Correct (amend) an income tax return
If you’ve made a mistake on an income tax return you’ve already lodged, we can assist you to request an amendment to your income tax assessment.
For example, you may have made an error when answering a question, or forgotten to include some income or a capital gain, or forgotten to claim an offset or deduction you were entitled to. Something may have happened after you lodged your return, such as you received a revised payment summary or another payment summary, or you repaid an amount of income you were overpaid.
You can use the amendment process to correct a mistake or omission on your tax return. If you want to dispute the law or the facts ATO has used to come to a decision about your tax affairs (including your income tax assessment) we need to lodge an objection.
If your amendment reduces the tax you owe, you’ll receive a tax refund (unless you have other tax debts). If it increases the tax you owe, ATO generally treat it as a voluntary disclosure. You’ll still have to pay any outstanding tax, but you’re likely to receive concessional treatment for any penalties and interest charges that apply.
Time limits on income tax amendments
The law sets time limits for amending your tax assessment.
For individuals and small businesses the time limit is generally two years, and for other taxpayers four years, from the day after ATO give you the notice of assessment for the year in question (generally taken to be the date on the notice or, if ATO does’t issue a notice, the date the relevant return was lodged).
For example, you’re a sole trader and receive a notice of assessment dated 12 November 2017. Your two-year amendment period starts on 13 November 2017 (the day after the date on the notice) and ends two years later, on 12 November 2019, so you have until that day to lodge a request for an amendment to that assessment.
You can submit more than one amendment request within a period of review.
If you want to change a tax return after the time limit has passed you can’t request an amendment, but you may be able to lodge an objection. While the time limit for lodging amendments and objections is the same, you can request an extension of time to lodge an objection in some circumstances.
How ATO process an amendment request
After ATO process your request for an amendment, ATO give you a notice of amended assessment, showing the new amount payable or refundable.
(If you submit a request for an amendment before ATO has processed your tax return, ATO may process them together, so you may only receive a notice of assessment, not a notice of amended assessment.)
Amendments are part of the self-assessment system. That is, just as ATO accept your tax return information at face value, in most cases ATO also accept the information in your request for an amendment.
If ATO owe you money, ATO will pay you, including any interest you’re entitled to. If you owe ATO money, the notice of amended assessment will tell you the amount (including any interest) and when it is due if you want to avoid being charged further interest for late payment. A separate penalty notice will be issued if relevant.
The time it takes ATO to process your amendment depends on how you lodge it and whether it was as a result of a clerical or administrative error on ATO part (see table).
|Lodgment method||Time to process (from when ATO receive all the necessary information)|
|Mail or fax||50 business days|
|Online (either directly or through a tax agent)||20 business days|
If ATO need more information, they’ll ask you for it.
If ATO refuse to process your amendment and you still want the changes made to your tax return, we can lodge an objection to the relevant assessment.
Decisions you can object to and time limits
|You can object to||How long you have|
|Assessments (see note 1)||Two or four years from the date the assessment was given to you:
|Amended assessments||Until the later of:
|Private rulings||Until the later of:
You cannot object to a private ruling if you have an assessment for the period concerned – object to the assessment instead.
|Decisions to retain refunds||Your objection period starts 90 days after you lodge your activity statement. Any time you take to provide additional information we ask for will extend the objection period. It ends when you receive an amended assessment.|
Note 1: Income tax assessments include tax offsets and rebates.