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Australian tax return 2021

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After another turbulent financial year, here are the answers to some of the key questions about 2020-21 tax returns.

 

Working from home?

The Australian Tax Office is expecting an increase in deductions related to people working from home – that means things such as electricity, internet, and phone costs, and depreciation in the value of office equipment.

The most straightforward of these is the temporary shortcut method, which uses a rate of 80 cents per hour to calculate your claim for all out-of-pocket, work-related expenses. All you need to do is to keep a record of the number of hours that you actually did work at home during the week.

Another alternative is the 52 cent rate method, which works similarly to the 80 cent method, but only includes electricity and gas, and the depreciation and repairs of office furniture in the calculation. It allows phone, internet, computer, and stationery costs to be added separately to the claim.

The final option is the actual expenses method, which requires the claimant to have kept a lot of records. The actual expenses method says you calculate everything separately, you keep the actual expenses that you’ve incurred throughout the year, and in addition to that, you include your depreciation calculations, so it has the potential to be a larger figure.

 

What new things do I have to declare?

Cryptocurrency, for one. Cryptocurrency is like an investment asset, so it is kind of like shares, and so similar tax obligations apply to cryptocurrency as it applies to shares. So if you sell, swap or exchange cryptocurrency, there will be a taxable transaction, and you are required to include that in your tax return.

 

What are the key dates?

As always, you have until 31 October. You have longer if you are planning on using a registered tax agent, but you still need to be one of their clients by the end of October. And while you can technically prepare and submit your tax return through myGov right now, getting it in before August could mean it takes the ATO longer to process your claim.

 

What in-language help is available?

For those who come from a non-English-speaking background, Tax Help volunteers and the ATO are here to help. Tax resources can also be found on the ATO’s website in more than 20 languages.

 

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Blood clot risk greater after Covid infection

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The chances of developing dangerous blood clots after being infected with the virus that causes Covid-19 far outweighs the risks of the AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines, according to the largest study of its kind.

The sweeping analysis used data from more than 29 million people in England to compare both vaccines with infection from Sars-CoV-2. It weighed up rates of hospital admission or death from blood clots, as well as other blood disorders, within 28 days of either a positive test or receiving the first jab.

The findings were based on data from electronic health records collected between December 1st, 2020, and April 24th, 2021.

In addition to thrombocytopenia (a condition characterised by low platelet counts) and blood clots, the researchers also looked at certain other risks, including CVST (blood clots in the brain) and ischaemic stroke (a blood clot or blockage that cuts off the blood supply to the brain).

Overall, they found an increased risk of thrombocytopenia, blood clots in veins and other rare arterial blood clots after a first dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine. After the first dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, they found a higher risk of blood clots in arteries and ischaemic stroke.

However, the data showed that there would be 934 extra cases of thrombocytopenia for every 10 million people after infection, compared with 107 after the first shot of the AstraZeneca jab. For ischaemic strokes, there would be an estimated 1,699 extra cases for every 10 million people after infection, while there would be only 143 extra cases after the first Pfizer jab.

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Lifeline hotline calls increased significantly

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The volunteers manning Lifeline’s crisis hotline have noticed an interesting trend — an increase in first-time callers who say they’ve never felt the need to use the service before.

Some are timid and unsure about whether they should be calling the crisis line, others apologetic; heavy with the knowledge that many others are also suffering right now.

That more people are reaching out to mental health services a year and a half into a pandemic that has upturned our lives, forced people out of work, and left people physically isolated from friends and family isn’t exactly a surprise.

As Sydney prepares to enter its ninth week in lockdown, the mental health organisation is preparing to mark its own milestone: its busiest month since it was founded almost 60 years ago.

The volunteers who answer the calls, known as crisis supporters, say this because the lockdown has exacerbated people’s existing issues — such as financial stress or family problems — and amplified feelings of loneliness and isolation.

Pandemic a tipping point

Overwhelmingly the people who work on the frontlines of the mental health crisis say it is usually not just COVID-19 that has led a person to seek help, but a culmination of factors that have worsened since the pandemic.

This could be someone who has a strained relationship with their families forced to spend more time with them, the removal of socialising as a coping mechanism for people who were previously managing to maintain their mental health, or financial stress from lack of work.

A watershed year

It’s been a record-breaking month for mental health services. On Thursday, Lifeline recorded 3,505 calls in one day — the highest daily number in the organisation’s 57-year history. It was fourth time this month the record had been broken.

More generally, the number of calls is 40 per cent higher than it was two years ago. Where pre-pandemic Lifeline would expect an average of 2,400 calls a day, they are now regularly hovering around 3,400. The calls are also typically longer, which indicates higher levels of distress.

Mental health organisation Beyond Blue has also experienced a dramatic spike in requests for support since the beginning of the Sydney lockdown. Since the stay-at-home orders were introduced this time, demand for the organisation’s services has increased by 29 per cent — almost double the usual 14 per cent increase seen during past lockdowns.

With lockdowns in place across large parts of the eastern seaboard, health authorities are acutely aware of the mental health impact.

Dr Grant Blashki, the lead clinical adviser at Beyond Blue, describes the current situation as a “triple whammy” for people already struggling, referring to concerns about work and finances, the virus itself, and the vaccine.

As a result, since the beginning of the pandemic, leaders have pushed to ensure mental health support is part of the pandemic response and the national conversation.

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Get vaccinated in your state

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