Tax Records You Need to Keep in Australia

Keeping accurate and organised tax records is essential for individuals and businesses in Australia to ensure compliance with tax laws and facilitate efficient tax reporting. Maintaining proper tax records not only helps in preparing accurate tax returns but also provides evidence and support in case of audits or inquiries by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO).

While specific record-keeping requirements may vary depending on individual circumstances and business structures, there are several key types of tax records that individuals and businesses should maintain. These records include income statements, expense receipts, financial statements, asset and property records, employment records, and other relevant documents.

In this discussion, we will delve into the importance of these tax records and highlight their significance in meeting regulatory requirements and effectively managing your tax obligations in Australia.

What are Tax Records?

Tax records are essential documents that serve as evidence and support for your tax return. These records provide details and documentation of your income, expenses, deductions, and other financial transactions related to your tax obligations.

Keeping accurate and organised tax records is crucial for meeting regulatory requirements, preparing accurate tax returns, and providing substantiation in case of an audit or review by the ATO.

Documents included in a tax record

Tax records can include a wide range of documents, such as:

  • Income statements: These include payment summaries, salary statements, and any other documentation that verifies the income you have earned.
  • Expense receipts: Receipts and invoices for business expenses, work-related expenses, rental property expenses, and other deductible expenses. These records help support your claims for deductions and reduce your taxable income.
  • Bank statements: These statements provide a record of your financial transactions, including deposits, withdrawals, and any interest earned. They can be used to reconcile your income and expenses and validate the accuracy of your tax return.
  • Invoices and sales records: If you run a business, you should keep records of your sales, invoices, and related documents to demonstrate your business income.
  • Asset and property records: Documents related to the purchase, sale, or disposal of assets and properties, such as real estate, vehicles, shares, or investments. These records can help calculate capital gains or losses and determine your tax obligations.
  • Employment records: This includes payslips, employment contracts, and records of employment-related benefits or allowances. These documents provide evidence of your income and any applicable deductions or tax withholdings.
  • Tax returns and notices of assessment: It’s important to retain copies of your filed tax returns and any notices of assessment received from the ATO. These records provide a historical record of your tax affairs and serve as a reference for future tax planning.

How Long Do You Need to Keep Tax Records?

In general, the ATO recommends that taxpayers keep their tax records for a minimum of five years. This five-year period starts from the date of lodgment of the tax return or the date of the relevant transaction, whichever is later.

It is important to note that this timeframe applies to most taxpayers; however, there may be exceptions and specific circumstances where longer record retention is necessary.

Here are a few examples where longer record-keeping periods may be required:

  • Capital assets: If you claim deductions or capital gains tax (CGT) on capital assets, such as a property or a vehicle, it is advisable to retain the related records for at least five years after the asset is sold or disposed of. These records are crucial for calculating capital gains or losses and substantiating the tax treatment of the asset.
  • Business records: If you are a business owner, the ATO suggests keeping tax records related to your business activities for a minimum of five years. This includes records of income, expenses, invoices, receipts, and financial statements.
  • Superannuation records: For individuals, it is recommended to keep records related to superannuation contributions, rollovers, and pension payments for at least five years. These records can help verify any claims, assess tax obligations, and provide information for retirement planning.
  • Records under investigation or disputes: If you are involved in any ongoing tax investigation, audit, or dispute with the ATO, it is prudent to retain all relevant records until the matter is resolved, even if it extends beyond the standard five-year period.

What Records Do You Need to Keep?

To ensure compliance with tax laws and facilitate accurate reporting, it is important to keep various records. While the specific records required may vary based on individual circumstances, here are some key records that the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) recommends taxpayers keep:

Income records

  • Payment summaries, group certificates, or statements of earnings from employers: These documents provide evidence of your salary, wages, or other employment income.
  • Income from other sources: Keep records of income received from dividends, rental properties, government payments, or any other sources of income.

Expense records

  • Receipts or invoices for deductible expenses: It is crucial to keep receipts and invoices for expenses that you intend to claim as deductions on your tax return. These can include work-related expenses, self-education expenses, or rental property expenses.
  • Records of donations made to registered charities: If you make donations and wish to claim deductions, keep records of the donations made, including receipts from the charities.

Bank and financial statements

  • Bank statements: These statements provide a record of your income deposits and expense payments. They serve as evidence of financial transactions and can help reconcile your income and expenses.
  • Statements from investment accounts: Keep records of statements from investment accounts, including shares, managed funds, or interest-earning accounts. These statements provide details of transactions, dividends, or distributions received.

Invoices and purchase records

  • Invoices or receipts for goods and services: Keep invoices and receipts for any purchases made for your business or investment activities. These records support your claims for expenses and enable accurate reporting.
  • Records of business purchases: Maintain records of business-related purchases, such as office supplies, equipment, or inventory. These records help track expenses and calculate depreciation or immediate deductions.

Employment records

  • Payslips or payment summaries: Retain copies of payslips or payment summaries provided by employers, as they document your income and tax withheld.
  • Records of employment-related benefits or allowances: Keep records of any benefits or allowances received as part of your employment, such as car allowances or meal allowances.

Records of asset acquisitions and disposals

  • Documents related to the purchase or sale of capital assets: Retain documentation for significant purchases or sales, such as property, vehicles, or shares. These records help determine the cost base and calculate capital gains or losses.
  • Records of capital improvements or repairs: Keep records of any capital improvements or repairs made to assets, as they may affect the cost base and CGT calculations.

