Tax Returns in Australia: The Backpacker's Guide

Tax Returns in Australia: The Backpacker’s Guide

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27 thoughts on “Tax Returns in Australia: The Backpacker’s Guide

  1. Hey, great article, thank you so much!

    Just wanted to add, (correct me if I’m wrong) – at the end when you click ‘Calculate’, that’s just calculating an estimate, you still have to click ‘Lodge’ to complete the process! So no need to panic if all of the info isn’t correct when you click ‘calculate’ because it hasn’t actually been lodged yet 🙂

  2. On filling in my tax return, and hitting “tax estimate” it is evident that it has not taken into account that I am on a working holiday 417 visa, as the estimate is around 30% of my earnings, not 15%.

    Is this something that we would need to change prior to submitting the tax return or will it be amended for afterwards?


    1. Hi Frances,

      Were you an australian resident for tax purposes in the 2016 half of the year? If not, you will be taxed as a foreign resident under the old rules, which was 32.5% – so this would explain the calculated amount.

      I think this is the most likely explanation, as your TFN will show that you are a working holiday maker.

      If this isn’t the case then I guess just give the ATO a ring!

      Hope this helps – and let me know if you have any other questions!


  3. Hi, if I was 2 months working holiday visa maker (4000 gross income) and 5 months student visa (resident for tax purpose 15000 gross income), how work the tax return for me? Have I the tax free for the last 5 months and I have to pay only the tax for whv or have I to pay tax for thw whole income? Thanks

    1. Hey Alfredo, thanks for your question!

      I’m not sure of the answer, as it depends on which part of the year you were on your working holiday visa, and whether you were resident for tax purposes during this time. If you fill in your tax return though it will likely give you a good estimate of what you get back or owe.

      Unfortunately as I’m not a tax agent I can’t say for sure how it will work for you – I’d recommend getting in touch with one to at least ask how it would work. If you contact Taxably on Facebook (the link is in the post) they will be able to give you advice, and if it seems likely that you’ll get a large refund then I’d suggest letting them do it as it sounds more complicated than your bog-standard backpacker tax return.

      Good luck!


  4. Hi, thanks for your explanation, it’s really clear. But I still have a doubt with the Adjustments section, it says: Working holiday maker gross income
    then the deductions
    and finally Working holiday maker net income
    but in my form the only number in the deduction that i can put is 0. (The Deductions that relate to earning your working holiday maker income entered is greater than your allowable deductions of $0.00)

    So at the end my gross and net are the same! (and i surely didn’t get that kind of money!)
    i really don’t understand! sorry! thanks!

    1. Hey Leticia, thanks for the question!

      Unfortunately I’m not quite sure why you’re having this issue. Did you tick the ‘deductions’ box on the page as well as the ‘adjustments’ and working holiday maker net income?

      Its quite hard to answer your question without having your actual form in front of me, sorry I can’t be of more help!


      1. I really have no deductions related to my income to make… and i worked after 1/01/2017 too… so the Adjustments section is mandatory for every wornking holiday?

        thank you for your comments!

        1. The adjustments section, as far as I understand it, will apply to every backpacker for this financial year, purely because of the different rules for different parts of the year. So even if you don’t necessarily need to ‘adjust’ anything for your circumstances, just go ahead and fill it in with the relevant numbers anyway!

          Hope that helps 🙂

  5. Hey Ellie,

    Got a quick question. I was in Darwin for the first 2 months of the financial year and then moved to Melbourne for 6. Should I then I was a resident from 1st July until 31st December?

    Or from the actual dates i was in Melbourne?

    1. Hey Jimena, thanks for your question!

      I imagine you would be ok to say you were resident for the whole first half of the year because your behaviour would suggest that you were intending to be a resident. Obviously I can’t say for sure but that’s what I would do in your position. Good luck!


    2. Thanks for the quick response Ellie. Just one more thing, you were talking about Medicare, my country doesn’t have any agreement with Australia so I can’t use it. So I’m not claiming the levy, right?
      I wasn’t planning on doing but wanted to double check.


      1. Yeah so you will claim exemption as a foreign resident… The levy isn’t something you want to ‘claim’, it’s more something you want to avoid if possible haha!

  6. Hi Ellie,
    What if I had a short job which gave me a low salary and the employer didn’t deduct any tax? or if I’ve worked a couple of days with ABN so I got just money on my account? Do I have to fill just on Gross Income and put 0.00 on tax? Many thank’s

    1. Hi Luca, thanks for the question.

      It kind of depends on when the ‘short job’ was and what your resident status is. If the job was in 2016 and you are counted as a resident, you won’t have to pay tax on it; if either of those things are not true then you might have to pay some tax back to the government, unfortunately. So yes, to the last question.

