Mind the Gap - Tax for teens

Script 9 - What is a Tax Agent?

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So. Tax agents.
There are a lot of tax agent offices at shopping centres or commercial areas everywhere. Some operate online. Some are chains with offices all over the country, and some are just independent people with their own business.

Who can be a tax agent?

Only registered tax agents are allowed to take your money in exchange for preparing your return. That’s the law. If a tax agent is registered, it means they’ve been approved by the government, so they probably know what they’re doing. When you find one, give them a call first before you go in. Ask for a quote to prepare and lodge your tax return.

How much does it cost to lodge a tax return with an agent?

The cost depends on your return, and who you go to. The prices will all be different, but I’d say that for a simple return at a tax agent’s office in Australia would be at least, I don’t know, $80 up to 300 or more dollars.

It might seem like a lot, but it the scheme of things it’s often worth it. Just shop around for a good price, and maybe they can even take it out of your refund. Some of them do that. Some people even get their money back. Sometimes. How?

A tax agent is a professional at maximising your refund. Which means that they might do a far better job of getting you more money back than you could ever do yourself. They sell themselves up a bit by saying that people save money because the extra refund they get is going to be bigger than the cost of paying the tax agent, and that might very well be true.

But often, also, it’s not true. And no tax agent can accurately predict what your refund will be without having a look at your situation.

If you use a tax agent, you save all that time and worry and confusion trying to do it yourself.

Plus, with a tax agent, you get personal tax advice, so you get all the help you need and you can learn all about this stuff at the same time.

And, you’re less likely to get in trouble for doing the return wrong, because the tax agent is a professional, and he takes into account your best interests.

And what’s more; a tax agent is your representative, so they can ask the ATO for an extension on your return if you’re running late submitting it.

It’s handy to have a tax agent. They’re kind of like your tax defender or something. If you get a good one, they’ll take good care of you. It’s cool also to keep the same agent for a long time. They get to know you and your situation, and you have a point of reference with them, someone to ask questions if there’s something you don’t understand.

I can hear you asking: What’s the difference between a tax agent and an accountant?

A tax agent is a type of accountant. Accountants are people who work with any kind of money maths, maybe for a big company, or a small business or doing any other type of accounting bookwork. A tax agent is someone who specifically works with taxes, like yours. He spends a lot of his time doing people’s tax returns for them.

A tax agent is one type of accountant, and not every accountant is a tax agent.

Remember, even if you have a tax agent, things can still go wrong. For example, you still can’t lie in your return. And that includes lying to your tax agent, who will then unknowingly lie in your return. In Australia we have what is called “self-assessment”. It pretty much means that it’s up to you to make sure that the information you give is true. You are responsible for submitting a return with the correct information, even if a tax agent helps you with it. It also means that if the ATO comes and checks on you, they will be very thorough, and you can get in a lot of trouble for doing the wrong thing. But just listen to what your tax agent tells you, and try to learn as you go along. You’ll be fine.