CHOICE membership

A redesigned easier to use Tax Return Form

My name is Susan Fordham and am having trouble not only accessing the ATO’s online Tax Return Form but following the various sections on the form. Some sections are easy to fill in while others are not. I am thankful to some of the businesses that I have invested in as they produce a Tax Guide to filling out sections to do with Capital Gains etc. ie at question 20 © put this amount in as indicated on their Tax Summary ie Colonial First State, Vanguard and Beta have printed their Tax Summaries with the ATO Office requirements in mind. Very thoughtful.

I do think that Choice Testers in conjunction with other Consumer Review Services like ‘Finder’, Canstar Blue’ and maybe other government department that deal in Commerce could get together and redesign re-imagine this form to make it easier and more accessible for small investors, paye, small business rather than relying on Accounting Software, Accounting Firms and the ATO’s legislation requirements that allow them to automatically deduct money directly from my bank accounts. Easy, Accessible Forms is what this consumer wants to see.
Susan Fordham


Hi @Susan11, welcome to the community.

These businesses now are required to provide all the information on each investor to the ATO…and it why they now also provide it to their investors. The change is due to the ATO and not good will of the companies.

The ATO eventually will have all the information from any investments where tax file number has been provided (and attached to the investment). I have heard from a friend who is a tax accountant, that in the future it is possible that many may not need to spend much time preparing a personal tax return as the return will be pre-filled with information received by the ATO from banks, employers, investments etc. The only areas which could be filled is those seeking tax deductions. It is possible it may become a ‘tick and flick’ type exercise where it is quickly reviewed to verify the data the ATO has received and then submit.

This possibly will reduce effort and costs by the average taxpayer, but will also be harder to defraud the ATO from income not declared.


As a business person @phb has far more joy engaging with the ATO than a ‘wage earner’.

Most ‘wage earner’ income data is already supplied to the ATO so those taxpayers can login to the tax site and wages, super, dividends, distributions, and interest are prefilled, but not pesky capital gains.

In share trading each time one changes trading platforms the basis for shares is lost under current arrangements. Even if the basis was not lost, splits, schemes of arrangement, spinoffs, newly stapled and unstapled securities, and such happen all too regularly making it less than straight forward to get right. All the ATO authoritatively can ‘see’ are share sale proceeds.

If one deals in property, vehicles, art, jewellery, or other collectibles the ATO does not ‘know’ much more than a potentially large bank deposit was made that needs to be explained, and it is on the taxpayer to document the transaction(s).

Add foreign investment/income where in a simple sense the ATO only ‘sees’ unattributed wire transfers they want to know where and how sourced. All manual entries and an occasional explanatory exchange by letter.

I agree the forms and instructions could be done much better than referencing ‘events’ and alphanumeric entry boxes from this and that.

s/not an average taxpayer :wink:


Last year some data for capital gains was pre-filled…that being for managed investments where there has been a sale within the investment which triggered a reportable gain/loss. Personal capital gains and losses (e.g. selling shares or a house) must still be added manually. I expect over time these will also be prefilled.

The challenge is getting the information to the ATO to allow it to be prefilled in personal tax returns. Usually companies (e.g. trusts, managed funds etc) issue statements at the end of August and through September. If one wishes to do an early lodgement, one has to wait until at least these statements have been received before being able to lodge their return. Usually, even before lodgement at the end of October, the statement data is often not prefilled meaning one has to add this manually on the return. I suspect that later the manual entered data from a individual, is compared to the company uploaded data to check there aren’t any discrepancies.

Yes, we have many dealing with the ATO…fortunately to date the officers we have spoken to have been reasonable and able to answer questions/resolve issues we have.

Edit: We have the ‘luxury’ of doing three tax returns this year (we do them ourselves)…one for the business and two personal ones…something I really look forward to this time of year (possibly as much as standing on a tack).


Hi Susan, we’ve run several family business as well as had a registered company and a variety of investments over time.

There is a point where the complexity of the legislation and interpretation becomes important. The ATO is not asking with the online firms for the line by line details of all accounts, ledgers, investment returns etc to be input. Knowing what to do with each and every transaction, how it should be treated and what else is like for like. That’s where accounting software and the guidance of a tax professional become important. It would seem unlikely the ATO would be keen to host a surrogate personal accounting package. If only because the need can be met by professional accountants, and other software options.

Our experience with simpler investments has been there are always exceptions. Sometimes just differences in terminology. Other times a need to personally refer back to prior records. Capital gains on the disposal of shares is a very common concern. Especially as the ATO and registries rely on the share holder to keep their lifelong records.

For anyone concerned about how to complete specific line items of the ATO forms we have found the ATO will help over the phone. There may be a wait in a queue or a call back option. For anything that is proving difficult to understand, perhaps it is time to talk to a tax professional to assist with the return.

I’d offer the same advice as @phb re managed investments, and include any other investments that have an annual statement. There can be considerable delays in the Tax Statements being issued. Many provide an annual investment statement rather promptly after 30th June each year. Unfortunately these may not include the separately titled and formatted tax statements.


Hi Susan

Welcome to the forum.

I agree that if consumer groups and stakeholders got together they could design a much more user friendly form, but that could reduce the efficiency of the ATO’s processes. What the ATO wants is to maximise the accuracy of the date they harvest, and as others have said that is achieved by direct data transfer from businesses, eliminating the possibility for errors ( :wink: ) by the consumer.

Therefore, I don’t think the ATO is too interested in what the average consumer wants. To maximise throughput and minimise read errors, I think that the ATO design the forms around their current IT systems abilities to handle massive quantities of optical character recognition or direct data transfer.

So as some of the preceding posts have said, it may be in your interest to use a tax professional to do your tax returns.


Without comment on the other bits mentioned, that is today’s pearl of wisdom, not limited to the ATO. :wine_glass: