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Tax Refunds and Returns in Australia: Why Is It Too Low?

It’s that time of year again. You’ve filed your taxes and are eagerly awaiting your tax refund. But when the refund arrives, it’s much lower than you expected. Why is your tax refund so low? 

If you pay tax on the portion of your taxable income that is subject to tax and you are considered an Australian resident for income tax purposes, you may be qualified for both of the following:

  • tax offset for low-income individuals
  • tax reductions for low- and middle-income earners

You are not obliged to finish a specific tax return section to benefit from these tax reductions. Once you’ve filed your tax return, accountants figure out your tax offset for you.

You won’t get the offset as a separate payment; if you are qualified, it will be a part of your tax return, and the amount will be reflected on your notice of assessment.

The prospect of a tax refund is all the more appealing given that Australia is now experiencing a recession due to the pandemic.

However, a tax consultant from Australia has cautioned that there are several reasons why taxpayers who are entitled to refunds this year may get less money than they had anticipated.

Almost eight out of ten Australians who submit tax returns are eligible for a cash refund. But for some of us, the return we are entitled to is far smaller than we had anticipated.

How Do Tax Refunds Work in Australia?

Every year, about 14 million people in Australia submit tax returns. Only about two-thirds of eligible people receive a refund, and the average amount is slightly over $4,000.

As a result, a total of $3 billion is reimbursed. As a result, you should be certain that you are making all the necessary efforts to maximise your return.

To avoid penalties, you must file your income tax returns by October 31. (Alternatively, you could be eligible for an extension over this deadline if you register with a tax professional before October 31.)

The return processing will take about two weeks, although your agent can update you on its status anytime.

These due dates will remain the same, and COVID-19 will not impact how you typically file your tax return. Because of the Low and Middle-Income Tax Offset available to many taxpayers, you could get a larger tax refund this year.

Why Is Your Tax Return Less?

According to the ATO’s most recent timetable, many taxpayers have already begun receiving tax refunds. But one of the questions that keep coming up is why it is at such a low level.

Or, to put it another way, why is the amount of the return payment so much less than what was anticipated when compared to the sums received in previous years?

Refunds have decreased between 8% and 10% from the previous year, according to information provided by the ATO.

It is possible that, when comparing your tax return from one year to the next, the total amount will be lower due to different circumstances.

The amount of your refund you are eligible to receive may be lowered if your income changes or if you cease to qualify for a tax credit or deduction.

It would help if you weren’t concerned since it’s conceivable that getting a lower tax refund will be beneficial in the long run. 

Even if you consider your tax refund “found money,” a more realistic comparison would be the situation in which you contribute money to the government without obtaining any interest in return.

When comparing their refund from one year to the next, many taxpayers are astonished to discover that their return has drastically decreased.

Your tax refund may need to be altered if your financial condition has recently changed. These alterations may include It’s crucial to prepare as much as possible to prevent getting caught off guard by a surprise occurrence.

Why Your Tax Refund Is Lower Than Expected

Due to changes made to their withholdings at the beginning of 2018, some taxpayers began receiving larger paychecks, which resulted in their paying less tax for the whole year.

Some taxpayers will pay less in total taxes due to the adjustment, but they might not get their entire anticipated tax refund.

Another result of the tax reform that was put into place at the end of 2017 is that the ATO modified the data that businesses use to estimate how much tax should be withheld from employees’ paychecks after the beginning of the year.

As a result, for certain employees whose withholding was based on out-of-date tax laws, some refunds and quantities payable were different from what they had been in recent years.


There are a few reasons why your tax refund may be lower than expected. Firstly, the ATO may have made an error when processing your tax return on the sunshine coast. Secondly, you may have had deductions or offsets applied to your refund. Finally, the amount of tax you paid during the year may have been higher than usual, resulting in a lower refund.

If you are concerned that your tax refund is too low, you should contact the ATO and a tax consultant to discuss your options.

SMB Accounting offers services for individual income tax returns, small-business accounting using a variety of small-business accounting products, SMSF audits (self-managed super funds), and an accounting firm based on the Xero accounting software. In addition, we provide audits for trust accounts, nonprofit organisations, special needs audits, audits of financial statements for specific purposes, and more. Contact us if you have queries about your tax!