Rental property records

  • Rental income records: Maintain rent receipts or rental statements to substantiate rental income received from tenants.
  • Records of expenses related to rental properties: Keep receipts and records of expenses related to rental properties, such as repairs, maintenance, insurance, or property management fees.

Superannuation records

  • Contributions made to superannuation funds: Keep records of contributions made to your superannuation account, whether they are employer contributions, personal contributions, or salary sacrifice contributions.
  • Statements from superannuation funds: Retain statements from your superannuation fund detailing account balances, contributions, investment earnings, and withdrawals.

Other relevant documents

  • Contracts, agreements, or legal documents: Keep copies of contracts, agreements, or legal documents related to financial transactions, business activities, or investments.
  • Records of any capital gains or losses: Maintain records of capital gains or losses, including calculations, supporting documents, and relevant tax forms (such as the Capital Gains Tax Schedule).

How to Keep Your Tax Records Safe

It is important to keep your tax records safe and secure. To keep your tax records safe and secure, follow these practices:

  • Secure storage: Choose a secure location for your physical tax records, such as a fireproof and waterproof safe or a locked filing cabinet. Keep them away from potential hazards like moisture, sunlight, or extreme temperatures.
  • Regular backups: If storing your records electronically, create regular backups to protect against data loss. Consider using encrypted external hard drives or reputable cloud storage services. Test your backups periodically to ensure they are working properly.
  • Strong passwords and encryption: Use strong, unique passwords for your electronic accounts and consider using password manager applications. Encrypt sensitive files to add an extra layer of security to your digital tax records.
  • Separate personal and business records: Maintain separate records for personal and business finances. This helps in accurate tax reporting and reduces the risk of confusion or complications during audits or reviews.
  • Retention beyond minimum period: While the recommended retention period for tax records is five years, consider keeping important records for longer, especially for capital assets or ongoing tax disputes. This ensures that you have access to historical records if needed.

Considerations for Australian Expats and Foreign Investors

If you are an Australian expat or foreign investor, you will still need to keep your Australian tax records. The ATO may ask to see your records if you ever return to Australia, or if you make a claim for a tax refund.

Here are some tips for keeping your tax records as an Australian expat or foreign investor:

  • Digital format: As an Australian expat or foreign investor, keeping your tax records in a digital format is advisable. This allows for easy access to your records from anywhere in the world. Utilise secure cloud storage or digital document management systems to store and organise your records.
  • Regular backups: Ensure you regularly back up your digital tax records to protect against data loss. Backing up your records to external hard drives, cloud storage, or other secure platforms provides an additional layer of security and ensures their availability.
  • Safe and secure storage: Whether your tax records are physical or digital, store them in a safe and secure location. If you have physical documents, consider using a fireproof and waterproof safe or a locked filing cabinet. For digital records, employ strong passwords and encryption to safeguard sensitive information.
  • ATO’s record-keeping requirements: Stay informed about the Australian Taxation Office’s record-keeping requirements for Australian expats and foreign investors. Familiarise yourself with the specific regulations and obligations relevant to your situation. The ATO’s website provides guidance and resources to help you understand and comply with these requirements.
  • Compliance and documentation: Keep in mind that the ATO may ask to see your tax records if you return to Australia or make a claim for a tax refund. Ensure your records are complete, accurate, and compliant with Australian tax laws. Maintain the necessary documentation to support your tax filings and any claims you make.

Speak with a Tax Professional

It is important to keep your tax records for the required period of time. This will help you to ensure that your tax return is accurate, and that you are not at risk of being audited by the ATO.

If you have any queries or need assistance with your tax records, do not hesitate to speak with our team of expert tax advisors. Our professionals are well-versed in Australian tax laws and can provide the expertise and support you need to effectively manage your tax obligations and maintain accurate records.

Remember, by seeking the help of a tax professional, you can gain peace of mind, optimize your tax position, and ensure compliance with all necessary regulations. Contact our expert tax advisors today to get the guidance you need for your tax record-keeping and related tax matters.

Frequently Asked Questions

In Australia, it is recommended to keep your tax records for at least five years from the date of lodgment or the date of the relevant transaction, whichever is later. However, it’s important to note that for certain situations, such as capital assets or ongoing tax disputes, it may be necessary to retain records for longer periods.

Consult the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) or a tax professional for specific requirements based on your circumstances.



The records you should keep for your tax return in Australia include:

  • Receipts and invoices for expenses you claim as deductions.
  • Bank statements showing income deposits and expense payments.
  • Invoices or receipts for goods and services you purchase.
  • Payslips or payment summaries from employers.
  • Statements from investment accounts.
  • Records of asset acquisitions and disposals.
  • Rental property records (if applicable).
  • Superannuation contribution records.
  • Any other documents that support your tax return.

Yes, you can keep your tax records in electronic format in Australia. The ATO accepts electronic records as long as they are accurate, complete, and easily accessible when needed.

Ensure that your electronic records are securely stored and backed up regularly to protect against data loss. It’s also important to maintain the integrity and readability of electronic records over time. Consider using secure cloud storage or encrypted external drives for added security.

If you don’t keep your tax records, you may be at risk of being audited by the ATO. If you are audited, and you cannot provide the ATO with the required records, you may be liable for penalties and interest.

If you lose your tax records, you should contact the ATO as soon as possible. The ATO may be able to help you to reconstruct your records.

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