensuring compliance with tax laws and avoiding penalties or legal complications.

Who Needs To File for a Self-Employed Tax Return?

If you fall into any of the following categories, you are generally required to file a self-employed tax return in Australia:

  • Sole Traders: If you operate your business as a sole trader, meaning you are the sole owner and operator of your business, you must file a self-employed tax return.
  • Partnerships: If you are a partner in a business partnership, where two or more individuals carry on a business together and share in the profits and losses, each partner is responsible for filing their own self-employed tax return.
  • Trusts: If you are a beneficiary of a trust or operate a business through a trust structure, you are responsible for reporting your share of the trust’s income and deductions on your self-employed tax return.
  • Companies: If you operate your business as a company, the company itself is a separate legal entity and must file its own tax return. However, as a director or shareholder of the company, you may also need to report your personal income and expenses related to the company on your self-employed tax return.

What Income Do I Need To Report On My Self-Employed Tax Return?

When filing a self-employed tax return in Australia, it is important to report all income earned from various sources. Here are the main types of income that you typically need to include on your self-employed tax return:

  • Business Activities: Any income generated from your self-employment activities should be reported. This includes income from sales, services provided, fees, commissions, or any other payments received in the course of your business operations.
  • Rental Property: If you own rental properties and receive rental income, you are required to report this income on your self-employed tax return. This includes income from residential, commercial, or other types of rental properties.
  • Investments: Income earned from investments, such as interest, dividends, capital gains, or rental income from investment properties, must be included on your tax return. This also applies to income received from shares, managed funds, or other investment instruments.
  • Other Sources of Income: Any additional income you receive outside of your self-employment, such as income from part-time employment, government payments, or other sources, should also be reported on your self-employed tax return.

What Expenses Can I Claim On My Self-Employed Tax Return?

When filing your self-employed tax return in Australia, you can claim deductions for various expenses that are directly related to your self-employment activities. Here are some common expenses that you may be eligible to claim:

  • Office Supplies: Expenses for office supplies such as stationery, printer ink, paper, pens, and other necessary materials can be claimed as deductions.
  • Equipment: If you purchase or use equipment directly for your business, such as computers, software, tools, or machinery, you can claim a deduction for the cost or depreciation of these items over time.
  • Travel: If you incur travel expenses related to your self-employment, such as transportation costs, accommodation, meals, and incidental expenses while on business trips, you may be eligible to claim these expenses as deductions. However, it’s important to ensure that the travel is solely for business purposes.
  • Meals and Entertainment: You can claim a deduction for business-related meals and entertainment expenses, but only if they are directly related to your self-employment activities and you can demonstrate a clear connection to generating income for your business.
  • Insurance: Premiums paid for business-related insurance policies, such as professional indemnity insurance or public liability insurance, can generally be claimed as deductions.
  • Professional Fees: Fees paid for professional services, including accounting, legal, and tax advice, can be claimed as deductions.

How Do I File My Self-Employed Tax Return?

To file your self-employed tax return in Australia, follow the steps below.

  • Online: Create an account on the ATO website and submit your tax return electronically.
  • By Mail: Download the tax return form, fill it out manually, and mail it to the ATO.
  • By Phone: Call the ATO on 13 28 61 and follow the instructions to lodge your tax return.

Gather all necessary documents and meet the lodgment and payment deadlines. Consider seeking assistance from a tax professional for complex situations.

What are the Deadlines for Filing My Self-Employed Tax Return?

The general deadline for filing your self-employed tax return in Australia is 31 October each year. This applies to most individuals, including those who are self-employed. However, if you choose to lodge your tax return online using myTax or through a registered tax agent, you may be eligible for an extended deadline.

What Happens If I Don't File My Self-Employed Tax Return on Time?

If you fail to file your self-employed tax return by the designated deadline, you may be subject to penalties and interest charges imposed by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO). The specific consequences for late lodgment can include:

  • Late Lodgment Penalty: The ATO may impose a penalty for not filing your tax return on time. The penalty amount can vary based on the length of the delay and your circumstances. It is important to note that the penalty is calculated based on a daily rate, so the longer you delay, the higher the penalty will be.
  • Interest Charges: In addition to penalties, the ATO may also charge interest on any outstanding tax liabilities. The interest accrues daily on the unpaid amount, and it compounds over time. This means that the longer you delay filing your tax return and paying your taxes, the more interest you will accumulate.
  • Loss of Refunds or Benefits: Failing to lodge your self-employed tax return on time can result in a loss of potential refunds or benefits that you may be entitled to. If you’re eligible for any tax refunds or government assistance programs, timely lodgment is crucial to ensure you receive these entitlements.

Tips for Self-Employed Taxpayers

  • Keep good records of your income and expenses. This will make it easier to file your tax return and claim deductions.
  • Use a tax agent to help you file your tax return. A tax agent can help you understand the self-employed tax return process and ensure that you’re claiming all of the deductions that you’re entitled to.
  • Stay up-to-date with changes to the tax law. The tax law is constantly changing, so it’s important to stay up-to-date so that you don’t miss out on any deductions or credits.

Speak with a Tax Professional

Understanding and filing your self-employed tax return in Australia is crucial for compliance with tax regulations and maximising deductions. Navigating the complexities of self-employment taxes can be challenging, but our expert tax advisors are here to help.

By speaking with our experienced tax advisors, you can receive personalised guidance and support tailored to your specific self-employment circumstances. Our advisors will assist you in accurately reporting your income, claiming eligible deductions, and ensuring compliance with tax laws.

Don’t let the complexities of self-employed tax returns overwhelm you. Take the proactive step of speaking with our expert tax advisor today. They will provide you with the necessary expertise and guidance to optimise your tax position and meet your tax obligations effectively.

Contact us now to schedule a consultation and ensure a smooth self-employed tax return process in Australia.

Frequently Asked Questions

Yes, you may be able to claim deductions for home office expenses if you have a dedicated workspace used exclusively for your self-employment activities. Eligible expenses may include a portion of rent or mortgage interest, utilities, and depreciation of office equipment. However, specific criteria and documentation requirements apply.

It is essential to keep detailed records to substantiate your self-employed tax deductions. This includes invoices, receipts, bank statements, and other relevant documents related to your business income and expenses. Good record-keeping is crucial to ensure accurate reporting and compliance with the ATO’s requirements.

If your annual turnover exceeds the GST threshold (currently $75,000 per year), you are generally required to register for and pay Goods and Services Tax (GST) on your business income. However, there are some exceptions and specific rules based on your industry and the nature of your self-employment activities.

Yes, as a self-employed individual, you may be eligible to use the Simplified Depreciation Rules, also known as the instant asset write-off. This allows you to claim an immediate deduction for the business portion of certain asset purchases, subject to specific limits and eligibility criteria.



Engaging a registered tax agent can provide valuable expertise and assistance in navigating the complexities of self-employed tax returns. A tax agent can help ensure accurate reporting, maximise eligible deductions, and assist with lodgment extensions or negotiations with the ATO. However, it is important to choose a reputable and qualified tax agent for reliable guidance.

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