- Cancer Information
- Practical concerns
- Cancer and your finances
- Reducing debts and expenses
- Income tax
If you owe tax and are concerned 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:
- Paying your tax debt by instalments
- Asking for interest charges to be reduced
- How to set up a payment plan with the ATO
- Applying for a release of your tax debt
Pay your tax debt by instalments
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. The ATO’s online Payment plan estimator can help you work out how to pay your debt or ask a financial counsellor to help you.
Ask for interest charges to be reduced
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 plan. If you are experiencing financial difficulties because of cancer, you can ask for some or all of the GIC to be reduced or cancelled. 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.
How to set up a payment plan with the ATO
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. If this is accepted, the ATO will send you a confirmation letter.|
|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.|
Apply for a release of your tax debt
You can apply to have some types of tax debt permanently removed (released). You will need to show that paying the debt would cause you serious hardship. This means you would be unable to provide food, housing, medical care or other essentials 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 get the application form. You will need to provide pay slips and bank statements. You can also call 13 11 42 to discuss your options.
Podcast: Coping with a Cancer Diagnosis
Rania Tannous, Head of Legal, Corporate, Legal and Governance, AMP; Patricia Troll, Senior Legal Counsel, AMP Financial Services Legal, Legal and Governance, AMP; Lynette Brailey, Program Coordinator, Financial Assistance Service, Cancer Council NSW; Stephen Bray, Financial Planner, FM Financial, TAS; Angela Daly, Senior Social Worker, Cancer Services, The Adem Crosby Centre, Sunshine Coast Hospital and Health Service, QLD; Sandra Hodge, Consumer; Sandi Johnson, Consumer; Antony Mitchell, Financial Counsellor, Financial Counselling Program, Cancer Council VIC; Lucy Pollerd, Social Worker, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, VIC; Heather Richards, Consumer; Deb Roffe, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council SA.
View the Cancer Council NSW editorial policy.
Need legal and financial assistance?
Pro bono legal and financial matters, no interest loans or help with small business
Looking for transport, accommodation or home help?
Practical advice and support during and after treatment