Australian Taxes for travellers

Warning: Extremely boring

Since I’ve left Australia I’ve been waiting to claim back on tax I’ve excessively paid.

That means I’ve waited until the end of tax year (30 June) to bravely navigate the Australian Tax Office’s cryptic Website and download its Windows only software.

At this stage I was given notice I needed a “Notice of Assessment” (NOA) from my previous etax tax return. Oh gosh, I don’t have that. It turns out that I need that to prove who I am for lodgement. Thankfully a (Skype) call to the tax office (30 minute hold) and repeated attempts of me trying to remember all the different addresses I’ve lived in, I got the NOA sequence number and data of issue. Bored you yet?

By this stage I was fed up. I should have gone to one of those sad lifeless individuals known as Tax accountants to get this all done. And paid a handsome fee or percentage for them to rip off the government.

The etax software is sadly a Windows only piece of shit that runs in a small window that asks you inappropriate questions (in my case) for about an hour. My claim was so easy. Yet, I was asked repeatedly about dependents and what have you and pensions. Argh. The way that Yes/No and Prev/Next buttons are presented is a UI nightmare.

The funny thing with this program is that it gives you a tax return estimate at the bottom. I quickly learnt that if I didn’t mark myself down as Australian resident I would get a tiny fraction of the tax I paid. So for tax purposes, I am a resident! I heard other travellers do the same.

Sad thing is for the few months I’ve worked there, I am getting only a third of the tax back. Tax free allowance is only 6000AUD and then some other taxes are ripped out from there. In no place could I see what taxes I was exactly paying or why. The calculation could be far more transparent.

Considering Australia tries to attract foreigners and Working holiday makers, they could make it far easier for travellers. There wasn’t support for foreign address, telephone or bank account. Thanks very much.

Also as a British citizen I shouldn’t have made me pay over 500AUD for Medicare levies. Australians get free health care in England, why should I pay for Australia’s?

Also the funny thing was that I was getting a ’’ is not valid date error, though the date I entered was valid. After calling Australia and getting through to the etax helpline, the helpful support told me I need to change my Windows locale to English (Australian). At the time I was using Korean, and for some reason this makes their date validation code fail. Hah. :( Windows reboots are in order.

I asked support if there were plans to move this application to the Web platform. She diplomatically said she can’t comment. Wouldn’t it be cool if the was some standardised ISO API for filing taxes? So other people could build Web user interfaces that were intuitive to use. That could perhaps integrate with your bank or something.

Now I have to wait two weeks to see if the claim went through. So much for automation.

Lastly I want to comment about Super Annuation (pension) scheme that I’ve been paying. Actually I paid to some pension in Finland too, that I’ve yet to figure out how I get the money back from. I had some papers regarding my Super Annuation from my previous employer that I’ve lost. I asked for a copy, but they haven’t got back to me. I have no idea how I get all that money back. I heard from other travellers, getting Super Annuation back is even harder than getting tax back. Funny thing is with Super Annuation, you pay a private investment company, not the government.

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