Tax Returns in Australia for International Students

Adjusting to life in Australia can be a truly exciting experience. However, if you aren’t crystal clear about how things work in relation to tax matters, you could end up feeling frustrated if you aren’t fully informed about money matters that apply to you while you are here.

If you have earned money while studying in Australia, the chances are, you will need to submit a tax return.

International students in Australia are often unclear about whether or not they need to submit a tax claim while they are here.

  • What are the guidelines for student tax returns?
  • What are the deadlines?
  • What information do I need for a student tax return?
  • Where can I get help with my student tax return?

In this guide to tax returns for students in Australia, we answer all your questions and cover off everything you need to know about international student tax returns.

Do I need to submit a tax return as a student in Australia?

If you have been a student in Australia for more than six months, then for the purposes of tax only, you are considered to be an Australian Resident, and you will need to submit a tax return if you earn any money while you are here.


Q. How do I know if I need to submit a tax return while studying in Australia?

A. You will need to submit a tax return as an international student in these circumstances:

  • Your income is above the tax-free threshold of $18,200.
  • If your income is below $18,200, but you paid tax; you will need to submit a return to claim a refund.

If you did not pay tax and your income was below the tax-free threshold, then you will not need to complete a tax return. However, you should still submit a non-lodgement advice note to the Australia Tax Office to inform them that you are not intended to lodge a return for the above-stated reasons. This will make sure that you are not marked down as not having submitted a tax return, and more importantly, it will ensure you are not liable for any penalties.

Here is a link to the 2019 non-lodgement advice form from the ATO.


Q. How do I submit an international student tax return?

A. Tax return forms are available from July 1st. They form one element of the Taxpack.

Even if you return to your home country, you can still complete your student tax return online.


Q. What information is needed to complete a tax return?

A. Here’s a quick checklist of items you will need in order to complete a tax return:

  • Tax File Number
  • Bank Statements Showing any Interest Payments
  • PAYG from employer/s
  • Payment summaries for termination/s from previous employers
  • Receipts for any donations, gifts and/or work-related expenses
  • Banking details – Account number and BSB

If you have a partner, then you will also need to have details about their income and their expenses. You will also need to complete an income test to ensure your tax return entitlements are correct.


Q. What is the tax-free threshold in Australia for international students?

A. The tax-free threshold for the current tax year is $18,200. If you reside in Australia for less than a year, this figure will be adjusted proportionately. So, if you only study in Australia for 6 months, then your tax-free threshold will be reduced to $9,100.

Please note: You must be studying here for more than 6 months to receive the tax-free allowance. If your course is for 6 months or less, then you will need to pay on any income you receive.


Q. When do I need to submit my tax return by?

A. The tax year in Australia runs from Just 1st to June 30th. Tax returns should be submitted before 31st October to avoid any fines. The only exception to this rule is if you have appointed a tax agent to act on your behalf prior to the cut-off.


Foreign Income for International Students in Australia

If you are studying on a student visa in Australia, then you will need to fully declare any money you earn while you are studying in this country. You will only be required to declare this foreign income you earn from overseas employment for the period you are only temporarily resident in Australia.

You will only need to declare any money you have earned since you arrived here to study. 

Please note: If you worked overseas during the school holiday period prior to arriving in Australia to study, then you will not need to declare this income.


Getting Extra Help with International Student Tax Returns

While we have covered some of the most common questions asked about international student tax returns in this post, you might find you need some additional help completing your student tax return.

If this is the case, don’t worry, you’re not alone! The Tax Help Program is a network of accredited community volunteers who have been trained by the Australian Taxation Office; and who offer a completely confidential and free advice and assistance service. This assistance is only available from July-October in most major cities, along with other regional areas throughout Australia.


Eligibility for Tax Help

There are certain criteria that need to be met in order to qualify for this free help:

  • You must not be a sole trader, business owner, business partner or a contractor
  • You must not own a rental property or any other type of investment property
  • You must not own or sell shares or have capital gains tax
  • You must not be in receipt of any foreign income, other than annuity or a pension
  • You must not earn more than $60,000

If you meet the above criteria for the Tax Help Program, you should qualify for free assistance from ATO-trained volunteers who can help you submit a tax return or complete a non-lodgement advice form.


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