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Dont forget these things if you do your own tax return

SO it’s that time of year again when accountants and the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) start to limber up their fingers in anticipation of the onslaught of calculations they’ll be doing as tax returns are processed and lodged.

But if youre one of those people who prefers to do your own tax return there are some things you need to keep in mind.

KPMG Tax partner Mardi Heinrich says October 31st is not just Halloween, but it is also the date when you need to get your return in to the ATO. Ms Heinrich recommends lodging your tax return online using ATO software. Lodging your tax return online is not mandatory but it can certainly help streamline the process, particularly if your tax is reasonably straightforward.

Also, if you are expecting a tax refund, lodging online should make it faster to get that refund. The ATO usually issues tax refunds within 12 business days when the return is lodged online compared to 50 business days when a paper return is lodged.

If you want to make sure that you get the most tax back in your return and lets face who doesnt, you need to have the right level of private health insurance so that you wont be up for the Medicare surcharge. So make sure you check your level of private hospital coverage because that can affect your tax.

Also make sure you have records of work related expenses so you can claim them as a deduction against your return and get your return in on time so you dont get slugged with any penalties.

Here are KPMGs Mardi Heinrichs top five tax tips.

1. Add to your Super. Ms Heinrich said It needs to be on a prospective basis so if the last payroll for the year is yet to run, there may still be scope to salary sacrifice future salary for the 2015 year. But taxpayers need to be aware of the superannuation concessional contributions cap (currently $30,000 p.a. for persons under 49 years of age on 30 June 2014 or $35,000 for persons aged 49 years or over on 30 June 2014).

2. If you have an investment portfolio pay your interest in advance. But make sure you dont breach prepayment rules, so payment of interest before 30 June 2015 would need to be for interest relating to the period prior to 30 June 2016.

3. If you have a rental property, make sure you claim appropriate capital works, depreciation and deductions. Engage a surveyor to make an assessment and prepare a depreciation report to outline amounts to be claimed in your tax return each year.

4. Double check that the work related expanses that you are claiming are legitimate because this is an area where the ATO can catch you out.

5. Make sure you claim for all those charities that you have donated to. Its easy to forget about your generosity when if you dont keep a record.

If you still have any questions check out the helpful e-tax, MyTax and Superannuation Concessional Caps sites from the ATO.

Four solid years in a row for super funds


SUPER funds have delivered their fourth year in a row of growth for retirement savers, although investment returns are at their lowest level since 2011.

More than $10,000 was added to the superannuation savings of an average worker in 2015 as balanced super funds where a majority of Australians hold their nest eggs overcame a turbulent year on financial markets.

New estimates by research group SuperRatings put 2015s median investment return on balanced super funds at 5.3 per cent, helped by a late-December rally on sharemarkets.

Experts believe we are in for similar growth in 2016, although the law of averages suggests another negative year may not be far away.

SuperRatings CEO Adam Gee said concerns about global growth and a slowing Chinese economy sparked increased volatility in sharemarkets in 2015 and were likely to do the same this year.

While it is nearly impossible to predict returns for the coming year, discussions with funds have suggested that most expect the low-return environment to be with us for the short to medium term, with returns estimated to be low to mid-single digits in 2016, he said.

Mr Gee said many super funds had increased their exposure to international shares, suggesting the Australian market could be subdued this year.

Typical balanced super funds hold about 27 per cent of peoples money in Australian shares, 27 per cent in international shares, 20 per cent in bonds, 10 per cent in cash and the rest in property, infrastructure and alternative assets.

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SuperRatings says the average Australians super balance is about $64,000. The bulk of 2015s increase was from compulsory employer contributions, worth more than $7000 for an average fulltime wage earner.

The 5.3 per cent investment return added almost $3400 to average fund balances, but was well below previous years growth of 8.1 per cent in 2014, 16.3 per cent in 2013 and 11.7 per cent in 2012. The last negative calendar year was 2011.

Centra Wealth Group managing director Zac Zacharia said the likelihood of negative years depended on how peoples super was invested.

He noted conservative fund options rarely experiencing a fall.

Everyone who sets and forgets in a balanced fund has to expect a negative return at least once every seven years, in line with market cycles, he said.

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If you are approaching retirement you need to be a little more proactive, and it pays to have a closer look at your investments, at least once a month.

Mr Zacharia said he expected super fund returns in 2016 to be similar to what they were in 2015, with the international share component likely to do better than Australian shares. Europe is where I see the most growth coming from theyre throwing a lot of money at their economy, much like what the Americans were doing three years ago.