ATO reveals when first tax refunds are coming

WORKERS will start to see relief of up to $1080 this week, as university graduates living overseas were warned they will not be able to escape their student loans.

ATO boss Chris Jordan said the tax break will begin to flow into workers' bank accounts on Friday, after the $158 billion package passed parliament.

The ATO has been flooded with about 810,000 tax returns already as Australians rush to cash in on the government's tax relief package.

"We will have some refunds landing in people's bank accounts by Friday this week," Mr Jordan told reporters this morning.

ATO boss Chris Jordan says Australian workers can expect to see tax relief flow into bank accounts from Friday. Picture: John Feder/The Australian.
ATO boss Chris Jordan says Australian workers can expect to see tax relief flow into bank accounts from Friday. Picture: John Feder/The Australian.

"We were able to start processing on the weekend, on Sunday, because we could lift all the safety nets we have to put returns through.

"Even if you lodged your return last week, you still don't need to do anything (to get the extra tax cut) because the legislation was passed so quickly.

"We will be able to pay the full amount to anyone who is entitled to that by Friday as a starting point and thereafter everyday following."

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said he was confident the tax cuts package would help stimulate Australia's slowing economy amid concerns workers would save the money or pay down debt instead.

"It's not up to the government to tell Australians how to spend their money," Mr Frydenberg said, but added he was confident it would be used at local businesses.

Millions of Australians earning between $40,000 and $126,000 will receive the tax offset of up to $1080 when they lodge their return.


Meanwhile the ATO has warned university graduates living overseas to expect a call about their student loans.

The Australian Taxation Office said it would contact people with student debt who are planning to leave the country, or are already overseas.

ATO assistant commissioner Karen Foat said it was easy to get caught up in the excitement of moving overseas and forget about one's repayment obligations.

"Moving overseas does not cancel student loan debts and your repayment obligations do not change with your address. Current laws give us the power to pursue these debts overseas," she said.

Expats with Higher Education Loan Program (HELP), Vocational Education & Training student loan (VSL) and Trade Support Loan (TSL) debts can expect to be contacted.

Ms Foat said it took an average of nine years for people to pay off HELP debts.

"But for Australians who travel overseas and don't make any repayments, it takes significantly longer," she said.

Under new rules, Australians with an income contingent loan travelling overseas need to notify the ATO of their new address and lodge an overseas travel notification.

As of July 1, anybody earning over $45,881 a year must start repaying their student loans after the government passed laws cutting the threshold from $55,000.

Australians are getting in the returns early. Picture: Thinkstock
Australians are getting in the returns early. Picture: Thinkstock

"Expats should know that once their income reaches the new threshold of $45,881 for 2019/20, they need to be making repayments, just like anyone living in Australia," Ms Foat said.

As at 31 January, there are over 3.2 million Australians with outstanding student loan debts totalling more than $66 billion.

It comes as the ATO is being inundated by phone calls from taxpayers asking how much relief they can expect after the federal parliament passed personal income tax cut laws this week.

But public sector union CPSU says the situation is not being helped by more than 6500 jobs having been cut from the ATO in the past few years, warning taxpayers expecting returns may face delays due to understaffing.

The CPSU's deputy national president Brooke Muscat-Bentley says people are paying more attention than ever to their tax returns.

"Members are telling us the calls they are able to answer start with complaints about wait times and people imploring for more staff to be hired," she said in a statement on Saturday.

She said the artificial staffing cap placed on the ATO is failing taxpayers.

"A good government would lift the cap and hire more skilled staff in secure jobs, ensuring that calls get answered promptly and creating employment," Ms Muscat-Bentley said.