      As for the work you did with an ABN, well I did a bit of quick research as I don’t know much about this area. From this website it looks like you enter the info about income earned under your ABN in your individual tax return, just as with any other income:

      There might be another form you need to fill out in addition to the regular tax return, but I’m not sure. I’d suggest you ask a tax agent for advice just to be sure you’re doing it right – the one I recommend in the article (Taxably) have always been very helpful to me whenever I had questions!

      Hope that helps,


  7. Hey Ellie, I’m a little confused about some areas. Firstly, if I held a job either side of 2016/2017 do I only fill in the 2016 payments for that job and add the rest to the adjustments? In regard to the adjustments, am I right in saying that it’s just one large number that you enter in: all of your accumulated gross earnings from 2017? As far as I can see I can only enter one “adjustment”. Thanks for the help,

    1. Hey Steve, thanks for reading!

      If you had a job for the whole year, or for part of the year bridging 2016/17, you should first of all have two payment summaries. If you had one job in 2016, and a different one in 2017, that’s all good.

      You should input ALL of your income, and ALL of the tax you paid on it into the payment summaries section. Then, in the adjustments section, JUST put the income that you made in 2017. It should be pretty clear on the form, as I remember? So if you worked one job across the whole period, you would just put the income that you earned from 1 January onwards into the adjustments section, but you’d put everything into the payment summaries.

      Hope that clears it up!


  8. Hi, I just arrived in Australia at the start of this month. Would I be correct in thinking I’ll be paying 15% tax upto the threshold then 19% after, and that there is no way I can claim that money back? Therefore there’s no point staying somewhere for 6 months just for tax back.
    If my employer isn’t registered to have WHV workers and I get taxed 32.5%, I assume I could claim back the difference to the lower tax rate 15/19%
    This is all a year away so I understand if you don’t really know 😛
    Thanks a lot, your blog post is by far the easiest to understand from the ones I’ve read.

    1. Hey Michael, thanks for the question! So as you have just worked in 2017 (and after the beginning of the new financial year), the system will be a lot easier for you! You dont need to worry about the tax free threshold as we can no longer claim it, so everything you earn up to $37 000 will be taxed 15%. We then won’t be able to claim any tax back, except against deductions (eg things you had to buy for work).

      I imagine that yes if you get taxed too much you would then get back the difference. But dont quote me on that, I haven’t looked into it so much!

      Glad to help 🙂


  9. Hi Ellie,

    I am a little bit confused with the half year resident half year non resident rule. It sounds to me as if the tax year was split in half, which is a bit problematic for me as I was on a holiday back home for 5 weeks in July 2016 and therefore havent been in the country for 6 months during the first half of the tax year (the 6 months being a requirement for resident according to the old rules). Or, does (in regard to the 6 months) the whole tax year (july 16 to june 17) count? Id be devastated if I would not be seen as a resident solely because Ive been on a 5 week holiday which happened to be in July. Ive been in the country for full 2 years, do not really intent to go back home and have been living in the same place (before and after the holiday) for about 11 months in total until I had to leave my job there.

    Would you still say I am a resident?

    Thanks in advance,


    1. Hey Jana, thanks for the question!

      From your description it sounds like you should still be accepted as a resident – especially seeing as presumably actual residents would be allowed to go on holiday! I can’t say for sure of course but I think you could definitely argue your case. Obviously I’m not the ATO though so can’t say 100%!

      Good luck 🙂


      1. Hi Ellie,

        Ive talked to the ATO and theyre not entirely sure on that matter either. But would I say Im resident for the entire tax year or only the first half? Considering I havent been in the country for the entire 6 months of the first half tax year because of the holiday? Its so confusing. Or is it still 6 months or longer in the country within the entire tax year? Would be pretty unfair if youd have to be in the country for at least half a year if only the first half year matters.

        Thank you so much, Jana

        1. If the ATO doesn’t know then I dont see how we’re supposed to! I think from the sounds of it you would be a resident for tax purposes the whole year, but the tax benefit is only for the first half of course. I feel like if the ATO haven’t been able to give a clear answer then you just have to go with your gut and you should be able to argue with them if they then come back and say that you aren’t. Sorry I can’t give a more definitive answer!

  10. Hi there!
    I arrived to Australia in March 2017.
    I’ve been working and being witheld 15%, so i can’t claim any return, except for deductions (i dont have any)??

    1. Hey Jeremias, yep that’s right! You should still do your return though, but yeah you probably won’t get anything back. But at least you won’t owe them anything either!


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