Why is my tax return so small?

The tax refund many Australians expect has dramatically reduced. We show you why.

There is a psychology to tax refunds that successive Governments have been reticent to tamper with.

As a nation, Australia relies heavily on personal and corporate income tax, with personal income tax including taxes on capital gains representing 40% of revenue compared to the OECD average of 24%. And, for the amount we pay, we expect a reward.

The reward is in the form of tax deductions that reduce the amount of net income that is assessed for tax purposes and tax offsets that reduce the tax payable, generating a refund for some. And, refunds have a positive impact on tax compliance.

As part of the previous Government’s efforts to flatten out the progressive individual income tax system, a time-limited low and middle income tax offset was introduced. The lifespan of the offset was extended twice, partly as a stimulus measure in response to COVID-19. The offset delivered up to $1,080 from 2018-19 to 2020-21, and up to $1,500 in 2021-22 for those earning up to $126,000. This was a significant boost for many people each tax time and bolstered the tax returns of millions of Australians.

For many, the end of this offset has meant that their tax refund has reduced dramatically compared to previous years.