If you owe tax, but are worried about being able to pay it on time, contact the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) on 13 11 42 as soon as possible. It is still important to lodge your tax return or business activity statements (BAS) on time even if you know you can’t pay the tax. This avoids late lodgement penalties and shows you are trying to meet your obligations.
Depending on your circumstances, the ATO may decide to give you more time to pay or agree to one of the following measures.
Learn more about how to:
- Pay your tax debt by instalments
- Ask for interest charges to be reduced
- How to set up a payment plan with the ATO
- Apply for a release of your tax debt
If you have a tax debt and you cannot pay it in full, you may be able to pay by weekly, fortnightly or monthly instalments.
Depending on the amount you owe, there are different ways to make a new payment arrangement with the ATO. For further details, visit ato.gov.au, or ask a financial counsellor to help you.
The ATO charges interest on unpaid tax debts. This general interest charge (GIC) applies from the original due date, even if you enter into a payment arrangement. If you are experiencing financial difficulties because of cancer, you can ask for some or all of the GIC to be waived. This is known as the remission of GIC.
→ Contact the ATO on 13 11 42 and explain why your payment was delayed and any steps you took to avoid the delay. For larger amounts, you may be asked to put your request in writing.
Whichever method you choose, have your tax file number (TFN, for income tax debt) or Australian business number (ABN, for activity statement debt) ready.
|Use the online service||Debt under $100,000||Visit my.gov.au and link your myGov account to the ATO (myGov is a secure way to connect with various government services – you can create a new account if you don’t have one already).|
|Call the automated phone service||Debt under $100,000||Call 13 28 65 (individuals) or 13 72 26 (businesses) and follow the prompts. You can suggest a payment arrangement, and if this is accepted, the ATO will send you a confirmation letter within 15 days.|
|Speak to a customer service officer||
Debt over $100,000
|Call 13 11 42 to speak to someone at the ATO. They will ask about your financial situation, such as why you haven’t been able to pay and how you plan to pay the debt.|
You can apply to be released from some tax debts if you can show paying the debt would cause serious financial hardship. This means you would be unable to provide food, housing, medical treatment or other necessities for yourself or your family.
→ Use the ATO’s debt release tool to work out if you are eligible to apply for a release of your tax debt and to access the application form. You will need to provide pay slips and bank statements. You can also call 13 11 42 to discuss other options.
Keith Manchester, Senior Legal Counsel, Financial Services Legal, AMP, NSW; Alka Bisen, Financial Counsellor and Project Coordinator – Financial Assistance Services, Cancer Council NSW; Patricia Dunn, Consumer; Emily Gibson, Social Worker, Mater Hospital Brisbane, QLD; Caitriona Nienaber, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council WA; Michelle Ruchin, Social Worker, Cancer Council SA; Robert Simon, Technical Services Manager, Tapln and Technical Strategy, AMP Advice, NSW; Krystyna Wisniewski, Consumer.
View the Cancer Council NSW editorial policy.
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