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More than 1.2 million Australians file tax return in rush for COVID-19 refunds

Published: (Updated: ) in Australian News by .

It’s the highest number of returns this early in the financial year.

More than one million Australians have already filed their tax returns just 13 days into the new financial year as many await a cash injection from their refund.

It's the highest ever number of returns this early in the financial year as COVID-19 restrictions stifle incomes and place more than 850,000 Australians out of work.

The rush for returns comes as the Australian Tax Office (ATO) extends its working from home shortcut method until the end of September to coincide with the end of JobKeeper.

READ MORE: ATO website buckles as thousands attempt to lodge tax

Under the scheme, Australians working from home can claim a flat-rate deduction of 80 cents per hour for running costs, equipment depreciation and expenses such as phone and internet.

"The shortcut deduction method is making it easier for many Australians who are continuing to work from home due to COVID-19 when it comes to accurately completing their tax return," Assistant Treasurer Michael Sukkar said.

"These continuing arrangements do not prohibit Australians from making a standard working from home claim using the two standard approaches should they wish to do so."

READ MORE: Tax time: How to recoup your costs and bump up your return

Tax rules you need to know before lodging a return

Despite the rush to fill out tax returns, the ATO has warned people attempting to fraudulently claim COVID-19 assistance such as JobKeeper will be caught.

"We know the overwhelming majority of Australians are honest, and we've worked hard help to those people who are impacted by COVID-19 as quickly as possible," ATO Deputy Commissioner Will Day said. "We also have an important role to ensure the integrity of the stimulus measures and when we uncover fraud or people seeking to exploit them, we'll take action, as we know the community would expect us to do."

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Some of the fraudulent activity involves others masquerading as financial advisers to help those suffering from hardship access their superannuation.

READ MORE: The six tax traps Aussies fall into

"We've received intelligence about a number of dodgy schemes, including the withdrawal of money from superannuation and re-contributing it to get a tax deduction," Mr Day said.

"Not only is this not in the spirit of the measure (which is designed to assist those experiencing hardship), severe penalties can be applied to tax avoidance schemes or those found to be breaking the law.

"If someone recommends something like this that seems too good to be true, well, it probably is."

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Source: 9News

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